In sport, the one-game playoff is a knockout game, also called a tie-breaker game or pennant playoff. It’s used to decide which team will go through to the next stage in a tied situation. The play-off can be a series of short games or done as a single game. This is not to be confused with the ‘playoffs’ which are either post-season or part of a tournament.
The one-game play-off in baseball
One-game playoffs are used in Major League Baseball when two or more teams are in a tiebreak situation. This includes teams that are tied for top spot in their division and wild card teams. Wild card teams are teams that didn’t win their division but have the best record. In every season, this is likely to happen and a play-off is used to determine the winner.
The one-game playoff – the basics
In baseball, the outcome of any one-game playoff is included in the history of the sport. It’s counted as part of the regular season when calculating team standings for that particular year. Each individual player’s statistics are also included. If a one-game play-off is needed, instead of the usual four-person umpire crew to oversee the event, there is a six-man umpire crew.
Winners and Losers
Baseball games are very competitive and, in most cases, the teams that play in a one-game playoff are usually very closely matched, based on their performance record. So the chances of knowing who will or will not win are very slim. Some analysts argue that predicting the outcome of a playoff is almost impossible because of the competitive nature of the event and the record of the teams.
The Anguish of Fans
The regular major baseball season is roughly six months long with many games for fans of a particular team to enjoy, both at home and on the road. However, the baseball one-game playoffs are hard for fans to watch. This is because the teams that have been selected to play in these tiebreaker games have just the one game between them and either victory or defeat.
The Winner takes all
In baseball, great teams will always emerge. The challenge comes to those teams in the divisions who tie, and then get pushed to a one-game playoff. This will be the opportunity to make the work done in the previous six months count or go to waste. One thing fans can be sure of – these one-game playoffs will be intense! The winner gets to proceed, and the loser doesn’t.
In the history of baseball and the MLB, the use of one-game playoffs as a tie-breaker game has varied. The American League has always used one-game playoffs as tie-breaker games, but the National League used three-game playoffs to break a tie in its National Championships up until 1969, when divisional play was introduced. Teams go into these games with only one thought, to win.
Baseball is not the only sport to have used one-game playoffs to determine the outcome of a tie. In particular, in their early years, the National Football League and the American Football League both held one-game playoffs at some point. Nowadays the NFL uses a complicated formula and a simple coin toss to decide ties. Baseball fans however, can still enjoy the tense thrills of the one-game playoff!