What Does it Mean If a Team Has a Half a Game Lead in Baseball?

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Sometimes over the course of the season, a division lead is decided by a matter of "half games" For example, one team will have a half-game lead over another. This can seem impossible because there is no such thing as half a baseball game but this standings quirk is caused by how the MLB schedules games.

What does "games back" mean?

The phrase “games back” describes the distance between two teams in a set of standings. To calculate how many games back one team is from the division leader, take the difference between the wins and losses of both teams. For example, if Team A has five wins and two losses, while Team B has two wins and five losses, Team B is three games behind Team A. It’s a simple calculation, and is a matter of subtracting one team's wins from another.

What does a half game mean?

A half game in the standings is caused when one team has played more games than another. For example, Team A is scheduled for a day game, while Team B is scheduled for a game at night, and both teams have the same record. If Team A wins its game, it moves ahead of Team B by half a game because it has one more win than Team B at that point, but the same number of losses. With some teams getting days off or some games getting postponed to weather, the half game is a common occurrence. Some sports, such as football, don't see half-games persist for very long due to a more uniform schedule. This is not the case for baseball due to its long and complicated schedule.

Do half games exist at the end of a season?

Generally, half-game differences in the standings will go away. Eventually, all teams will play the same number of games, except in rare circumstances.

For example, if a game got rained out between teams out of playoff contention, and its result has no impact on the standings, the league could decide not to play it all. Those two teams may have a half-game in their final standings.

You'll never see this at the top of the final standings, though, since ​the league will always play a game that could decide the winner.