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A Thought About Tiebreakers

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 14: American League All-Stars Mark Teixeira of New York Yankees smiles with Jason Bay of Boston Red Sox during the lineup before the 2009 MLB All-Star Game at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Pool/Getty Images)
JerseySenior Analyst IJuly 22, 2009

Entering today's game against the Baltimore Orioles, the New York Yankees hold a one-game lead over the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East. They've managed this feat despite losing all eight games they've played against Boston this season.

While no Yankees fan likes seeing them lose so often to their rivals, one has to take notice of the remarkable statement this makes regarding the rest of the league. Taking out mutual games, the Yankees are nine games better than the Red Sox. In other words, the Yankees are significantly better than the Red Sox against the rest of the league.

There's a lot more baseball to be played, and the Yankees will have more chances to defeat or be defeated by the Red Sox, but this post is not about gloating or predictions. It's an intriguing thought about tiebreakers.

One of baseball's most important tiebreakers is head-to-head match ups. When two teams are tied atop the division, the team that beat the other more times will get the nod.

But after noticing how much better the Yankees are than the Red Sox against the rest of the league, the head-to-head match up tiebreaker seems preposterous. While the Red Sox have bested the Yankees, the Yankees have been better against the rest of the league.

The head-to-head matchup actually reveals this: The team that LOST the mutual games actually fared better against everyone else.

When taking into account the division lead, which should be considered more defining: The team's record against one team, or the team's record against the league as a whole? By awarding the title to the head-to-head winner, one awards the title to the team that was actually worse against the remainder of the league.

I don't mean to propose a rule change or anything, but it's a thought. Yesterday, the Yankees and Red Sox were tied, but against all other teams, the Yankees were easily the better team. Yet Boston would have been named division champion had the season ended. It's an interesting paradox, at the very least.

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