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Going over MLB tiebreakers heading into 2021 playoffs

We take you through tiebreaker scenarios for the MLB playoffs as we approach the postseason.

J.P. Crawford and Jarred Kelenic of the Seattle Mariners celebrate after the game against the Oakland Athletics at T-Mobile Park on September 29, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won 4-2. Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

There was a film released a few years ago called “Antichrist,” starring Willem Dafoe. In one scene, a dead fox comes back to life briefly to growl, “Chaos reigns.”

Maybe that fox was talking about the MLB playoffs — who really knows? We could have lots of chaos depending on how this final regular-season weekend wraps up. Let’s go over the tiebreakers that could be in play when all is said and done.

Determine home-field advantage

Here is how MLB breaks ties when it comes to home-field advantage. if No. 1 doesn’t decide it, we go on to No. 2 and so forth. Anyway:

1. Head-to-head winning percentage during the regular season.

2. Higher winning percentage in intradivision games.

3. Higher winning percentage in intraleague games.

4. Higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games.

5. Higher winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such additional game was not between the two tied clubs. Continue to go back one intraleague game at a time until the tie has been broken.

Now, I know that’s a lot. Fortunately, it looks like we won’t have to go beyond No. 1 in any of the possible scenarios this weekend.

There were no series ties among any of the AL WIld Card combatants. The head-to-head records will decide who hosts that game. Same goes for the ALDS, where the Astros lead the White Sox by two games for home field. The Astros won their season series, 5-2.

Breaking a three-way tie

For a three-way tie, each team has to be designated Club A, Club B or Club C. There’s one critical question that must be answered: Do all three clubs have identical records against one another or not? For this year’s purposes, the answer is no, so here’s how that would be handled:

Determining A, B, C Designations in Three-Team Tiebreakers When All Clubs Do Not Have Identical Records Against One Another

• If Club 1 has a better record against Clubs 2 and 3, and Club 2 has a better record against Club 3, then Club 1 chooses its designation, followed by Club 2.

• If Club 1 has a better record against Clubs 2 and 3, and Club 2 and 3 have identical records against one another, then Club 1 chooses its designation. Clubs 2 and 3 would follow the two-Club tiebreak rules to break their tie to pick the next designation.

• If Club 1 and 2 have identical records against one another, but each has a better record against Club 3, then Clubs 1 and 2 would follow the two-Club tiebreak rules to break their tie to pick the first 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; OR Club 1 has a better record against Club 2, Club 2 and 3 have identical records against one another and Club 3 has a better record against Club 1; OR Club 1 and 2 have identical records against one another, Club 1 has a better record against Club 3 and Club 2 and 3 have identical records against one another, then:

a. The Clubs will be ranked by their overall winning percentage amongst the other Clubs combined. The Club with the highest overall winning percentage in that group chooses its designation, followed by the team with the next highest overall winning percentage.

b. If two of the Clubs have identical winning percentages, then they would follow the two-Club tiebreak rules to break their tie to pick their designation.

c. If all three teams have identical winning percentages, then the tiebreak rules above (No. 1) for three clubs having identical records against one another should be followed.

We could definitely have a three-club tie in the AL Wild Card after this weekend. Maybe even a four-way tie?! Here is how that would be decided:

Three-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot:

After the Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would then host Club C to determine the Wild Card Club.

Three-Club Tie for Two Wild Card Spots:

After Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would be declared one Wild Card winner. Club C would then host the loser of the game between Club A and Club B to determine the second Wild Card Club.

Breaking a four-way tie

Determining A, B, C, D Designations in Four-Team Tiebreakers

1. The Club with the highest winning percentage in games among the tied Clubs chooses its designation first, followed by the Club with the second-highest winning percentage and the Club with the third-highest winning percentage. If two Clubs have identical winning percentages, then the two-Club tiebreak rules shall apply to determine which team selects its designation first. If three Clubs have identical winning percentages, then the three-Club tiebreak rules shall apply to determine which teams select their designation first. If all four Clubs have identical winning percentages, then;

2. The Club with the highest winning percentage in intradivision games chooses its designation first, followed by the Club with the second-highest winning percentage and the Club with the third-highest winning percentage. If two Clubs have identical winning percentages, then the two-Club tiebreak rules shall apply to determine which team selects its designation first. If three Clubs have identical winning percentages, then the three-Club tiebreak rules shall apply to determine which teams select their designation first. If all four Clubs have identical winning percentages, then;

3. The Club with the highest winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games chooses its designation first, followed by the Club with the second-highest winning percentage and the Club with the third-highest winning percentage. If two Clubs have identical winning percentages, then the two-Club tiebreak rules shall apply to determine which team selects its designation first. If three Clubs have identical winning percentages, then the three-Club tiebreak rules shall apply to determine which teams select their designation first. If all four Clubs have identical winning percentages, then;

4. The Club with the highest winning percentage in the last half plus one intraleague game, provided that such additional game was not between any of the tied Clubs, chooses its designation followed by the Club with the second-highest winning percentage and the Club with the third-highest winning percentage. Continue to go back one intraleague game at a time until any ties have been broken.

Four-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot:

After Clubs have been assigned their A, B, C and D designations, Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D. The winners of each of those games would then meet, hosted by the winner of the game between Club A and Club B, to determine the Wild Card Club.

Four-Club Tie for Two Wild Card Spots:

After Clubs have been assigned their A, B, C and D designations, Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D. The winners of each of those games would be declared the Wild Card Clubs.