Only two days remain in the 2023 MLB regular season, yet five postseason spots are still up for grabs, including the AL West title., but, in that case, the AL West would not be decided until Sunday. One way or another, the final day of the regular season will feature at least two meaningful games.
The Rangers currently sit in first place and yet they could miss the postseason entirely. Here are the relevant teams in the AL West and AL wild-card races as of Saturday night:
|AL West||AL wild-card|
1. Rangers: 89-71
1. Rays: 97-63 (clinched)
2. Astros: 88-72 (1 GB)
2. Blue Jays: 89-72 (+0.5 GB)
3. Mariners: 87-73 (2 GB)
3. Astros: 88-72
4. Mariners: 87-73 (1 GB)
Conveniently, the Mariners and Rangers are playing at T-Mobile Park this weekend. SEA 8, TEX 0). The Blue Jays lost to the Rays in extra innings on Saturday, and the Astros are on the road playing the Diamondbacks, ., then they blew Texas out Friday night (
There exists the potential for chaotic three- and four-team tiebreakers involving the AL West and AL wild-card races. It will require several things going exactly right, but it can happen. Here's how those three- and four-team tiebreakers would shake out.
Three-team tie in AL West
The scenario: Astros, Mariners, and Rangers all finish 89-73; Blue Jays finish 90-72 or 91-71
How it happens: Mariners beat Rangers on Saturday and Sunday; Astros go 1-1 vs. D-Backs; Blue Jays win Sunday vs. Rays
The outcome: Mariners win AL West; Blue Jays get second wild-card spot; Astros get third wild-card spot; Rangers out
Wait, what? First, the easy part: Toronto clinches the second wild-card spot with one win this weekend. As for the AL West, the three-team tiebreaker in this case is combined head-to-head winning percentage. These would be the head-to-head records in our three-team tie scenario:
That .538 winning percentage is where our focus lies. Because of that, the Mariners would be named AL West champs in the event all three clubs finish with the same record. And because Houston won the season series against Texas, they would be given the third wild-card spot, and the Rangers go home. Seattle finishes atop the AL West and the final wild-card standings would look like this:
- Rays: 97-65 or 98-64 (since they're playing Toronto this weekend)
- Blue Jays: 90-72 or 91-71 (winning at least one game this weekend is essential to third three-team AL West tie scenario)
- Astros: 89-71
- Rangers: 89-71 (lose three-team tiebreaker, go home)
This, obviously, is the nightmare scenario for the Rangers. They can clinch the AL West title Saturday with a win and an Astros loss, but they could be on the outside of the postseason picture entirely by the end of the day Sunday. Texas can avoid this potential disaster by winning at least one of their two games against Seattle this weekend. Got it? Good.
Four-team tie with AL West and Blue Jays
The scenario: Astros, Blue Jays, Mariners, and Rangers all finish 89-73
How it happens: Mariners beat Rangers on Saturday and Sunday; Astros go 1-1 vs. Diamondbacks; Blue Jays go 0-1 vs. Rays
The outcome: Mariners win AL West; Astros get second wild-card spot; Rangers get third wild-card spot; Blue Jays out
Wait, what? If you understood everything that went on above, the four-team tiebreaker isn't that complicated. Here is how this four-team tie is broken:
- AL West winner is crowned using the three-team tie scenario laid out above, so Mariners win the division.
- The Astros, Blue Jays, and Rangers go through the three-team tiebreaker to decide the second-card spot.
- The third wild-card spot is decided using head-to-head record of the remaining two teams.
Here are the combined head-to-head records for step 2 in that process:
The Astros have the best combined head-to-head winning percentage against the other two teams, so they get the second wild-card spot. The Rangers get the third wild-card spot not because they have the second best combined winning percentage, but because they won the season series against Toronto. That's step 3 above.
Here's what the final wild-card standings would look like in the event of a four-team tie (Mariners win the AL West, remember):
- Rays: 99-63 (beat Blue Jays twice this weekend)
- Astros: 89-73
- Rangers: 89-73
- Blue Jays: 89-73 (lose four-team tiebreaker, go home)
The Blue Jays can avoid this four-team tiebreaker scenario with a win on Sunday. If they find themselves on the outside of the postseason looking in because of this four-team tie, they'll have no one to blame but themselves. The Blue Jays control their own destiny. They have to go take care of business.
As a reminder, MLB and the MLBPA agreed to do away with Game 163 tiebreakers when the new postseason format was implemented last year. All ties are broken mathematically now. That's too bad. We could've had some really fun tiebreaker game chaos with this three- and four-team tie scenarios. Alas, what you see above is how these races would be decided.