Possible tiebreaking scenarios explained

Possible tiebreaking scenarios explained

The Orioles, Nationals and Angels all clinched with relative ease, but don't let those decided divisions deceive you into believing we're going to have seamless standings scenarios from here on out.

Truth is, things could get messy and mathematically complex. The Wild Card era has already produced seven Game 163 tiebreakers, including last year's battle between the Rays and Rangers for the American League's second Wild Card spot.

While it would be incredibly lengthy to lay out every conceivable possibility that remains, here are the most realistic scenarios still in play for 2014. (To see a breakdown of every possible tiebreaker scenario, click here.)

Scenario: Two-team tie for best record or Wild Card

We'll start here because these are scenarios that are relatively plausible and do not involve any extra tiebreaker games. If the Dodgers and Nationals, for example, win their divisions outright and finish tied for the best record in the National League, the team with the better head-to-head record -- in this case the Nats, who went 4-2 against the Dodgers -- would get home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.

As for the Wild Card, it's looking as if the Royals and A's will both beat out the Mariners for the two AL spots. If they have the same record, they would not play an extra game to determine who gets home-field advantage in the AL Wild Card Game. Instead, Kansas City would host Oakland by virtue of a 5-2 record against the A's.

A similar situation could play out in the NL Wild Card race. For example, if the Pirates, who are in the playoffs, and the Giants, who are on the cusp, finish with the same record -- and hold the top two Wild Card spots -- the Pirates would host the Giants in the NL Wild Card Game because of a 4-2 advantage in their season series.

Scenario: Two teams tie for the division

This one is pretty straightforward, and we will use the Royals and Tigers as an example. If they tie for the AL Central crown, they will play a one-game tiebreaker on Monday. Home-field advantage would go to the club with the superior head-to-head record (in this case, that's the Tigers). The winner of this game would claim the division and face either the Angels or Orioles in the AL Division Series (whichever finishes with a worse record), while the loser would head to the AL Wild Card Game or head home, depending on if it qualifies for the Wild Card.

The other highly possible two-team division tie: Cardinals-Pirates

Scenario: Two teams tie for the second Wild Card spot

Just as straightforward as the above division scenario. We saw this last year with the Rangers and Rays, and Texas got home-field advantage by virtue of its 4-3 regular-season record against Tampa Bay. If the two tying clubs have an even record against each other, the second determining factor for home field is intradivision record.

Possible two-team ties for second Wild Card: Royals-Mariners, A's-Mariners, Tigers-A's, Tigers-Mariners. (The Indians, Yankees and Brewers remain alive, but their chances are slimmer than slim.)

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with club outside division for one Wild Card spot

If the Tigers and Royals finished in a tie in the AL Central with a third club -- let's say the Mariners -- tying them for an AL Wild Card spot, the following would happen: The Tigers and Royals would play at Comerica Park (because of Detroit's aforementioned head-to-head advantage) on Monday, and the loser of that game would face the Mariners in Seattle to determine the winner of the second AL Wild Card spot.

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with club outside division for two Wild Card spots

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 (head-to-head record, followed by intradivision record).

Scenario: Two-team tie for the division, plus a tie with two clubs outside the division for two Wild Card spots

Let's take the above and add a fourth team -- the A's -- into the mix. Two games would take place Monday -- the Tigers-Royals game to determine the division winner and a game between the A's and Mariners to determine who advances (home field would go to the Mariners, as they have the head-to-head advantage). The losers of those two games would then face each other (with the same tiebreaker rules applied to determine home field) to decide who faces the winner of the A's-Mariners game in the AL Wild Card Game.

Scenario: Three-team tie for two Wild Card spots

No longer a strong possibility, but if Royals, A's and Mariners were tied, the three teams would choose/receive A, B and C designations. Club A would host Club B on Monday and the winner would host Club C on Tuesday. The three designations are decided by head-to-head records. 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.

In this instance, the Mariners would have first choice of designation, as they have a winning record against both the A's and Royals. The Royals would get second choice by virtue of their winning record over the A's.

Scenario: Two-team tie for best record in the league

Pretty simple here. The league's No. 1 playoff seed is given to the club with the head-to-head advantage. If that's a tie, it goes to the club with the higher intradivision record. If that's a tie, it goes to the club with the better record in the last half of intraleague games.

The Angels and Orioles have both clinched and moved on to a less-hyped but still-important race for the AL's best record and home-field advantage throughout October (the AL has home-field advantage in the World Series because of the All-Star Game result). Should they finish tied, the O's have the upper hand by virtue of their 4-2 record against the Halos.

Some other possible two-team ties for best record in the league: Nationals-Dodgers, Nationals-Cardinals, Dodgers-Cardinals

Scenario: Three-team tie for best record in the league

Still a possibility in the NL. If the Nationals, Dodgers and Cardinals all finished with the same record, their head-to-head records would come into play. The Cards won the season series against the Nats, 5-2; the Nationals won the season series against the Dodgers, 4-2; and the Dodgers won the season series against the Cardinals, 4-3. This gives the Cards an advantage, as they are 8-6 combined against the other two clubs. They would choose the No. 1 seed. The Nats would have the second seed, by virtue of their winning record against Los Angeles.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. Michael Lananna, who is an associate reporter for MLB.com, contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.