Send a recruiter your questions.
View All Posts
Oct 27

Learning from Wild Card Baseball Teams: Three Steps to Become a “Wild Card” Professional

Professional baseball has 162 regular season games, and each of those games average about three hours. That means someone can watch over 480 hours of his or her favorite team during the regular season. To put that in context, the NFL has 16 games, each averaging three hours, and one can only watch 48 hours of their NFL team. Needless to say, the baseball regular season is far too long. That said, the MLB playoffs might be the most exciting postseason in American sports.

For these playoffs, there are three tiers of teams who make it:

  • Tier 1 is the dominant one, maybe two teams that have the best record in the league for that season.
  • Tier 2 is made up of the teams who usually start out fast, play consistently well through the season, win their division (there are 6 divisions) but often times coast to the finish line.
  • Tier 3 is made up of the wild card teams. These are usually the teams who have ups and downs through the season, but steadily improve, finish strong (because there is usually a tight race for these spots) and are already in playoff form when the postseason starts.


We looked at the last 18 years of playoffs and there have been 150 teams who have made it to the postseason. We took those 150 teams and broke them into the three tiers.

  • Tier 1- 22 teams who finished with the best record (four years had two teams tied for the best record).
  • Tier 2- 86 teams who won their division but didn’t have the best record
  • Tier 3- 42 Wild Card teams


What started us down this path is that this year’s World Series has two wild card teams. This got us to thinking. Is there an advantage to being a wild card? The results suggest there might be.

  • Tier 1-14% of the playoffs teams finished with the best record but these teams won 22% of the World Series titles
  • Tier 2- 57% of the teams finished in this tier, yet they have won only 44% of the time
  • Tier 3- 28% of the teams fall here and they have won 33% of the titles

What do we learn?

Tier 1 beat the percentages and won the title 8% more often than the numbers suggest they should. Tier 3 beat their percentages by 5% points, but Tier 2 won the title 13% less often than they should have. This suggests that there are distinct advantages to either being the best team, or continuously improving and gaining momentum throughout the season.


How can this help you in your career?

The teams who make it to the MLB playoffs are already in the top third of the league, so they are above average and successful. If you are reading articles and blogs to improve yourself, chances are that you also fall in this realm.

We have all witnessed people who are the Tier 1 employees. They step in and immediately succeed; they can take on any task and achieve greatness. These are most likely the same people who got A’s through college but never studied.

Most of us fall into Tiers 2 or 3. We work hard at being successful; sometimes we hit rough patches but keep fighting. So what do Tier 3, or wild card employees do that maybe Tier 2 do not?

  1. Once rough patches are successfully navigated, they identify what put them through that patch and put in safe guards to prevent that challenge in the future
  2. They are continually fine-tuning their craft: not content with being good, they strive to be the best
  3. Exhibit high amounts of grit! Life, business, relationships, sports, hobbies, etc. are all tough! We can’t succeed all the time but Tier 3 professionals keep fighting! Here is a great TED talk on grit.

While this may not be earth shattering new findings, it’s great to know that if someone isn’t the natural Tier 1 employee, everyone has the ability to grow and excel.


Follow NaviTrust on LinkedIn for More Industry News and Insights!