The first World Series was played in 1903 when the Boston Americans beat the Pittsburgh Pirates five games to three. Yes, it was a best of nine in those days. That Boston Americans team featured Denton “Cy” Young, the guy who the Cy Young Award is named after. He’s kind of a big deal. In 1903, Cy Young was 36 years old but still pitched 341 2/3 innings and won 28 games. Those were different times.
From 1903 to 1968, baseball’s postseason was simple: the winner of the American League faced the winner of the National League in the World Series. There were no playoffs. This changed in 1969 when the two leagues were divided into east and west divisions. This created a round of playoffs, followed by the World Series.
The wild card was introduced in 1995. Baseball had moved to three divisions in each league, with the division winners getting a playoff spot along with the best remaining team. The team with the best record faced the wild card team in the first round, and the two remaining division winners faced each other.
The most-recent change to the playoff format came about in 2012 when baseball added another wild card team. Over the last three years, the two wild card teams have played a one-game playoff to decide who would advance. The winning team would then face the division leader with the best record and the two remaining division leaders faced each other.
100-59 St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central champs)
89-70 New York Mets (NL East champs)
89-70 Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West champs)
96-63 Pittsburgh Pirates (assured of a wild card spot)
94-65 Chicago Cubs (assured of a wild card spot)
· The Cardinals have the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
· The Mets hold the tiebreaker with the Dodgers, so if they finish with the same record, the Mets would be the home team in the first round of the playoffs.
· The Pirates hold a two game lead over the Cubs in their quest to be the home team for the one-game playoff between the wild card teams. The Cubs have the tiebreaker, though, so if they finish with the same record, the Cubs would be the home team.
The American League is where the real fun begins. Four of the five teams are set but the last remaining spot is still alive for three teams and one division has not yet been decided.
92-67 Toronto Blue Jays (AL East champs)
92-67 Kansas City Royals (AL Central champs)
87-72 Texas Rangers (assured of a wild card, could win the division)
87-72 New York Yankees (assured of a wild card spot)
84-75 Houston Astros (currently hold the #2 wild card spot)
83-76 Los Angeles Angels
83-76 Minnesota Twins
· The Blue Jays and Royals are still in contention for the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have identical records and the Blue Jays own the tiebreaker because they beat the Royals four out of seven games this season. If they finish with the same record, the Blue Jays would be the #1 seed.
· The Rangers have clinched a wild card spot, but not the AL West division title just yet. They are three games ahead of the Astros with three games to play. If they finish with the same record, they would play a one-game playoff to determine the division title.
· The Yankees have a wild card spot but have not clinched home field advantage for that wild card game. If the Yankees and Astros finish with identical records, the Astros would be the home team in a the wild card game by virtue of their 4-3 record in head-to-head games this year.
The second wild card is still up for grabs for three teams. The Astros have a one game lead over the Angels and Twins but the Astros have been bad on the road this year (31-47, .397) and are playing three on the road in Arizona.
The Angels have three games remaining on the road in Texas. They already lost the first of a four game series and have also been a poor road team (34-44, .436).
The Twins host the Kansas City Royals. The Twins have been very good at home this year (46-32, .590).
The scenario everyone should be rooting for is a three-way tie for the second wild card spot because, well, why not? A three-way tie would create an interesting tiebreak scenario.
If the Angels, Astros, and Twins finish with identical records, the Angels have a choice of two options to decide the tiebreaker. Because the Angels have a better combined mark against the other two teams (14-12), they get to choose between playing two games at home or one on the road. If they choose to play two games at home, they would host the Twins on Monday, then the winner would host the Astros on Tuesday. Or the Angels could choose to let the Astros and Twins play each other on Monday, then play the winner of that game on the road on Tuesday. In either scenario, the AL wild card game would be moved from Tuesday to Wednesday and be hosted by the Yankees.
So how do I think it will play out? Please do not wager on these “predictions.” This is more how I’d like to see it play out than how I actually think it will.
Friday, October 2nd
· Astros lose to the Diamond backs. The Astros have their best pitcher on the mound, Dallas Keuchel, but Keuchel has been mediocre on the road (3.82 ERA) and the Diamondbacks are a scrappy bunch.
· The Angels lose to the Rangers. Jered Weaver is pitching for the Angels and he will be destroyed by Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre, and Prince Fielder, Weaver is a shell of his former self. Down go the Angels.
· The Twins will beat the Royals behind a good game from Ervin Santana over Chris Young, who is ridiculously tall. The Twins are even more scrappy than the Diamondbacks.
Updated (predicted) records:
84-76 Houston Astros (currently hold the #2 wild card spot)
83-77 Los Angeles Angels
84-76 Minnesota Twins
Saturday, October 3rd
· The Astros will lose to the Diamondbacks and a whole group of blonde sorority girls taking selfies will have no idea a baseball game is being played in front of them.
· The Angels will beat the Rangers, who would have clinched the AL West and have nothing to play for over the last two games.
· The Twins will lose to the Royals and Yordano Ventura in a final tune-up for Ventura before the playoffs begin.
Updated (predicted) records:
84-77 Houston Astros (currently hold the #2 wild card spot)
84-77 Los Angeles Angels
84-77 Minnesota Twins
Sunday, October 4th
· The Astros will beat the Diamondbacks because Lance McCullers is better than Robbie Ray who, I think, was a character in the movie “Not Another Teen Movie.”
· The Angels will beat the Rangers, as Cole Hamels only goes five innings in a warm-up before his playoff start on Thursday.
· The Twins will beat the Royals, who will limit the innings for Johnny Cueto in anticipation of the playoffs starting for them on Thursday.
Updated (predicted) records:
85-77 Houston Astros (currently hold the #2 wild card spot)
85-77 Los Angeles Angels
85-77 Minnesota Twins
Voila! A three-way tie! Let the excitement begin!