Team Entropy 2019: Hey, There’s Still Meat on This Bone!

This is the fourth installment of this year’s Team Entropy series, my recurring look not only at the races for the remaining playoff spots but the potential for end-of-season chaos in the form of down-to-the-wire suspense and even tiebreakers. Ideally, we want more ties than the men’s department at Macy’s. If you’re new to this, please read the introduction here.

The final weekend of the 2019 season is upon us, and while five of the divisions and all of the super-complicated tiebreaker scenarios are off the table, with three games to play, each league has multiple scenarios that could result in at least one tiebreaker game. Seven hundred or so words is worth a picture, so first, behold this:

The Nationals (now 90-69) clinched one Wild Card spot on Tuesday (against Bryce Harper and the Phillies, no less), while the Mets and Cubs officially fell by the wayside on Wednesday as the Brewers clinched a postseason berth. By winning 18 of their past 20 games, including 12 out of 14 since Christian Yelich suffered a season-ending kneecap fracture, Milwaukee (now 89-70) has not only made the playoffs for the second straight season (something the franchise did before only in 1981-82), it has trimmed a 7 1/2-game NL Central deficit behind St. Louis at the close of September 5 to a single game. The Brew Crew finishes with three games in Colorado, while the Cardinals (90-69) host the Cubs, who appear to be heading into the final days of Joe Maddon’s five-year tenure with the team, and with a very banged-up roster to boot.

So here’s what can happen in the Senior Circuit:

  • If the Brewers wind up tied with the Cardinals (28.0% chance according to our tiebreaker page), the two teams would play a tiebreaker in St. Louis, which won the season series 10-9.
  • If the Cardinals, Brewers, and Nationals all finish with the same records, the two NL Central teams would play the aforementioned tiebreaker for the division crown. The loser would then host Washington in the Wild Card game, because both teams won their season series (the Brewers 4-2, the Cardinals 5-2).

As for the Junior Circuit, the A’s (96-63) currently have a one-game lead over the Rays (95-64), and a three-game lead over the Indians (93-66), meaning that at the very least, they’ve guaranteed themselves a Game 163. We still need a grid for this one:

AL Contenders Head-to-Head Records
Team Athletics Rays Indians
Athletics 4-3 5-1
Rays 3-4 6-1
Indians 1-5 1-6

The A’s finish with three more games against the Mariners in Seattle, a continuation of the four-game series that began with Félix’s Hernández’s farewell on Thursday night. The Indians are playing the Nationals — yes, with an odd number of teams in each league, some team has to play interleague games — in Washington, DC. The Rays are in Toronto for three.

Here’s how it can play out:

  • If the A’s wind up tied with the Indians but behind the Rays, they host a play-in game.
  • If the Rays and Indians wind up tied for the second spot, they host a play-in game.
  • If the three teams wind up tied, they would draft positions for the following scenario: Club A hosts Club B, with the winner of that game becoming the host team for the Wild Card game, and the loser traveling to Club C for another matchup that would determine the road team for the Wild Card game. The pecking order for that draft would be based upon combined winning percentage against the other two teams, which goes A’s (.692, 9-4), Rays (.642, 9-5), and Indians (.154, 2-11) in that order.

There’s not a lot of margin for error to get bonus baseball in either league, but then there’s not a lot of season left to play, either. By the end of Friday night, the AL situation could be wrapped up; if the A’s win, they’re in, and if the Rays win and the Indians lose, then that’s that. The NL will take until at least Saturday’s games are done to resolve, as the Cardinals’ magic number is three, meaning that they need to either win once or twice while the Brewers, respectively, lose twice or once.

It’s reasonable to be skeptical about any of this paying off, but worth noting that last year at this very juncture, we hit on both a 24.2% chance that the NL Central would wind up tied (between the Cubs and Brewers), and a 30.7% chance that the NL West would as well (between the Dodgers and Rockies), resulting in an unprecedented multiplicity of tiebreaker games in a single season. In other words, stranger things have happened than what we need this weekend. Stay tuned!

We hoped you liked reading Team Entropy 2019: Hey, There’s Still Meat on This Bone! by Jay Jaffe!

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Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

“If the Cardinals, Brewers, and Nationals all finish with the same records, the two NL Central teams would play the aforementioned tiebreaker for the division crown. The loser would then host Washington in the Wild Card game.”

YES YES YES YES

tylerdurden31
Member
tylerdurden31

Why would the loser host? Because they were technically tied for a division crown and that’s better than being a lowly WC? I understand the logic but it’s not exactly airtight. #GrandyIsASadist

v2micca
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Member
v2micca

Because the Nationals have a losing record against both the Brewers and the Cardinals this year. So both teams have the tie-breaker over DC for home field.

tylerdurden31
Member
tylerdurden31

That makes sense. Thanks. The tiebreaker then doesn’t really count as a regular game per se except to determine the division winner. I’m a Dodger fan and was pissed off a bunch of years ago before the second wild card was added: we tied with SD for the division but because of a head-to-head tiebreaker they were crowned the NLW champs and we immediately got the WC. I remember thinking we should’ve been called the NLW co-champs.

Pwn Shop
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Pwn Shop

Because they have winning records vs WAS during the regular season and they have the same record.

tylerdurden31
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tylerdurden31

I don’t really care but it almost feels like it’s bad for baseball if Milwaukee wins the WC game using a full bullpen strategy. We’re a long way from Sandy Koufax, who was the greatest.

Joe Joe
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Member
Joe Joe

Everyone needs a villain. Milwaukie just hasn’t been a good villain since Seligs sold the team.

fjtorres
Member
fjtorres

And openers are an afront to the natural order?
Winning ugly is still winning. And it counts as much as any other way.
If anything, breaking with tradition is more fun, doing what you’re not supposed to do. And making it stick.
“Whatever it takes. “