Mailbag: Tie-Breaker, Cano, Nunez, Adams

Hughes leads Yankees to win over Red Sox
9/14-9/16 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

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(Patrick McDermott/Getty)

Anonymous asks: Time for a post on tie breakers? My main question would be this: what happens if the Yanks and Orioles (or Rays) tie for the division lead, but have records good enough to be one of the Wild Cards? Will they do an on-paper tie-breaker or will they make them play a game? Since it’s so much better to be the division winner, I would think they would have them play. In the past it was a paper tie-breaker, but there was no negative to being the Wild Card. Now there is.

Under the old system, teams would only play a tie-breaker game if it was a situation in which one team would make the playoffs and the other would not. If two teams tied atop the division but were both going to the playoffs anyway, they didn’t bother to play a game and used (I think) head-to-head record to decide who was the division champ and who was the wildcard.

With the new system, teams will play a tie-breaker to decide the division winner even if both clubs are guaranteed to make the postseason, as they should. Home field for that tie-breaker game is determined by head-to-head record, but since the Yankees and Orioles split the season series, the game would be played in Baltimore because they have the better overall intra-division record (at the moment, still time to change that). The Yankees have to sweep the Rays this weekend just to tie the season series.

There would be a tie-breaker game if two teams tie for the second wildcard spot obviously, but I have no idea what happens if more than two teams tie for that spot. Given the craziness of the current races, there’s a very real chance we see a three-way tie this year. I’m not sure even MLB knows what they’ll do in that situation, but I’m rooting for the chaos as long as the Yankees aren’t involved. I wasn’t a fan of the new playoff system when it was announced and I still don’t like the one-game, winner-take-all aspect of the wildcard play-in game, but these last few weeks of baseball are going to be a lot of fun. Lots of tight races and big games coming up.

Nate asks: Is it me, or has Robinson Cano hit more opposite-field home runs this year than ever before?

He has, actually. The two-run dinger over the Green Monster on Wednesday was Cano’s fifth homer to the opposite field this season, a career-high. His previous career high was three, which he’d done multiple times (2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011). Robbie’s always hit the ball to all fields but almost all of his power has been to the pull side, which is not unusual at all. This year he’s starting to spray the dingers out a little more, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s set a career-high in homers during the year in which he’s showing the most opposite field power.

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty)

Nar asks: When does Eduardo Nunez become arbitration-eligible and did he spend enough time in the minors this year to delay it another year? Thanks.

If he spends all of next year in the big leagues, Nunez is going to be right on the Super Two bubble at two years and 30 or so days of service time. The cut-off for this coming offseason is approximately two years and 34 days, but it fluctuates year-to-year. Either way, Nunez won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season if he’s back in the show for good. Whether he’s a Super Two (and arbitration-eligible four times instead of three) depends more on the cutoff next year than anything else.

Reggie asks: Is it possible that David Adams could latch on with the ML team next season as a utility guy from the go? Is it too late to get Adams to play a corner OF spot when Brett Gardner and a re-signed Nick Swisher need an off-day?  If Adams can play 3B, that’d be a boon for the team, especially if Eric Chavez retires/signs elsewhere.

It’s possible but I also think it’s unlikely. Adams hasn’t played a single inning at shortstop as a professional and has fewer than 40 games worth of third base experience, so the Yankees would still need another middle infielder on the bench. It’s not too late to try him out in the corner outfield, though a) I’m not sure how well he runs these days after the ankle injury, and b) that’s not exactly something you want him to learn at the big league level. I think it’s far more likely that Corban Joseph breaks camp in this Chavez role next year than Adams.

Len asks: In the never-ending parade of one-run loss horrors lately, how many did the Yankees actually lead in (and how many of those were blown by the bullpen?) and how may were failed comebacks?

Since the start of the four-game series in Oakland that seems to mark the beginning of this downward spiral, the Yankees have lost 28 of 50 games. Thirteen of those 28 losses came by one-run while another three were decided by two runs. Here’s the breakdown of the one-run losses…

  • The Yankees had the lead at some point in eight of the 13 games. That’s an awful lot.
  • The bullpen blew the game ten times (!) in the 13 games. That’s not just surrendering the lead, it’s also giving up the go-ahead run in a tie game. That’s also an awful lot.
  • The Yankees had the tying run on-base in the seventh inning or later (my arbitrary definition of “failed comeback”) in seven of the 13 games for a total of nine failed comebacks. They had the tying run on-base in multiple late innings in a few of those losses.

One of those failed comebacks was the Mark Teixeira/Jerry Meals game, a comeback that was completely successful had the first base umpire made the correct call. What can you do though, can’t go back in time to change it. Anyway, a lot of these recent losses were really close and imminently winnable games, but the Yankees have just been unable to get over the hump lately. It’s frustrating as hell.

Hughes leads Yankees to win over Red Sox
9/14-9/16 Series Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
  • Better off Eddard

    They need to start playing Nunie in the field more vs LHP since Derek and Alex are old and hobbled. He was just fine in SS last night.

