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What is the "Magic Number"?

This pennant-race thing is new to us. Some of the terminology needs to be explained.

Jamie Squire

With the Royals in a pennant run, there are some new words we have to get accustomed to. "Wins", and "meaningful September games", and "post-season." One of those terms is "magic number." You hear it tossed around, such as "the Royals magic number is now 12." Well, what does "magic number" mean?

A magic number is simply a number to indicate how close a team is to clinching a playoff spot, usually a division title. The Orioles magic number today is "1". If they win one more game, or the next closest team (the Yankees) lose one more game, they clinch a division title (much to the chagrin of FOX).

To calculate a "magic number", you take the total number of games (162) add 1 (to eliminate tying for the playoff spot), subtract the number of wins your team has this year (82) and subtract the number of losses your next-closest competitor has (the Mariners have 69 losses).

162 + 1 - 82 - 69 = 12

Any time the Royals win or the Mariners lose, the "magic number" goes down by 1. So any combination of Royals wins and Mariners losses that add up to 12 the rest of the year will clinch a Wild Card bid for Kansas City.

The Tigers "magic number" to clinch the division over the Royals stands at 12 right now as well, although the Royals still have a suspended game against the Indians that does not count yet, and could reduce it to 11. The Athletics "magic number" to clinch home field advantage in the Wild Card game against the Royals is 13.

Magical, isn't it?