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The 2017 MLB postseason race is the most crowded in history

You knew this instinctively, but I spent hours confirming it. Don’t go.

Seattle Mariners v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Baseball is about to be swirling with chaos. Dripping with it. There will be confusion and rage, tears and disbelief, disappointment and desolation. Nothing will make sense, no matter how long you stare.

That’s true about everything. But baseball, too.

There are 10 teams in the American League that are currently within three games of a postseason berth. There are 13 of them within six games. The A’s and White Sox are probably out of the race. Everything else is at least negotiable.

Let’s see what happens if four of these teams with a shot at the second wild card tie.

Four-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot: After Clubs have been assigned their A, B, C and D designations, Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D. The winners of each of those games would then meet, hosted by the winner of the game between Club A and Club B, to determine the Wild Card Club.

Got that? There would be a playoff game to see who goes to the playoff game to see who goes to the playoff game to see who makes the playoffs. Except there are six teams within three games of that final wild card spot. What are the official tiebreaker rules in that instance?

Five-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What about a six-team tie?

That’s the plan. Look it up. That’s actually in the rules. Look it up.

So if you’re a fan of chaos — known in some internet circles as “Team Entropy” — this is the season for you. Not only are there 10 teams within three games of a postseason spot (or leading the chase), but there are seven such teams in the National League. More than half of the teams in baseball are knocking on the door of the postseason. Some of them are cold and shivering, but they’re still knocking.

And it got me wondering if this is the highest total of possible contenders this late in the season. I think I know the answer, but I wanted to trawl Baseball-Reference.com all day just to make sure.

First, some rules:

  • I’m using games after August 9 as my cutoff point because, well, that’s when I thought about this idea. Even if I used August 1, though, it’s all arbitrary.
  • I’m using three games back as the cutoff point because, well, there has to be some arbitrary cutoff point.
  • Everything is arbitrary
  • Nobody can stop me, I wield all the power in this relationship
  • Anyway, three games back or better as of August 9, here we go

The point isn’t to prove something about this specific date. Just to give us an idea of how this season might compare to other seasons in history. It feels like this is a lot of teams in the mix this late in the season, but is it?

Yes.

You knew this. But it doesn’t hurt to see the visual. The annotation helps explain the context:

One thing that’s interesting is that the second wild card hasn’t helped as much as you might expect, but that’s only when you combine the leagues. You can see the difference in the individual leagues.

It’s more likely for a league like the 2017 AL to exist, with several teams in contention.

One more time with feeling: There’s nothing special about August 9. The Orioles and Angels could lose three in a row and fall right the heck off this chart forever, and the 2017 season suddenly isn’t much different than several other seasons in the Wild Card Era.

But as of now — right now — there are more teams contending than in any other season in history. There were nine National League teams contending on this date in 2003, and that was the previous record.

What happened in that season? The Marlins pulled away in the chase for the wild card, and there were just two teams that were within three games of a postseason spot and didn’t get it. So that’s probably instructive. Just because there’s a scrum, it doesn’t mean there will be automatic chaos.

One of these seasons, though. One of these seasons, we’ll get that three- or four- or, even better, five-team tie for a postseason spot. It’s not like the Yankees have a death grip on that first wild card spot, either, so we can still hold out hope for Maximum Chaos. As the world burns around us, it’s all we’ll have.

Let’s hold hands and hope for the best, then. And by best, I mean worst. There are more teams contending on this date than any in baseball history. The amount of chaos that will lead to is still unknown.

But promising.