    If we win the division we’re unlikely to finish with best record so Texas will play the WC. If that’s the case, I hope it ends in 3-4 team tie and they have to play multiple play-ins just to get into the play-in. What is Bud’s contingency plan for that? Top seed plays all 5 games at the lower seed’s park?

    • Ted Nelson

      If Texas is playing the WC, I think I’d rather the WC be fresh and have their ace lined up for game 1. Give them a chance to beat or at least wear out Texas. What’s the reasoning for having multiple play-ins?

      • CP

        If three teams tie for one wild card spot, then there would be multiple play in games. Alternatively, if three teams tie for the division lead and a wild card spot, then there would be multiple play in games. I’m not sure how it would be handled if the Yankees, Orioles and Rays are tied for the division and both wild cards (Oakland falls back in this case). There would need to be multiple games to decide the division winner, but I’m not sure how that would go.

        • Ted Nelson

          Thanks, but what I’m asking isn’t why there would be multiple play-in games. It’s why one would want multiple play-in games as a Yankees fan (unless of course without multiple play-ins the Yankees are out). Seems to me that multiple play-ins would be to the Rangers advantage, and hence the Yankees disadvantage.

          • Better off Eddard

            Yeah, I was just hoping for the drama of it all and to see what Bud does to react. The only disadvantage would be that Texas would just be sitting around. The WC probably won’t have their ace lined up for Game 1 vs Texas anyway because the ace would pitch in the play-in, whether there’s just one play-in or multiple play-ins.

            • Ted Nelson

              Good point about the ace pitching in the play-in. I get the drama/fan part, and ultimately it might get the Yankees some rest along with the Rangers (if Yanks win division and first round).

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Things I’d never thought I’d see: You saying “good point,” then scrolling above and seeing it was said to EDDARD. :)

    • Mr. Sparkle

      Given Selig’s track record, I’m sure any contingency plan will be the wrong plan. I don’t think he can come up with a contingency plan in the event his hotel room forgets to stock the bathroom with towels.

  • Pat D

    The difference in records for one-run games between the Yankees and the Orioles tells you all you need to know about how/why they’re tied with each other.

    • Ted Nelson

      So, luck?

      • Pat D

        That’s the only thing I can think of. The Orioles are 27-7 in 1-run games. That has to be a record winning percentage.

        • Jim Is Bored

          If they end the season with that percentage, yes, it would be an all time record in 1 run games.

    • Jim Is Bored

      Well that and how both teams have played since the ASB in both 1 run and non-1-run games. The Orioles have actually been, if not good, then slightly above average, for a while now.

      We really need to get over the luck idea. Even if it is luck, there are < 20 games left in the season. That's not a big enough sample to say anything meaningful about. Like it or not, the Orioles are as "for real" as anyone.

  • jjyank

    I hope there are a ton of ties this year. Very curious to see what happens/see this system blow up in Selig’s face.

    •!/Clay_Bellinger Clay Bellinger

      Ted disagrees.

      • Ted Nelson

        If you mean that I’m sure they have thought of this possibility, yes. If you mean that I don’t hold Selig up to be some evil genius authoritarian ruler of baseball, but rather a manager overseeing dozens and maybe hundreds of people working in the collective interest of the league… Again, yes.

    • B-Rando

      Whats the measure of success for the system? If there are a ton of ties, and subsequently several 1-game, winner-take-all type of games, viewers and fans will be GLUED to their televisions.

      I’m guessing for ownership and inherently the commissioner of baseball they will say mission accomplished.

      • Better off Eddard

        It will no doubt be great drama but I’d just like to see if they have a plan. It seemed like they rushed this whole thing through this year and that’s why the top 2 seeds have to start out on the road in the LDS. If there’s a 3-4 way tie what do they do to determine which two teams play first? HTH record among the 3 teams? Best AL record? Coin flip?

        • Hardy

          3 teams:

          The clubs are ranked by tiebreaker, then the first team chooses whether it wants to be A, B or C and then the second team chooses between the remaining two.

          Club A would host Club B on Thursday, October 4th (tentatively). The winner of the game would then host Club C on Friday, October 5th (tentatively) to determine the Wild Card Club.

          4 teams:

          The clubs are ranked by tiebreaker, then the first team chooses whether it wants to be A, B, C or D, then the second team chooses between the remaining three and then the third team chooses between the remaining two.

          Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D on Thursday, October 4th (tentatively).
          If there are two spots, the respective winners get them.
          If there is just one spot, the winners of each of those games would then meet on Friday, October 5th (tentatively), hosted by the winner of the game between Club A and Club B, to determine the Wild Card Club.

          Tiebreakers are mainly head-to-head record between the involved clubs.

          • Laz

            That is incredibly unfair in your 3 team scenario. C has a 50% chance to make it to ds, while a and b have a 25% shot each. That probability is basic, and in reality is worse because aces would start for both ab in first game and then c has fresh ace.

            Example :
            Yankees are 15-9 (62.5%) when CC starts, and only 16-13 (55%) when Kuroda starts.

