The MLB season is in its final week, and fans are once again having to bust out their calculators.
That is because of a statistic known as the “magic number,” which illustrates how close a team is to clinching a playoff spot.
Whether it be a division crown or a wild card spot, playoff berths in Major League Baseball are always special, and fans can be forgiven for getting a bit excited about how close the season is to wrapping up.
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So what does a magic number represent? And how do you calculate it?
For starters, here is the formula for the number:
Magic number = 163 – (Playoff team’s win total + trailing team’s loss total)
The number represents the combination of a team’s wins and an opponent’s losses that would result in a fan’s favorite team mathematically-clinching a playoff berth.
By way of example, we can take the Chicago Cubs, who currently sit in a playoff spot with less than a week to go in the regular season.
Their record is 82-74, while the Miami Marlins, who trail the Cubs by one game in the standings, are at 81-75.
Because of that, the Cubs' magic number to eliminate the Marlins and clinch a playoff spot is:
163 – (82 + 75) = 6
That means that a combination of six Cubs wins and Marlins losses would eliminate Miami and secure a playoff berth for the Cubs in the National League.
The Cubs do technically still have a chance at a division title, but Milwaukee's magic number to clinch the Central Division still stands at just one, meaning one Brewer win or Cubs loss would clinch the division for the Brew Crew.