MLB’s playoff format was changed for 2012 by adding a one game playoff between the teams with the second highest winning percentage among non-division winners. Previously, the team with the highest winning percentage was the wild card and played the winningest team, if that team was not in its division, for the Division Championship, prelude to the League Championship Series.
What this means is that contenders in August and September are focusing on that second wild card position and that creates some interesting scenarios. In the National League, the scenario is who plays whom with five teams all but guaranteed playoff positions. The second highest winning percentage is Cincinnati’s .556. 65 wins v. 52 losses. No one else is close. The only question is whether the wild cards, all from the NL Central, will include èittsburgh or St. Louis, depending on whether the Pirates can hold its 3 game lead over St. Louis. That will be close, but this one game playoff, Cincinnati v. either St. Louis or PIttsburgh, will be very competitive.
In the American League, the situation is not so clear as there are three teams Tampa Bay, Oakland, and Baltimore, that will make up the two teams that playoff for the Wild Card position in the Division Series. If Oakland beats Texas or Tampa beats Boston and wins the Division, make the changes that implies. It will be interesting.
The determining factor will be the teams’ ability to win under pressure. See here The games will be largely determined by the ability to catch the ball and make plays in the field, the most rudimentary of baseball actions.
UPDATE- I now include Kansas City and New York in the Wild Card Race as both teams have played very well. There will be two wild cards this year, so pay attention.