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MLB Division Winners: Breaking Down the Tiebreakers

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MLB Division Winners: Breaking Down the Tiebreakers
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The Major League Baseball season is winding down. Teams and fans are gearing up for the postseason. As we head toward the postseason, there are six divisions to be decided.

But what happens if there is a tie?

The MLB has set tiebreaker rules that apply to both the National League and American League. These rules can get tricky and cover everything up to a four-way tie.

Let's break them down:

Note: All rules were verified with the official site of Major League Baseball.

Tiebreaker method

Major League Baseball has a standard method to formulating tiebreakers. These tiebreakers merely determine the home field for necessary games to decide a division winner. Division championships will still be decided on the field.

While the steps remain the same, how they are applied depends on the scenario. Tiebreakers follow this formula regardless of league or division. If teams are still tied after one step, they proceed to the next.

Here is the tiebreaker formula that will apply to all scenarios:

1. Head to head: If either team has a winning record over the other, the tie is broken. If more than two teams are involved, the head-to-head is not aggregate. Instead, the head-to-head of each team is considered separately. As an example, if one team has a winning record against each of the other teams then that team wins the tiebreaker.

2. Division games: The team with the highest winning percentage from games within its division wins the tie.

3. Last half of the season: The team with the highest winning percentage during the last half of the season (interleague games are excluded) wins the tie.

4. Last half of the season, plus one: If the teams are still tied, MLB adds one non-interleague game from immediately prior to the halfway point in the season. If teams are still tied, the process of adding one non-interleague game continues until one team has a higher winning percentage.

Team designations

When three or more teams are tied, teams will have to choose an alphabetical designation. These are A,B , or C for three teams and A,B,C, or D for four teams. Each designation has strategic value that will be covered under the tiebreaker scenarios.

Two-team tiebreaker

The two-team tiebreaker applies to home-field advantage. Once the home team is decided, a game would be played on October 4 to decide the division winner.

Three-team tiebreaker

The tiebreaker formula would be applied to set the order of which team will select its designation first. The remaining two teams would continue with the tiebreaker formula until the the team with the second choice is decided. Obviously, the third team will take the remaining designation.

In this scenario, Team A would host Team B on October 4. The winner of A vs. B would then host Team C on October 5. The winner of that game would be the division champion.

Choosing the designation can be tricky. Team A is guaranteed home field, but would still have to play back-to-back elimination games. Team C only has to play one elimination game, but it will have to be on the road.

Four-team tiebreaker

Like the three-team scenario, the tiebreaker formula is used until the selection order is set. Once the designations are selected, two games would be played on October 4. Team B would travel to take on Team A, and Team C would host Team D. On October 5, the winner of the A-B game would host the winner of the C-D game. The winning team on October 5 would win the division.

Wild-card implications

These tiebreakers pertain only to deciding division winners. Teams losing tiebreakers may still be eligible for a shot at the wild card. The wild card has similar tiebreakers, and any teams still qualifying for a wild-card spot would then go through that process.

Christopher Beheler is a Georgia native. He attended his first Atlanta Braves game at the age of 4, and has been a fan of the Braves and baseball ever since.

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