The MLB season consists of 6 months of games (162 games to be exact), so it’s not uncommon for a lot of people to really start paying attention in September with only a month left to play. This is the time of the year when you pretty much know if your team has a shot at making the Postseason or not.
ASIDE: Honestly, it’s fun to follow a team during the ENTIRE season…learning about the ups and downs, knowing the team’s strengths/weaknesses, etc… but for whatever reason people think 6 months of games EVERYDAY is too much. I’ll never understand this because baseball is the best, but what do I know. :)
With the season winding down (the official last day of the 2012 regular season is Oct. 3), you’ll hear a lot of terminology thrown around and I thought it would be nice to give you a few definitions and explain how the Playoffs break down.
The winner of each division (AL East, AL Central, AL West, NL East, NL Central and NL West) gets a bid for the playoffs, but since 6 teams don’t divide up nicely into a playoff bracket of sorts, there are Wild Cards. For the past few years, there was only 1 Wild Card team for each league, 1 from the American League and 1 from the National League. The Wild Card team was the team with the best record that didn’t win their division. Logic would dictate that you would just take the 4 teams with the best records, but as we all know, a lot of the rules of baseball aren’t always logical.
However, things have changed for the 2012 Postseason. There are now TWO Wild Card teams for each division. So, the two teams in each league with the best records that don’t win their division make it to the playoffs.
Before now, the Wild Card team from each league would just play the team with the best record in their league (unless that team was in their division, in which case they would play the 2nd best record in their league) in the Division Series. The Division series was a best of 5. The winner of those rounds in each league would play each other in a Championship Series which was a best of 7. Then the winner of each league (determined by the Championship Series) would meet for a best of 7 in the World Series.
Now, since 10 teams don’t divide up nicely into 3 rounds, MLB added an extra round, the Wild Card Playoff game. This is a single game played between the two Wild Cards in a particular league. The winner of that game would then advance to the Division Series. Then things play out just like they did before.
Over the next few weeks, you’ll also hear a lot of jargon being thrown around. Here are couple of definitions:
- Games back: This is the number of “games” a team is from the team currently winning their division. Each game played is worth 1/2 a game. So if the team in the lead loses (.5 game) and the team in the rear wins (.5 game) then it would be a 1 game gain. For example, currently the Oakland Athletics (with a record of 84-62) are 3 games back of the Texas Rangers (with a record of 87-59). The Los Angeles Angels (with a record of 80-67) are 7.5 games back of the Texas Rangers.
- Magic number: This number indicates how close a team is to solidifying a spot in the playoffs. In mathematical terms, it’s the total of needed wins by the front-running team OR additional losses by the rival team so that it is mathematically impossible for the rival team to win the playoff spot. So if a team’s magic number is 5, they just need to win 5 games or the team that’s behind them in record needs to lose 5 games (or some combination of both…Team A wins 2, Team B loses 3).
Clear as mud, right?
If you have a baseball-related question or topic you’d like to see discussed or explained here, please shoot me an email at LorInBigD@gmail.com or tweet at me @LorInBigD.