Wild Card Wackiness and Post-Season Musings

One game to go on the schedule, and the contestants for both wild card games are still to be determined. The only certainty is the St. Louis Cardinals will be the visiting team in the NL contest. All the combinations and permutations are after the jump.

Let’s start with the NL, just because it’s easier. If the Giants win, or if the Dodgers lose, then it will be the Dodgers hosting the Cardinals in the NL wildcard game, with the winner to face the Giants in the NLDS. But, if the Dodgers win and the Giants lose, then those two will play game 163 in San Francisco. The winner of that game goes to the NLDS round against the wildcard game winner, while the loser hosts the Cardinals in that wildcard game.

The AL is rather more complicated, and will require some visual aids. To wit, please kindly peruse the table below.

In scenario 1, wins by the Yankees and Red Sox eliminate the Blue Jays and Mariners, with the Red Sox hosting the wildcard game by dint of winning the season series against the Yankees.

The Blue Jays and Mariners are also both eliminated if both lose (scenarios 2, 3 and 4), with the Red Sox or Yankees hosting the wildcard game depending on their game 162 result.

Scenarios 5, 6, 7 and 8 have either the Red Sox or Yankees taking the first wildcard position and hosting the wildcard game. Their opponent would be determined by a game 163 between the two teams tied for the second wildcard position, with the home team for that game determined by head-to-head record, as indicated.

The remaining scenarios involve either a 3-way or 4-way tiebreak, whereby the tied teams choose their designation (as Team A, B, C or D). The order of choosing would be Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees and Mariners, based on their overall records in games played among the four clubs.

Scenarios 9 and 10 have 3 teams (the Red Sox, Yankees and either the Blue Jays or Mariners) tied for the two wildcard positions. Having the first choice for tiebreak designation, the Red Sox would have to decide whether they would prefer having two chances to win one game (as Team A) or one chance to win at home (as Team C).

In scenarios 11 and 12, the Red Sox or Yankees claim the first wildcard position and host the wildcard game. The other three teams finish tied and go into the 3-way tiebreak shown. The team having the first choice of tiebreak designation (either the Red Sox or Blue Jays) would have to decide whether they prefer having to win twice at home (as Team A) or once on the road (as Team C).

Scenario 13 is the four-way tie for the two wildcard positions. Almost certainly, it would be the Red Sox and Blue Jays hosting the two Game 163 contests, with the Yankees choosing which opponent it would prefer to face.

Let the fun begin.

Postscript

The front-runners took care of business to end the season, with the Giants (and the Dodgers) winning convincingly, and the Red Sox and Yankees winning a pair of games decided in the 9th inning. For the Dodgers, their 106 wins are the most by any team failing to win a division (they and the Giants are only the 22nd and 23rd teams since 1901 to win that many games). At sixteen more wins than their wildcard opponent Cardinals, it’s one of the larger disparities in a post-season matchup, but certainly not a record (to name two larger margins, the 1998 Yankees and 2001 Mariners each won 25 more games than their ALDS opponents, the Indians in both instances).

The Blue Jays fail to advance despite scoring 183 more runs than they allowed, becoming only the third team (of 57) in the division era to miss the post-season with a 180+ run differential (the first two were the 1987 Blue Jays, who closed the season 0-7 to cough up a 3½ game lead, and the 2002 Red Sox, ten games back of the Yankees in a season with the AL wildcard entry Angels winning 99 games and the World Series). Had the Mariners advanced, they would have been one of the few teams to do so with a negative run differential (the 2005 Padres are the most recent, albeit with only 82 wins); as it was, Seattle’s -51 run differential translated into 90 wins, 14 more than their Pythagorean projection.

So, on to the wildcard games. This the 10th season with a wildcard round preceding the league division series, but the first to feature games between this year’s set of opponents. The Yankees and Red Sox have met in four previous post-season series, in a pair of 7-game ALCS tilts in 2003 (won by the Yankees) and 2004 (won by the Red Sox, coming back from 3-0 down), and in ALDS matchups in 1999 (won by the Yankees) and 2018 (won by the Red Sox). The Dodgers and Cardinals have met in five previous post-season series, four of them won by St. Louis (in the NLCS in 1985 and 2013, and in the NLDS in 2004 and 2014), with the Dodgers’ lone triumph coming in the 2009 NLDS.

