Major League Baseball will usher in a new playoff format this season. An additional wild-card team has been added in each league, bringing the number of playoff teams to five in each league. The additional wild card brings some questions.
Here is a guide to how teams will qualify for the wild-card spots:
Reasons for the Change - Baseball felt division-winning teams should have a bigger advantage. In recent years, the lone wild-card team had to play a team outside its division in the Division Series. The new format puts a premium on winning the division.
What's New? - The new format has the two wild-card teams playing a one-game "series," with the winner then advancing to play the team with the best record in the league. If the National League playoffs started today, for example, the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals would play one game. The winner would then meet the Washington Nationals in the division series.
What About Ties? - One good thing about this format is that ties will need to be decided on the field. There are several scenarios that present themselves involving the division championship, but the ones below involved only the wild-card spots.
A, B, C, and D Designations - If there are three or four teams tied for wild-card spots, the first step is to designate teams A, B, and C (three teams) or A, B, C, and D (four teams). This is done by a complicated system that first uses head-to-head records, then winning percentage in division or league games, then winning percentage in second half division/league games, and, finally, winning percentage in division/league games in the second half of the season, plus one game, then going back one game at a time until the ties have been broken.
Two Teams Tied for One Wild-Card Spot - The two teams would play one game to determine the wild card.
Three Teams Tied for One Wild-Card Spot - Team A hosts Team B for one game. The winner hosts Team C for one game, and the winner is the wild-card team.
Three Teams Tied for Two Wild-Card Spots - Team A hosts Team B for one game. The winner is declared a wild card. The loser of the game plays at Team C, and the winner is the second wild-card team.
Four Teams Tied for One Wild-Card Spot - Team A hosts Team B, and Team C hosts Team D. The two winners play the next day at the field of the winner between A and B. The winner is the wild card.
Four Teams Tied for Two Wild-Card Spots - Team A hosts Team B, and Team C hosts Team D. The two winners are the wild card teams.
A native of St. Louis, Brad Boeker has rooted for the Cardinals for over 40 years.
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