The Toronto Blue Jays run the risk of losing the tiebreakers against five of the six teams closest to them in the Wild Card standings.
With seven AL teams (including the Blue Jays) now only separated by 3.0 games in the Wild Card standings, those tiebreakers could become crucial: one of those teams will win the AL Central (currently Cleveland), three will win Wild Cards (currently the Jays, Mariners and Rays), and three will miss the postseason.
Importance of the head-to-head season series
Under the new MLB playoff format starting this season, the head-to-head season series will determine the winner of any ties in the final standings, i.e. for the final Wild Card spot in a tie situation. As per MLB,
"With the 2022 expansion of the postseason field from 10 teams to 12 teams, tiebreaker games will no longer be used to resolve ties in the standings at the conclusion of the regular season. That means no more “Game 163.”Instead, ties will be broken by math, with specific outcomes from the regular season determining final standing or seeding."
Any tie atop the division, for the final Wild Card spot, or between two division winners will be determined in this order:
1. Head-to-head record
2. Intradivision record
3. Interdivision record
So while they beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2 in their season series, the Jays have already lost the season series to Cleveland (2-5), Minnesota (3-4) and Seattle (2-5). That means they wouldn’t mind a regular season tie with Chicago, but would drop down if they tied with Seattle or the Twins.
With 35 of their remaining 49 games against AL East opponents, they now run the risk of losing tiebreakers against two more contenders in Tampa Bay (4-6) and Baltimore (2-4) as well. With nine games remaining against Tampa, the Jays would need to go at least 6-3 to earn the tiebreaker in that series; with 13 games still versus the Orioles, Toronto will need to win at least eight more games.
And their 20-21 (.488) record against the East will have to dramatically improve anyways given Seattle, and the three teams still vying for the AL Central all have easier opponents than Toronto based on remaining schedule strength.
The fact the Jays have been struggling of late should surprise no one. They’re 3-7 in their past ten games, all against playoff contenders with winning records.
Since the All-Star break, the Jays are 11-9, which is middle of the pack amongst AL playoff contenders. And everyone is talking about them being 30-40 (.429) overall against teams with a winning record.
While Toronto does hold the third best record in the American League, as well as occupying the top Wild Card position, their 13-14 record against the top ten teams in MLB should also be pause for concern: the Mets, Dodgers, Astros and Yankees all have winning records against the ten best teams in baseball, while the Blue Jays scuffle. That doesn’t portend well to a deep postseason run.
With the current standings so tight – seven teams separated by only 3.0 games, with six of those teams vying for three Wild Card slots – holding those tiebreakers could be crucial. After falling short of a tiebreaker game 163 in 2021 by a mere one game, Jays fans would hate to see the team tied with any of Cleveland, Seattle, Tampa Bay, Baltimore or Minnesota at the conclusion of the regular season, only to be bumped out of the postseason because those teams held the Wild Card tiebreaker over the Blue Jays.
That would be another disappointing end to a season in the current competitive window, which certainly certainly makes this upcoming series hosting the Orioles this week so crucial. Let’s go Jays!