In previous matchups in winner-take-all scenarios to advance to the post-season, the Yankees have won twice, prevailing at Fenway in a play-in game in 1978 on Bucky Dent‘s 7th inning 3-run home run, and winning at home on the final day in 1949, breaking open a 1-0 game in the 8th inning against reliever Mel Parnell, the previous day’s starter. Not quite winner-take-all, but close, was the 2-game set at the Stadium to close out the 1948 season. The perennial rivals went into the series tied and one game back of the Indians. Boston won the first of those games while Cleveland won its game, knocking out the Yankees. On the last day, another Red Sox win and an Indian loss set up a play-in game at Fenway won in an Indian ambush of 8 runs (despite going 1 for 10 with RISP) and 13 hits, including 6 for extra bases.

The Cardinals and Dodgers played a best-of-3 series for the NL pennant in 1946, with St. Louis winning at home in game 1 on the strength of a pair of 2-out RBI singles by Joe Garagiola, and thrashing the Dodgers in Brooklyn in game 2 with three triples, one of them by starter Murry Dickson supporting his 8 solid innings of 3-hit 1-run ball (before being roughed up a bit in the 9th).

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Doug
Doug
2 months ago

With the focus on the wildcard, it has gone somewhat unnoticed that four teams in the AL East have amassed 90 wins. It’s a first only the second time that’s happened for any division since 1969, the first coming in 1978, also in the AL East (thanks to Nathan for this correction). Pre-divisional play saw four 90-win teams in a league only 3 times, in the 1950 AL, and in the 1962 and 1964 NL. In the two division alignment in place from 1969 to 1993, three teams in a division with 90 wins happened only in the 1983 AL… Read more »

Nathan I Horwitz
2 months ago
Reply to  Doug

There were four 90-game winners in the AL East in 1978.

Doug
Doug
2 months ago

Thanks, Nathan. I stand corrected.

Nathan I Horwitz
2 months ago

This is also only the second year in history that two teams lost 110 games in a season, and the first time it happened, the teams were both first-year expansion teams, the 1969 Expos and Padres.

Mike L
Mike L
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug, and Nathan, this stems, in part, in a CBA that has perverse incentives to lose and lose big.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
1 month ago

Obligatory Brewers-relate comment: I was really disappointed to see the Brewers fail to win 97 games. The team record is 96. They were 94-62, and needed to just go 2-4 vs. the Cards and Dodgers to tie the team record, and just finish .500 in those six games to break it. Heck, they still had an outside shot at becoming the first 100-win team in club history. Unfortunately, they won only one of the 6 to finish at 95 wins. Still a great season – arguably the best in franchise history. But I suppose it’s just a predecessor of the… Read more »

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

ESPN’s Matt Vasgersian thinks more of the Brewers than you do. Announced on the WCG broadcast that they were his World Series pick.

I think your take is probably closer to the mark than Matt’s. Hopefully for the Brewers their performance against the Dodgers to close the season was because they had nothing to play for. But, doesn’t give their fans much confidence that they could best the Dodgers or Giants in the LCS.

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Vasgersian, you may or may not know, was hired away from the Brewers to work for the Padres. He was the play-by-play guy for the local Fox Sports affiliate and was very much the TV voice of the Brewers in my youth. Of course, in those years, the Brewers were dreadful: .404 winning percentage overall from 1997-2001. I remember rooting really hard for things like Fernando Vina to lead the league in Double Plays in 1998 (he turned 135 – a number only topped once since, and still tied for 14th ever). It’s odd to root for the other team… Read more »

Paul E
Paul E
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

I find it insane that:
1) The LA Dodgers had to risk a 106-W season on a 1 game playoff
2) The 107-W SF Gigantes don’t get to play the inferior Atlanta Braves and must face off with 107-W Dodgers after already playing them 19 times

