The last race? How the new MLB match format creates surprising possibilities for Mariners and Rays in AL wild-card hunt

“If you are not the first, you are the last.” – Ricky Bobby

The race – as in the Pennant race – implies a certain uniqueness of the goal. There is nothing next to consider. You want to finish first, or as close to first as possible. There have always been playoffs in baseball, this has been true structurally. The arc was never large enough, and the permutations were never complex enough to alter the basic considerations. A better regular season situation meant a better chance at the World Championships.

At the earliest The new MLB Postseason format has been revealed At the end of the lockdown, it was clear that this wouldn’t necessarily be true anymore. The new match structure has added a wild card to each leaguewhich means that three class winners and three wild cards will make the field.

Now, here’s where she deviates from the traditional equation, and from other major American sports leagues: to accommodate a six-team tranche, they bid farewell to the first class winners. The division winner with the worst record and the three wild cards face off in three groups to determine who makes the Division Series. Unlike in the NBA, the winner of the last division gets the No. 3 seed, regardless of whether he already has a better record than the wild card teams. And after the wild card series is selected, the arc is not recreated like the NFL. The No. 6 seed who wins the third place gets the title of the No. 2 winner in the division rather than being directed to the top seed.

It wasn’t a given that the new setup would produce a more complex set of incentives for teams in this first season, but matching permutations that could alter World Championship odds are now fully in play for wild card contenders in both tournaments. .

It became clear that if you weren’t the first, you might want to be the last.

Astros or Yankees? Why AL wild-card contenders might want to finish eventually

Let’s take a look at the issues here with our highly compatible AL wild-card race. At this point, the battle of making the playoffs wouldn’t be a positioning battle. They’re also very evenly matched. The three wild card teams are the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays.

As of Thursday morning, They are within 1.5 games of each other. Their running spreads are around 18. The No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 seed in the AL will be highly interchangeable during the last 18 or 19 games of the season, and the way clubs finish will have huge implications. for their path in the playoffs.

No matter how they rank, the numbers say that the No. 4 seed has the best chance of making it to the World Championships, but the No. 6 seed has the next best chance, followed by the No. 5 seed.

why? Let’s break it down.

As seeded #4, the top wild card will host the best out of 3 wild card deck against the second wild card, seeded #5. The winner will be tied into an ALDS rendezvous with the #1 seed Houston Astros.

As seed number 6, the final team in the wild card series travels against the relatively weak champion AL Central. Right now, these are the Cleveland Guardians, who are 2.5 games worse than these worst wild card teams. Whoever wins will go on to face the No. 2 New York Yankees.

Even a gut-level overview of the potential pathways makes the allure of Ranked #6 clear.

Ranked #5: On the road against the Blue Jays, Mariners or Rays, then an ALDS match with the mighty Astros, aged 34-18 since the All-Star break.

SEED #6: On the road against the Guardians – a team worse than any of the wild cards, then the ALDS match against the Yankees, whose 23-28 second run is well documented.

It wouldn’t be crazy to think that the same dynamic could emerge in the NL, not because of the weakness of the New York Mets or the Atlanta Braves (who are fighting for the second seed), but because of the sheer dominance of the championship. Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays are heading toward the AL wild card slots along with the Seattle Mariners. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Numbers give seed number 6 an advantage in most scenarios

with help Baseball bulletin and its PECOTA system, I’ve connected AL wild-card scenarios with a simple tool to put odds on each team on each track and test that gut-level assessment. As expected, all three teams will have a better chance of getting to the ALCS as the number 6 seed, and at least an equal chance of advancing to the world championship.

Take the current standings – Blue Jays, Mariners, Rays. If they start playoffs today, the drop would give the No. 6 seed a 45.4% chance of beating Cleveland, while the No. 5 seeded Mariners would have a 42.8% chance of beating Toronto.

Let’s focus on the sailors. So as their #5 seed, they would have a 42.8% chance of hitting the ALDS against the Astros. Their ALDS odds will be 16.4% and their World Series 7.1%.

But if everything remains the same except, for example, that Seattle loses the tiebreak to Reyes and the sailor ends up becoming the No. 6 seed, their chances of escaping the wild card round improve to 46.5%. Their ALDS odds – with the Yankees now set as a potential opponent – have risen to 18.6% and world championship odds are roughly the same at 7.2%.

The differences in this math apply to all three clubs, no matter how they are ranked. The No.6 seed model gives better World Championship odds than the No.5 seed in every scenario except where Blue Jays is the No.5 seed. These numbers hover north of 7%, where the No.4 seed is more likely to have the odds in a championship World between 9.5% and 10% enter the playoffs.

Additionally, the predictions are working on the strength of the Yankees’ full season. It’s possible that everyone around Aaron Judge will push it right and New York prove to be a tough enemy for October, but if you’re worried about the recent recession, you might choose to tweak those proportions further in favor of the #6 seed.

Records and records of vaccinations: Toronto can cause problems

There’s one more thing the female athletes can’t figure out, and it just highlights the disparate motivations of the final weeks of the season. Players who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 cannot travel to Toronto. So if the Blue Jays lock seed No. 4, their opponent will be without any vulnerable players in the entire series.

And as far as we know, that would take starter bowler Robbie Ray out of the sailors equation. It’s less annoying due to the addition of Louis Castillo and George Kirby appearing alongside Logan Gilbert, but it’s a consideration nonetheless. The Rays had to play without Brooks Raley, who was the best left-hander in the Bulls game. They dropped three of the first four games of a five-game series in Toronto this week as Rally sits on the restricted list back home.

Thanks to the power of Bo Bichette’s blazing racket, Toronto currently leads the wild cards race by half a game over Seattle. The best thing any of these teams can do is win a wild card streak at home with the #4 seed. It’s possible that they’re all playing for number one in a sprint all the way through Game 162 on Wednesday, October 5th. But if one team that wasn’t called the Blue Jays doesn’t back down, don’t expect them to be too upset.

Thanks to Robert O of the Baseball Bulletin for research assistance.