MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

Explaining possible postseason tiebreakers

Is this the year when the craziness and drama of numerous tiebreaker games, always a dream, overtake the early part of the postseason schedule? One figures it's bound to happen eventually, and the 2017 season, with a large assortment of clubs still in contention with scant weeks remaining -- especially in that American League Wild Card race -- is a good candidate for chaos.

So far, we've gotten through five seasons of October expansion and only required one tiebreaker game -- the 2013 tilt between the Rays and Rangers to decide the second AL Wild Card slot. But plenty of tiebreaker possibilities exist here in the home stretch of '17, and the goal here is to lay out the most realistic ones remaining and how they would be settled.

Standings | Wild Card

Scenario: Two teams tie for the division
Ah, the classic divisional push. We'll use the Red Sox and Yankees as the example here. If they were to finish the year in a tie atop the AL East, they would play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday, Oct. 2. Home-field advantage would go to the club with the better head-to-head record* (the Yankees won the season series, 11-8). The winner of this game would advance to the Division Series round, while the loser would either head to the Wild Card Game or head home, depending on whether it qualifies for the Wild Card.

*Note that if the head-to-head matchup is a draw, home-field advantage in all scenarios listed goes to the team with the better intradivision record or, failing that, the team with the better intraleague record.

Scenario: Three teams tie for the division
It's probably not likely this year, but if the Cubs, Brewers and Cardinals all finished with the same record, they would receive an A, B or C designation. Club A would host Club B on Oct. 2, and the winner would host Club C the following day. The winner of that game would be the division champ.

Think of this almost like a draft, and the team with the "first pick" can choose the scenario it likes best. A team might rather play two games than one if it gets to host both, which is why a team might choose to be Club A over Club C. On the other hand, a team could choose Club C designation if it wants to rest a star pitcher and take its chance in one winner-take-all game, even if it is on the road.

Selection order would be based on the head-to-head records.

Also of important note here: If all three of these teams were tied not just for the division but for the second Wild Card spot, then the loser of the second game would be declared the Wild Card club.

Scenario: Two teams tie for the best record in the league or Wild Card
This would not involve any extra games. If the Astros and Indians, for example, were to finish tied for the best record in the AL, the team with the better head-to-head record (in this case, the Indians) would get home-field advantage throughout the League Championship Series round (remember that home-field advantage in the World Series is now determined by best regular-season record, not the All-Star Game result).

As for the Wild Card, if the Yankees and Twins were the only two clubs in AL Wild Card position at season's end and had identical records, they would not play an extra game to determine who gets home-field advantage in the Wild Card Game. It would go to the team with the better head-to-head record (these two teams have a series against each other this week).

Scenario: Two teams tie for the second Wild Card spot
If, for example, the Twins and Angels tied for the second AL Wild Card spot, they'd have to play each other Oct. 2 for the right to advance to the Wild Card Game. Home-field advantage would go to the team with the better head-to-head record (in this case, the Twins).

Scenario: Three-team tie for two Wild Card spots
If the Yankees, Angels and Twins were tied, the three teams would choose/receive A, B and C designations. Club A would host Club B on Oct. 2, and the winner would be declared one Wild Card winner. Club C would then host the loser of the game between Club A and Club B on Oct. 3 to determine the second Wild Card Club. Again, the three designations are decided by head-to-head records. Though the Yankees and Twins still have another mid-September series against each other, the Twins and Angels both currently hold the season edge over the Yanks, and the Twins have the edge on the Halos.

Scenario: Three or four teams tie for one Wild Card spot
Now we're talking. And this is still a distinct possibility, particularly in the AL.

In the three-team tie, we'd have to have the three teams choose/receive their A, B and C designations, with Club C traveling to face the winner of the game between Clubs A and B to determine who advances to the Wild Card Game.

In a four-team tie, we'd have to add a D designation to the mix. Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D on Oct. 2, and the winners of each of those games would face each other the next day, in the home park of the winner of the game between Club A and Club B, to determine who goes to the Wild Card Game.

A five-team tie? Don't even ask yet. We'll cross that bridge in the unlikely event that we come to it.

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with a club outside the division for a Wild Card spot
If the Red Sox and Yankees finished in a tie atop the AL East with a third club -- let's say the Twins -- tied with them for the second AL Wild Card spot, the following would happen: The Red Sox and Yankees would play a tiebreaker game Oct. 2 (at the home park of the club with the better head-to-head record, so in this case Yankee Stadium). The winner is the division champ, and the loser would face the Twins at Target Field (in this scenario, MLB has determined that the team from the other division gets home field in the second tiebreaker game, regardless of the head-to-head record) the following day to determine the winner of the second Wild Card spot.

If it were a tie for the division and a tie with an outside club for two Wild Card spots, the scenario is the same as above, except this time the second game would be the AL Wild Card Game, with home-field advantage determined by the two-team tiebreaker system mentioned earlier.

Scenario: The two World Series teams have the same regular-season record
With World Series home-field advantage now tied to regular-season records, this is a new tiebreaker scenario to consider. If the Astros and Nationals, for example, were to face each other in the World Series and had identical regular-season records, home field would go to the club with the better head-to-head record in 2017. In this case, that would be the Nats, who beat the Astros twice in their three meetings this year. Had the clubs not met in Interleague Play, the second tiebreaker would be division record. If that were also a tie, the tiebreaker would be intraleague records (the NL club's record vs. NL teams and the AL team's record vs. AL teams).

Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.