Calculating the “magic number” for playoff contenders was so very simple just a few decades ago. Do the math for 2 divisions in the NL, do it for the 2 divisions in the AL, and “voila!” you were done. Then Bud Selig came along and ruined the whole thing. Okay, Emperor Bud does not deserve all of the blame, but I feel like designating him the goat anyway. Now it seems that half the league has a magic number of some kind.
Each league has 3+ division leaders, at least 1 team leading the race for WC1 (wild card 1), and another leading the race for WC2 (wild card 2). Two or more teams could be tied for a division lead, and both teams could remain in the wild card hunt. Or both could be almost completely out of the wild card race. Or one team owns the tiebreaker over another team, because team A outscored team B by 2 runs in the 7th inning of all the games they played against each other. Or maybe I’m just making up stuff about the tiebreaker system. Regardless, the Oprah’d approach to giving nearly every time with a pulse a magic number gets complicated. Yes? Yes.
To save all 3 of our loyal readers the agony of creating a spreadsheet and breaking out the old abacus, I’ve gone ahead and done some of the maths for you. Consider the current standings, and the wild card magic numbers that accompany them.
- Braves (81-63) – 14 to win WC1 in the NL. That means that a combination of 14 wins for the Braves and losses for the Cardinals gives WC1 to the Braves outright (no tiebreakers). The magic numbers for the Braves to eliminate the rest of the wild card hopefuls are as follows: 12 – Dodgers, 12 – Pirates, 11 – Brewers, 10 – Phillies, 10 – Diamondbacks, 7 – Padres, 4 – Mets, Marlins - 1. The Rockies, Cubs, and Astros are already mathematically eliminated from the WC1 race.
- Cardinals (76-68) – 17 to win the WC2 in the NL. A combination of 19 wins for the Cardinals and losses for the Dodgers/Pirates gives the Redbirds the outright WC2 title. Woohoo! Well, maybe not. The Cardinals have to eliminate other contestants along the way, and each of those chasers has a magic number as well. 16 – Brewers, 15 – Phillies, 15 – Diamondbacks, 12 – Padres, 9 – Mets, 6 – Marlins, 2 – Rockies. That’s right. The win by the Cardinals yesterday mathematically eliminated the Cubs from the playoffs. *sad panda*
What does this all mean? Not much. However, you now have the basic information required to keep track of the magic numbers in your spare time. To calculate the magic number for a specific set of teams, you simply need to know the number of wins the leading team has (W) and the number of losses the trailing team has (L).
Magic Number = 163 – W – L
It’s so easy a Corey Hart could do it.
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