            Take that for both teams assuming most teams have a similiar breakdown and to advance the chances are.
            A: 23.4%
            B: 23.4%
            C: 53.2%

            That is a significant advantage for just winning the season’s series. Some teams it’s worse, say rays are C and they have Price on the Mound,

      • jjyank

        It would be exciting, for sure. But it’s very possible that it would be “bad exciting” for fans of those teams.

      • B-Rando

        I don’t disagree with any of you guys. I was just pointing out the fact that the measure of success for Major League Baseball (the commissioner’s office/owners group) would be an extreme uptick in viewer ratings.

        Even with a half baked plan that doesn’t account for all of the very possible contingencies, higher ratings = success (in the commissioners eyes).

    • thenamestsam

      I’m sure it will be fascinating from a viewer standpoint, but I can’t see it being anything other than disastrous from a competition standpoint.

      If there’s a 3-way tie for the wild card I can’t see any fair way to do it other than some sort of round-robin situation where each of the three teams plays each of the other two until one team emerges, but there’s no way they possibly have time for that unless they worked in some crazy double-headers or something. Two of the teams playing for the right to play the third team (what would probably happen) is way too big an advantage to bestow based on a coin flip or some tiebreaker.

      • Hardy

        But that is what would happen:

        The clubs are ranked by tiebreaker, then the first team chooses whether it wants to be A, B or C and then the second team chooses between the remaining two.

        Club A would host Club B on Thursday, October 4th (tentatively). The winner of the game would then host Club C on Friday, October 5th (tentatively) to determine the Wild Card Club.

        The first team will probably choose C and the second team A.

        • thenamestsam

          Agreed. That’s how you’d have to do it pretty much. But holy shit is that a bad system from a competitive standpoint. These are 3 teams that finished with the exact same record and based on some silly tiebreaker that is probably like 99% random you’re giving one of them (Team C) like a 60% chance of going to the real playoffs (since they only have to win one homegame in which they have their ace, and the other team doesn’t) and one of them like a 15% chance (Team A). That’s a pretty huge difference to be based on a tiebreaker.

  • c2012

    What about this scenario:

    Oakland 93-69 (clinch first wildcard)
    NYY, Baltimore and LAA all 92-70

    NYY plays Balt for division, Balt wins game and division.

    NYY now 92-71 so one loss worse than LAA. Does NYY go home or get a chance to play LAA for the second wildcard?

    There was a similar scenario in 1995. Going into the final day of the season, NYY had same record has LAA and Seattle. But it was announced before the game that if all 3 teams finished with the same record, Yanks clinch wildcard because LAA/Seattle division playoff game was considered a regular season game and thus loser would have one more loss than the Yankees and so they go home. It didn’t come to that as the Yanks had a one game better record than both LAA and Seattle after game 162, so it was just down to the west division.

    Have they changed the rule so the division tie breaker is considered a playoff game and not a regular season game? If not, the same scenario could happen.

    • Jim Is Bored

      The 1 game playoff would not count towards the official record, the Yanks would still then go to play LAA.

      • c2012

        That’s good news- they must have changed the rule. It was always the rule that division tiebreaker was considered “Game 163”- Bucky Dent game; recent Min/Det playoff,etc. All the stats in those games counted for the regular season. I believe Guidry’s 25th win in ’78 was in the playoff with Boston. A change was needed due to the two wildcards.

  • Frank Messer

    has MLB somehow conspired to make the Yankee offense smell like a rotting fish head?

    • Robinson Tilapia


  • Rod


  • Kosmo

    Has anyone mentioned the Orioles have a 9- game road trip starting tonight with a 6-game left coast swing vs. Oakland and Seattle ending with 3 in Boston ? I doubt Baltimore comes out better than 4-5 WL

    • William

      Yes, because Seattle and Boston are terrifying. I think 6-3

  • Hardy

    Full information about the various scenarios for tiebreakers is here:

  • Guest

    Don’t know if they’ve hashed out all of the logistics for all of the scenarios, but I for one absolutely love this new system.

    We get WC races, tons of unpredictable outcomes (isn’t that exactly what we want in September?) AND the division championship is more important than its been since 1993.

    To me, it’s a what’s not to love situation. The unfairness of the second best team in baseball having to play a one game playoffs to make the playoffs while other crappier division winners skate in?

    It is unfair, yes. But so was the idea that you could be the second best team in all of BASEBALL and not even get ONE playoff game because its pre-1960 and your second in the AL behind the Yanks(cut to Ted Williams nodding solemnly).

    Simply put, unless (1) you have one league, (2) have everyone play each other the exact same number of times, and (3) put the top (insert preffered number here) teams in the playoffs, your playoff system will always bee unfair.

    And, to my knowledge, baseball has never had this hypothetical system, so the playoff system has always been unfair (admittedly to varying degrees, but always unfair nonetheless).

    So if whatever you do is going to be unfair, why not go for a system that (1) Keeps the division races meaningful, and (2) keeps more teams in the mix in September?

    • Laz

      But in the Wildcard spot if there is 3 teams one teams gets an almost 55% chance where the others get around a 22.5% chance. That is significant even though these teams all won the same number of games.