In a shift that has left fans and enthusiasts yearning for the good old days, tiebreaker games have officially become a thing of the past in Major League Baseball (MLB). The iconic moments like the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" and the unforgettable Bucky Dent incident are no longer on the table. While this transformation occurred before the 2022 season, the absence of tiebreaker games still stings as the 2023 regular season nears its climax.
The expansion of the postseason, which some refer to as "postseason bloat," has crowded the October calendar, leading to the demise of tiebreaker games. Consequently, tiebreakers for seeding and playoff berths are now determined by a series of criteria rather than on-field showdowns. It's a topic worth delving into as we approach this year's exciting playoff race.
As of now, several divisions have already been decided without needing tiebreakers. The National League (NL) East and NL West are among them. However, the race for the remaining spots remains wide open.
Tiebreaker Determination Process
So, how are these ties broken? Let's outline the precise steps for determining which team takes the upper hand when two teams finish the regular season with the same record:
- Head-to-head record. If still tied, move to...
- Intra-divisional record, which focuses on each team's performance within its division. If still tied, proceed to...
- Inter-divisional record, comparing each team's performance against opponents from outside its division. If still tied, continue to...
- Record over the last half of intra-league games, considering a team's performance in the latter part of the season against same-league opponents. If the tie persists, then...
- Record over the last half of intra-league games plus one, where additional games are added one by one until the tie is broken.
- While reaching step No. 2 is unusual, nothing is impossible in baseball.
Now, let's break down the various playoff races and identify the current tiebreakers in effect for each team.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The D-backs hold wild-card tiebreakers over the Giants and Cubs but lose them to the Marlins, Phillies, and Reds.
Atlanta Braves: They've secured the NL East title and hold the tiebreaker over the Dodgers for the top seed in the NL.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles hold the tiebreaker over the Rays for the AL East title and top seed in the AL. They have already clinched a postseason berth.
And so, the intricate web of tiebreakers weaves through MLB's 2023 season, determining the fate of teams as they strive for playoff glory. As the regular season winds down, fans eagerly await the thrilling conclusions to these closely contested races. The absence of tiebreaker games may be a loss, but the drama and excitement of baseball's playoff chase remain as captivating as ever.