Thursday, September 26, 2013

Magic numbers, 9/26/2013

Wednesday's Games:
Boston 15, Colorado 5
LAA 3, Oakland 1
Detroit 1, Minnesota 0
If Boston wins 1 of their remaining 3 games (1-2, .333, 97 wins):
Detroit cannot tie
Oakland must go 3-0 to tie

AL East:
The Boston Red Sox are AL East Champions!

Best Record in AL:
Any combination of Boston wins and Detroit losses totaling 1 ensures that Boston finishes ahead of Detroit
Any combination of Boston wins and Oakland losses totaling 2 ensures that Boston finishes ahead of Oakland


Remaining schedule:
Boston has three games in Baltimore against the 82-76 (.519) Orioles
Oakland has three games in Seattle against the 70-89 (.440) Mariners
Detroit has three games in Miami against the 59-100 (.371) Marlins

Tie-breaker scenarios:
Season series head-to-head records:
Boston 3, Oakland 3
Detroit 4, Boston 3
Oakland 4, Detroit 3
  • 3-way tie at 96-66: I believe that this would result in the following: "Club 1 [Detroit] has a better record against Club 2 [Boston], Club 2 [Boston] and 3 [Oakland] have identical records against one another and Club 3 [Oakland] has a better record against Club 1 [Detroit]". This means that "The Clubs will be ranked by their overall winning percentage amongst the other Clubs combined," so Boston would be the 3rd seed by virtue of going 6-7 vs. Detroit and Oakland, where the other two each went 7-6 among those games. Detroit would be the top seed based on a better record in the Central than Oakland has in the West.


  • 2-way tie (Boston-Detroit) at 96-66: Oakland is the third seed. Detroit is the top seed by virtue of going 4-3 vs. Boston head-to-head.


  • 2-way tie (Boston-Oakland) at 96-66: Detroit is the third seed. Oakland is the top seed by virtue of going 44-32 in the West while Boston went 43-33 in the East.


  • 2-way tie at 97-65: Detroit is the third seed. Oakland is the top seed by virtue of going 45-31 in the West while Boston went 44-32 in the East.

So it appears that the Red Sox lose any tie-breakers.  They need to finish with the best record to get the top seed.

Let me say this - the breaking of ties between teams in different divisions based on their records inside their own division is patently ridiculous in a situation like this. Given the dramatically unbalanced schedules teams play, there can be significant differences in the competition level. Oakland played 76 games against the other Western division teams, and the Red Sox played 76 games against the other Eastern division teams. So Oakland's "tie-breaker record" was compiled in 76 games against teams that are currently 286-348 (.451) while Boston's was compiled in 76 games against teams that are 325-307 (.514). So not only would the Athletics have tied Boston based on a much-easier schedule, they would then win that tie-breaker based on their record against the inferior division opponents that allowed them to tie in the first place.

In fact, Boston has played better against the East than Oakland has (.589 vs. .531) and Boston has played better against the West than Oakland has (.625 vs. .575) and Boston has played better against the East and West combined than Oakland has (.600 vs. .562).  [Boston also played better in inter-league play than Oakland did (.700 vs .650). Oakland did play better against the AL Central than the Red Sox, but that's the only divisional play advantage for the A's.] A tie-breaker that compares Oakland's record in the weak West to Boston's record in the strong East, when Boston has a better record against those divisions, individually and cumulatively, than the A's do, is patently absurd1.

If Boston wins two in Baltimore, of course, or if they win one+ and Oakland loses one+, then it's all moot. But silly anyway.



All three teams have the night off, so there will not be a magic number report on Friday.  The next report will be on Saturday morning.






1 - Not a first for baseball, of course, as those of us who remember the Red Sox finishing 1/2 a game behind Detroit in 1972 because they played one fewer game, or the Yankees winning the World Series in 1981 despite finishing with the 4th best record in the AL East, well know...

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