A One-in-a-Million Baseball Play

Published by patrick honner on

As the 2011 MLB season winds down, there is a slim chance of something very unusual happening:  a three-way tie for the wild card playoff birth!


It seems highly unlikely that the Red Sox, Rays, and Angels will actually all finish in a dead-heat, but if they do, it will pose a lot of problems for playoff scheduling.

This is a fun, if complicated, math question to think about:  what are the chances that after a 162-game season, three of the eleven teams ultimately vying for the wild card end up with identical records?

To investigate, the first thing I’d do is simplify the situation.  I’d reduce the number of teams and the number of games, give every team a 50/50 chance to win every game, and then see what happens.  After I’d explored a bit, I’d then consider complicating matters by using more teams, more games, and more realistic winning percentages.

A math challenge that any Strat-o-matic player could love!

patrick honner

Math teacher in Brooklyn, New York


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