The Padres are in a close race with the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers for one of the two remaining Wild Card spots. A series win over the Brewers in June may prove to be the difference.
Major League Baseball approved a new-look playoff format for this season and beyond. Now, 12 teams, six from each league, will make the playoffs. The top two division winners in each league will get a bye through the new best-of-three Wild Card series. The other teams will play in that round, with the division winner with the worst record facing the No. 6 seed or the team who sneaks into the playoffs as the third Wild Card team. The No. 4 seed, or the first Wild Card team, will host the best-of-three series against the No. 5 seed, or second Wild Card slot.
Then, there is the most critical fine print in regards to the Padres’ situation. Instead of play-in games or “Game 163,” there are now tiebreakers, much like the National Football League. There will be no play-in game to break a tie. The tiebreakers are as follows, in order.
If two teams are tied for a playoff spot, the head-to-head record between the two teams during that regular season will decide who gets that slot. This is the first tiebreaker considered.
If the two teams tied the season series, then it will fall to their records within their respective divisions. For the Padres, this means their record against their NL West rivals will be the determining factor.
If their head-to-head record, as well as their intradivision records, are equal, the team with the best record against teams outside of their division but within the same league will be the winner.
The likelihood of needing further tiebreakers past that point are highly remote. The tiebreaker rules in their entirety are laid out here.
Allow me to call your attention to the first one again. In this situation, the Padres are battling two other teams for one of two Wild Card slots that seem to be up for grabs. Between the Padres, Phillies, and Brewers, one team is not making the playoffs.
According to FanGraphs, between these three teams, the Padres have the highest chance of making the playoffs at 87.5 percent. The Phillies are at 82.9 percent, while the Brewers check in at 29.1 percent. Of course, these could change quickly with a hot or cold week.
It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty in this Wild Card race. As of Monday, the Padres occupy the second Wild Card slot by half of a game over the Phillies. The Phillies are up two games on the Brewers for that final Wild Card slot.
There is a scenario where the tiebreaker will need to be decided between the Padres and Phillies. In that case, the Phillies have the advantage, as they won the season series four games to three. Both teams could make the playoffs. However, if they are tied in the second and third spots, the Phillies would be awarded the second slot by virtue of the new tiebreaker rules.
It seems as if the Brewers might be the weakest of the three teams on paper. However, they have proven resilient against a tough schedule involving games against the Cardinals and Yankees. They have the pitching to stay in the race. There is definitely a scenario where it comes down to the Padres or the Brewers.
If that happens, the Padres have the advantage. The Brewers took two out of three from the Padres at Petco Park in late May. However, the Padres responded by winning three of four at Milwaukee. This clinched the season series win for the Padres at four games to three. Hence, the Padres own the tiebreaker over the Brewers.
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So if the race comes down to the wire between the Padres and Brewers, and they finish the regular season tied for the final Wild Card spot, the playoff slot will be awarded to the Padres without playing a tiebreaker game. In this case, though, according to the current standings, the Padres have a 2.5 game lead over the Brewers, it really is 3.5 since the Brewers would need to be better than the Padres by a full game at the end of the season to avoid the tiebreaker loss.
In this instance, it might be better if it was the Brewers, not the Phillies, that ended up being the team fighting with the Padres in the end. Of course, the Padres can take all mystery out of it by playing up to their potential in the final few weeks of the season and make this point moot.
In any case, that series win in Milwaukee in early June has the possibility of being the deciding factor between the Padres staying home once again for October baseball or being participants in their pursuit of a World Series title.
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.