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NL Playoff Race Watch: NL Central could be headed for tiebreaker mess

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It’d be best if the Brewers just sweep the Cardinals and make this easy for everyone

Milwaukee Brewers v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Brewers’ loss Wednesday night combined with a San Francisco Giants win has the Brewers on the outside looking in at the NL playoff picture as they begin their season-ending 5-game set against the Cardinals in St. Louis tonight.

We’ve known for awhile that the season would ultimately comes down to how the 5-games-in-4-days stretch plays out, and Wednesday’s loss to the Reds doesn’t change a ton in the grand scheme of things, other than making it seemingly unlikely that 4 NL Central teams make the playoffs and drastically improving Cincinnati’s odds.

Standings

NL Playoff Race - 9/24/2020

Seed Team (Place-Division) W L PCT
Seed Team (Place-Division) W L PCT
1 Los Angeles (1-W) 39 17 0.696
2 Atlanta (1-E) 34 22 0.607
3 Chicago (1-C) 32 24 0.571
4 San Diego (2-W) 34 22 0.607
5 St. Louis (2-C) 27 26 0.509
6 Miami (2-E) 28 28 0.500
7 San Francisco (1-WC) 28 27 0.509
8 Cincinnati (2-WC) 29 28 0.509
Philadelphia 28 29 0.491
Milwaukee 27 28 0.491
New York 25 31 0.446
Colorado 24 31 0.436

Considering the Reds have the lead over the Cardinals and Brewers in the All-Important Win column, they’ve put themselves in a situation where if they win 2 of 3 in Minnesota against the Twins, they’re pretty much in. Getting to 31 wins would mean Cincinnati would force one of the Brewers or Cardinals to knock the other out of the playoff picture.

Here’s how the scenarios could play out this weekend between Milwaukee and St. Louis:

Brewers/Cardinals Scenarios

Scenario MIL record STL record
Scenario MIL record STL record
Brewers sweep 32-28 27-31
Brewers win 4 of 5 31-29 28-30
Brewers win 3 of 5 30-30 29-29
Brewers win 2 of 5 29-31 30-28
Brewers win 1 of 5 28-32 31-27
Cardinals sweep 27-33 32-26

The Cardinals, of course, still have that possible doubleheader in Detroit on Monday floating around if those games are needed to make a determination in the standings.

It could be that only one of those two games are played, depending on how things shake out this weekend, but assuming the Brewers don’t totally fall apart in St. Louis (which has happened before), it looks as though at least one of those games may be needed. The most likely scenario seems to be if the Brewers take 3 of 5 from the Cardinals, as they did last week in Miller Park.

In that case, the Brewers and Cardinals would be tied in winning percentage. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head record, which the Brewers would own by virtue of winning 6 of 10, but the Cardinals could still leapfrog the Brewers in win percentage by playing those games in Detroit. The second tiebreaker would be record inside the division, which still largely depends on what happens this weekend.

For the sake of our sanity, let’s just hope the Brewers win 4 of 5, make it to 31 wins, and make it impossible for the Cardinals to get there.

There’s also been some shuffling at the bottom of the NL playoff picture not involving the Central teams, thanks to tiebreakers. San Francisco lept from out of the picture on Wednesday to holding the 7th spot today with a win to put them at 29-28. Philadelphia, at 28-29, is technically ahead of the Brewers even though they both have current winning percentages of .491.

Remaining Schedules

Brewers - 5 @ STL
Reds - 3 @ MIN
Cardinals - 5 vs. MIL
Marlins - 1 @ ATL, 3 @ NYY
Giants - 1 vs. COL, 4 vs. SD
Phillies - 3 @ TB
Mets - 4 @ WAS
Rockies - 1 @ SF, 4 @ ARI

For what it’s worth, Fangraphs has the Reds at 86.3% odds at making the playoffs now (despite currently being the 8th-seeded team, due to the Cardinals and Brewers beating up on eachother), the Cardinals at 72.4%, and the Brewers still at a relative 50-50 shot at 51.3%.