Doom,
I lay this all at the feet of that Milwaukee native, Bud Selig, and his brainchild of expanded playoff eligibility…..:-(

Paul E
Paul E
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
Great ideas…they’re playing into November but, why not, right? Maybe they should put a 9-game WS at a neutral, warm-weather or domed site and sell tickets like Wimbledon, The Masters, or the Super Bowl? I imagine when they expand to 32 teams we’ll have four 4-team divisions in each league and the 5th wild card entry plays the division winner with the worst record? That might make more sense….again, “I dunno”

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

The Brewers had 5 pitchers with 20+ starts and 130+ ERA+. Only other such teams were the 1905 and 1907 Cubs, and the 1942 Tigers.

Paul E
Paul E
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

The 1942 Tigers had a .500 Pythagorean (77-77) thanks to an OPS+ of 79 by their hitters. The Cubs? yeah, they were pretty good

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Great WC game in a losing cause for Giancarlo Stanton. Hits two rockets that would have been home runs in every other ballpark, then homers on another hard hit ball, but one that would have been foul in every other ballpark.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Red Sox did a number on the post-season record book in game 2 in Tampa.

  • 20 hits and 10 strikeouts – 1st time
  • 4 players with 3 hits, incl. a HR – 1st time
  • 4 players with 3 hits, incl. an XBH – 6th time
  • 5 hits (Kike Hernandez) – 10th time
  • 4 XBH (Kike Hernandez) – 5th time
  • 5 hits, incl. 4 XBH (Kike Hernandez) – 2nd time
Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Joc Pederson on Monday becomes the second player (after Dusty Rhodes in 1954 WS) with hits in PH appearances in his team’s first 3 games of the post-season. Those two are also the only players with pinch-hits in a team’s first 3 games of any post-season series.

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
1 month ago

As we await game 5 in the Giant/Dodger showdown, worth noting that the Dodgers are one of eight teams to be shutout twice in an LDS. The other seven all lost their series. The 2016 Cubs are the only team to be shutout twice in an LCS and win the series, and they are one of 6 teams to win a World Series when shutout twice in that series (surprisingly, the 1917 White Sox are the only dead ball era team among those WS champions). The 2016 Cubs and 1981 Dodgers are the only WS champions to be shutout more… Read more »

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Quite the start to the NLCS.

Braves are first team since the 1969 Orioles to record walk-off wins in the first two games of an LCS. It’s happened twice in an LDS, by the 1981 Astros and 1997 Marlins, but never in the WS.

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
I guess that would make it a “quirk”, as opposed to “clutch”?

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul E

Agreed. More quirky than clutch.

Joc Pederson, on the other hand, seems to be able to elevate his game for the post, this year and in the past. If it wasn’t for Kike, Pederson would be getting a lot more attention.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Astros have the dubious distinction of getting less than 3 IP from their stater in the first three games of their series. First time for any club in any post-season series.

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Make it 4 straight games. Only other time with four consecutive starts of less than 3 IP was by the Padres in the last four games of the 1984 WS won by the Tigers in 5 games.

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Two LCS games on Tuesday, and two game-tying HR in the 8th inning leading to comeback victories.

Only other time there were two game-tying HR in the 8th or later innings on the same day of the post-season was Oct 3, 1995 when there were two in the same ALDS game, by the Red Sox in the 8th inning and the Indians in the 11th, with the Tribe taking the game on a 13th inning blast by Tony Pena.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Freddie Freeman in game 4 of the NLDS, Yordan Alvarez in game 5 of the ALCS and Eddie Rosario in game 4 of the NLCS became the 41st, 42nd and 43rd players with 3+ hits in a post-season game batting left-handed against left-handed pitching. Four of those did it twice, including Tino Martinez, the only one to do so twice in the same post-season (2000). Alvarez and Rosario made it the second time players in different games did so on the same day, the first happening on Oct 1, 2002 with Fernando Vina and Jim Edmonds in an NLDS game,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug