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Resolution of ties in division races

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The Resolution of ties in division races refers to methods use to determine the seeding order of teams when they finish the season with identical won-loss records, and there is no recourse to a one-game playoff.

After the introduction of the wild card in 1995, there have been several instances when a method is required to determine which team from a division is the division winner and which team is the wild card; because both teams are qualified for the post-season, a playoff between them is not an option, as these are only used to determine whether teams are included or excluded from postseason play. Major League Baseball has decided to award the division title - and the higher playoff seeding - to the team with the best record in head-to-head play.

This has occurred in the following instances:

  1. 2000 American League West: Oakland declared the winner and Seattle the wild card team
  2. 2001 National League Central: Houston (winner) and St. Louis (wild card)
  3. 2005 American League East: New York (winner) and Boston (wild card).
  4. 2006 National League West: San Diego (winner) and Los Angeles (wild card).

In some cases, teams who have been awarded the wild card as the result of this tie-breaker have claimed to be division co-champions; MLB has not stated definitively whether a team can consider itself a division champion under these circumstances, although the following is included in the major league rules.

This article is reprinted under fair use doctrine and can be found at here.


[edit] Excerpts from Major League Rule 33 and Major League Rule 34

Scenario #1: If there is a tie for a Division Championship and the winning percentage of the two Clubs tied for first place is higher than the winning percentage of each of the second-place Clubs in the same League, the Division Champion shall be:

The Club with the higher winning percentage in head-to-head competition between the two tied Clubs during the championship season; or

If the Clubs remain tied, then to the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intradivision games during the championship season; or

If the Clubs remain tied, then to the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games during the championship season; or

If the Clubs remain tied, then to the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half plus one of intraleague games during the championship season, provided that such additional game was not a game between the two tied Clubs. This process will be followed game-by-game until the tie is broken.

Example of Scenario #1: The Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners end the championship season tied for the AL West Division Championship. Both Clubs have a higher winning percentage than the Boston Red Sox. Through games of September 7, the Mariners have the higher winning percentage in head-to-head competition (7-6, .538) and would be declared the Division Champion. Oakland would be the Wild Card.


Scenario #2: If there is a tie for a Division Championship and the winning percentage of the two tied Clubs is lower than the winning percentage of the second-place Club with the best record among all non-Division winners in the same League, the tie for the Division Championship shall be broken as follows:

A one-game playoff shall be played the day after the season was scheduled to end to determine the Division Championship. The site of the game would be determined by head-to-head records, then winning percentage within the division, followed by the highest winning percentage in intraleague play during the second half of the season. The winner of the game shall be declared the Division Champion.

Example of Scenario #2: The Houston Astros and St. Louis Cardinals tie for the NL Central Division Championship. The Florida Marlins have a better record than both tied Clubs and would be the Wild Card. The Astros and Cardinals would play a one-game playoff on Monday, September 29 to determine the Division Championship.


Scenario #3: If two teams are tied for the Wild Card, the tie shall be broken as follows:

A one-game playoff shall be played the day after the season was scheduled to end to determine the Wild Card. The site of the game would be determined by head-to-head records, then winning percentage within each team's own division, followed by the highest winning percentage in intraleague play during the second half of the season. The winner of the game shall be declared the Wild Card.

Example of Scenario #3: The Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox tie for the AL Wild Card. The New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics win the AL East and AL West, respectively. The Mariners and Red Sox would play a one-game playoff on Monday, September 29 to determine the AL Wild Card.


Scenario #4: If three Clubs are tied for first place in a Division (or Wild Card) with an identical winning percentage at the conclusion of the championship season and the tied Clubs do not have identical records against one another in the championship season, the tie for the Division Championship (or Wild Card) shall be broken as follows:

If the three tied Clubs have identical records against one another in the championship season, the Office of the Commissioner shall supervise a draw that results in the Clubs' being designated Club "A," "B," and "C."

If the tied Clubs do not have identical records against one another in the championship season, they will be designated Club "A,""B," and "C" based on their records in head-to- head competition during the championship season as follows:

If Club 1 has a better record against each of Clubs 2 and 3, and Club 2 has a better record against Club 3, then Club 1 shall choose a designation as Club "A," "B," or "C," and Club 2 shall choose a designation from the remaining two designations. Club 3 shall be assigned the remaining designation. If Club 1 has a better record against each of Clubs 2 and 3, and Club 2 and Club 3 have the same record against each other, then Club 1 shall choose a designation as Club "A," "B," or "C," and the Office of the Commissioner shall supervise a draw between Clubs 2 and 3, the winner of which shall choose one of the remaining two designations. The remaining Club shall be assigned the remaining designation. If Club 1 and Club 2 have the same record against each other but each has a better record against Club 3, then the Office of the Commissioner shall supervise a draw between Clubs 1 and 2, the winner of which shall choose a designation as Club "A," "B," or "C." The Club losing the draw shall choose a designation from the remaining two designations. Club 3 shall be assigned the remaining designation. If Club 1 has a better record against Club 2, Club 2 has a better record against Club 3, and Club 3 has a better record against Club 1, then the three Clubs shall be ranked on the basis of overall winning percentage within that three-Club group, and the Club with the highest winning percentage from among that three-Club group shall have first choice among designations as Club"A," "B," or "C," the Club with the next highest winning percentage from among that three-Club group shall have the next choice between the two remaining designations, and the Club with the lowest winning percentage from among that three-Club group shall be assigned the remaining designation. If two or more of the Clubs within such three-Club group have the same winning percentage among the group, the Office of the Commissioner shall supervise a draw between the Clubs so tied to determine priority of selection among the designations.

