Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Possible "Penalties" for the AL and NL East Runner Ups

Davey Ain't Kiddin'
One thing that is becoming absolutely clear as the 2012 MLB season winds down, and one of Davey Johnson's favorite talking points, is the benefit of winning one's division. MLB's first season of awarding two wild card spots per League, is creating a plethora of scenarios in which teams could be playing multiple play in or tiebreaker games, just to qualify for the initial 5 game post season series.

Take for instance the American League and National League East divisions.

In the AL East, the Yankees hold a 1.5 game lead with 7 games to go (The Yankees actually have 8 games left, and are 2 up in the all important loss column). In the NL East, the Nationals have a 4 game lead with 8 games to go, and still appear to have the division locked up. But baseball can be a funny game sometimes, and for the sake of this blog and argument, lets talk about what would happen if one or both of these divisions finished 162 games with two teams on top with the same exact records.

If this were to happen, there would be a one game tiebreaker to determine the division winner. The site of the tiebreaker game is determined by who has the better head to head record.

In the AL East, the Yankees and Orioles played their 18 game head to head match ups to a 9-9 tie. And per MLB tie breaker rules, the tie breaker for this scenario is then based on who has the better intradivision win percentage. As of this posting, the Orioles have a slight advantage, and would host the game. In the NL East, the Nationals won the season series with the Braves 10-8, so the Nationals would host the one game tiebreaker.

Now in the NL East, both the Nats and the Braves have clinched at least a wild card berth. And for the sake of this discussion, we'll assume that the Yankees and Orioles will do the same. So now let's talk about where this becomes pretty penal.

The loser of these divisional tie breaker games, will then have to turn around and play a one game Wild Card play in game the very next day. In the case of the NL East, if the Braves were to lose the divisional tie breaker, they would also have to travel (back to Atlanta) to play the WC play in. If the Nats were to lose the divisional tie breaker, they would have the benefit of playing the WC play in game at home.

The American League East situation is less clear because of the records of multiple teams involved being so close. And there are some real scenarios that involve either the Orioles or Yankees- whomever were to lose the divisional tie breaker game, then having to fly out west and play the A's (or even the Angels) the very next day.

Now stay with me here. That is a 48 hour stretch- from the time you play your last regular season game of the year, thinking you have a chance to win your division out right, to then having to play a divisional tie breaker the very next day, to THEN having to play a 1 game WC play in game the day after that, and in some cases traveling, or even worse- flying across country to play it!

That my friends, is brutal.

That is 48 hours and 3 games of throwing everything you got at your opponent, to get a chance to play in a 5 game post season series. And it seems extremely penal for the team who survives this, and its a HUGE advantage for the WC 2 seed who just lays in wait for their opponent. Its an extra day of rest for their entire team, especially their pitchers.

And if you're one of these East teams who survives the (1) tie breaker and the (2) play in games, what exactly will that team have left in their tank moving forward into the actual post season? Probably not much.

Like Davey keeps saying, you better win your division. And based on all of the scenarios, you better do so within the 162 game regular season schedule.

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