Any sport is all about winning or losing. In baseball, there is a dedicated stat to determine the likelihood of a win. It is called a magic number. The number perhaps creates magic among fans as it drives them crazy to support a specific team and cheer for their victory. There is a particular way to calculate this number. Before that, it is essential to find what a magic number is.
A magic number in MLB indicates the likelihood of a team winning the division or making the playoffs. It gives insights into the number of wins the front-running team achieves or losses the rival team meets.
Magic numbers are calculated in different ways and also have synonyms in baseball. This article details these ways and scenarios to calculate magic numbers accurately.
Magic Number Background
Magic numbers are widely pronounced every year during September as teams begin closing while clinching. What does it imply? It is a number denoting the number of wins needed by a team to take over its rival.
When teams compete in the season, it is essential to plan strategies on the go to maximize wins and minimize losses. Whenever the number drops by one, it implies that the team has won the game.
Has magic number emerged recently? It was first applied in the 1947 season between Red Sox and Yankees. During this season, the Yankees had their magic number decreased to four, which meant that the Yankees would win or Red Sox would lose.
The magic number also lets identify the number of losses and wins to achieve a wild card spot. This stat is an eye-opener to teams and evaluators.
How Is MLB Magic Number Calculated?
Add one to the games to be played and subtract the number of losses and wins. A final number is a magic number. A magic number of one implies the presence of a tie, while zero means a victory.
Here is the formula to calculate the magic number in MLB.
Magic number = Games remaining + 1 – (Losses of the rival team(in second place) – losses of the team staying ahead)
The rule of thumb is that the magic number automatically sets to 163 at the season’s beginning. In every regular season, a team plays 162 games, and the magic number is calculated as follows:
162 + 1 – (0-0) = 163
Zero values can happen only during the season’s start, as no winners and losers have decided yet.
When the magic number is one, it means that the team has tied with its rival team in the playoff.
When the magic number is zero, it means that the team has clinched a division/wild card position.
Let us look at an example here to understand how a magic number is calculated.
Let us assume that Team 1 is 84-78, and 12 games are left out. On the other hand, team 2 is 95-67.
If you want to find the magic number of team 1, we need to follow the procedure as follows:
Magic number = 162 + 1 – 84 – 67 = 12
The number here implies that team 1 has a magic number and is left with 12 games. This also means that any formulation of wins and losses would land team 1 in a division spot.
MLB Magic Number Calculator
There are several calculators online to find the magic number of a team.
Omni Calculator is one of them that requires two inputs – your team’s wins and the opponent’s losses.
Suppose team 1 has recorded 51 wins and team 2 has 42 losses.
The calculator produces the magic number result, 70.
While this is a standard way to find the magic number, other situations influence the magic number.
A tragic number, also called an elimination number, works contrary to the magic number. It assesses the wins and losses of the first team to determine the ideal number resulting elimination of another team.
The tragic number uses two variables – games remaining for trailer (GRT) and leader (GRL).
The formula to compute a tragic (or elimination) number is:
E = ((GRL + GRT)/2) – GBL + 1
GBL stands for games behind leader.
This approach is recommended when the season encounters unforeseen situations, and the board might have to reschedule games for the season.
Magic Number For Division
The ideal method to calculate the magic number to enable the top team to secure a division spot requires the number of wins of team 1 and losses of team 2.
Let us look at the stats below for three teams.
Magic number of team 1 is:
162 + 1 – 86 – 55 = 22
For team 1 to win, it needs to have a magic number of 0. Right now, there are some options open to team 1 as it competes with team 2.
- Team 1 wins all games.
- Team 2 loses all games.
- Teams 1 and 2 wins and lose to a magic number of 0.
How about a game involving teams 2 and 3?
Here is the magic number for team 3 = 162 + 1 – 82 – 55 = 26
The probabilities are similar to teams 1 and 2.
However, when the number of games drops, probabilities can vary between teams 2 and 3.
Magic Number For Wild Card
A team in the second place holds a magic number for a wild card, and it is calculated by adding the number of games played to 1 and subtracting the total wins of one team and losses of the third team in the list.
In this case, the team in second place needs to hold the wild card spot and compare its stats with those in third place.
Let us understand how a team can secure a wild-card spot with an example below.
The stats are the same as in the previous table.
If you have to find the magic number of team 1, the procedure is as follows:
162 + 1 – 86 – 62 = 15
86 is the number of wins of team 1.
62 is the number of losses of team 3.
The reason to consider team 3 is to secure a wild card spot. If it considers the number of losses of team 2, it is ideal for a division spot.
In baseball, it is feasible to secure two wild card spots.
Here are the possible situations:
Team 1 needs 15 wins, or team 3 needs 15 losses, so team 1 takes the division title. However, there is also team 2 in second place with exciting stats. Team 2 has higher wins compared to teams 1 and 3. As a result, teams 1 and 3 are in wild cards, and these will compete with each other.
In the wild-card race involving three teams, either team 1 or team 3 can achieve the wild-card spot.
If you have to calculate the magic number of team 2 to secure a wild card spot, the calculations are as follows:
162 + 1 – 89 – 58 = 16
As team 1 is holding second place in terms of the number of wins, the number of losses of team 1 is used to calculate the magic number.
As team 2 is already leading the game with more wins, the possibility of securing a divisional spot is high. Hence, it would be inappropriate to calculate the wild card for team 2.
Magic Number of American League
Yankees hold the highest number of wins and have also secured several divisional and wild card spots, and the Astros holds the second position.
How have the teams performed in the American League?
MLB highlights that these are losing numbers of teams. Losing magic numbers also means the total number of games a team should lose so it does not get a playoff spot.
If you have been a Rays team fan, it has interesting stats. According to the MLB 2021 season, the magic number of Rays was five. When it had another 11 games to play, the magic number highlighted that Rays and Red Sox might have to play, so the number resulted in 5. This approach offered Tampa Bay the opportunity to secure the title of American League East.
Another fascinating aspect about the Rays is that this team has won 100 games in one season. This is a vast number and has also hit a new record. Rays joined Dodgers and Giants as it achieved the record in the 2021 season.
Magic Number of National League
Dodgers hold the highest number of wins while Mets and Padres are divisional winners in American League.
Here are the stats to understand the performances better.
My Favorite Baseball Equipment
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