Club"A" shall play Club "B" at the ballpark of Club "A" on the day after the season was scheduled to end. The following day, the winner of the first game shall be the home Club in a second game, against Club "C." The winner of the game between Club"C" and the Club that won the game between Club"A" and Club"B" shall be declared the Division Champion.

Example of Scenario #4: The Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins tie for the AL Central Division Championship. The Seattle Mariners have a better record than all three tied Clubs and would be the Wild Card. Based on their head-to-head records through games of September 7 (CWS 7-5 over each Minnesota and KC; KC 11-8 over Minnesota), the White Sox would choose their designation as Club "A," "B," or "C," and Kansas City would choose a designation from the remaining two designations. Minnesota would be assigned the remaining designation.


Scenario #5: If three Clubs in a League are tied with identical winning percentages at the end of the championship season and two of those tied Clubs are from the same Division and are also tied for first place in that Division and the third tied Club has the highest winning percentage among the second-place Clubs in the remaining two Divisions, the Division Champion shall first be determined by a one-game playoff the day after the season was scheduled to end. Any playoff games played to determine a Division champion shall not count in determining which Clubs are deemed tied for a Wild Card designation. Clubs that were originally tied with a Club or Clubs for a Wild Card designation shall still be considered tied.

Example of Scenario #5: The Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins all have identical winning percentages at the end of the championship season. The Astros and Cardinals are tied for first place in the NL Central and the Marlins have the highest winning percentage among the second-place Clubs from the NL East and NL West. The Astros and Cardinals would play a one-game playoff on Monday, September 29. The winner shall be declared the Division Champion. Despite the loss, the losing Club would still be considered tied with the Marlins for the lead in the NL Wild Card. Those two Clubs would play a one-game playoff on Tuesday, September 30. The winner of that game shall be declared the Wild Card.


Scenario #6: If four Clubs are tied for first place in the Wild Card (or Division) with an identical winning percentage at the conclusion of the championship season and the tied Clubs do not have identical records against one another in the championship season, the tie for the Wild Card (Division) shall be broken as follows:

The four teams will be designated Club"A," "B," "C," and"D" based on a draw by the Office of the Commissioner. Club"A" shall play Club"B" at the ballpark of Club "A" and Club "C" shall play Club "D" at the ballpark of Club"C" on the day after the season was scheduled to end. The following day, the winner of these games shall play one game, at the ballpark of Club "A" or Club "B," whichever has won the game between the two. The winner of the third game shall be declared the Wild Card.


Scenario #7: There is a two-way tie for highest winning percentage among Division winners and a tiebreaker is required to determine home field advantage in the Division Series.

If one of the Division winners tied for the highest winning percentage is from the same Division as the Wild Card:
The Division winner from the same Division as the Wild Card cannot play the Wild Card in the Division Series. The other Division winner tied for the highest winning percentage plays the Wild Card.

If neither Division winner tied for the highest winning percentage is from the same Division as the Wild Card:
A tiebreaker system will be used to determine which Division winner with the best record plays the Wild Card.

The first tiebreaker will be head-to-head competition between the two Clubs during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Clubs with the higher winning percentage in intradivision games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half plus one of intraleague games during the championship season. This process will be followed game-by-game until the tie is broken.

American League tiebreakers to determine home field advantage in the Division Series (through 9/7/03):
New York vs. Oakland; Oakland wins tiebreaker (6-3, .667)
New York vs. Seattle; New York wins tiebreaker (5-4, .556)
Boston vs. Oakland; Oakland wins tiebreaker (4-3, .571)
Boston vs. Seattle; Boston wins tiebreaker (5-2, .714)

National League tiebreaker to determine home field advantage in the Division Series (through 9/7/03):
Atlanta vs. San Francisco; San Francisco wins tiebreaker (4-2, .667)


Scenario #8: There is a three-way tie for highest winning percentage among Division winners and a tiebreaker is required to determine home field advantage in the Division Series.

The tied Club that has a better record against both of the other Division champions during the championship season will be deemed to have the higher winning percentage. The tie between the two remaining Clubs shall be broken as follows:

The first tiebreaker will be head-to-head competition between the two Clubs during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intradivision games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half plus one of intraleague games during the championship season. This process will be followed game-by-game until the tie is broken.

If none of the three tied Clubs has a better record against both of the other Division champions during the championship season, then the Club deemed to have the higher winning percentage shall be:

The tied Club with the higher winning percentage in head-to-head competition among the tied Clubs during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intradivision games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half plus one of intraleague games during the championship season. This process will be followed game-by-game until the tie is broken.



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