Everything you need to know about the new MLB Postseason format happening this year, including how it affects the MLB playoffs bracket moving forward.
In 2022, the MLB postseason picture will look different than ever before. In 2020 due to the shortened 60-game season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to make some more money in TV revenue, MLB and their postseason TV networks expanded the postseason from 10 teams to 16 teams.
As a result, there were four Wild Card Series (which was a best of three) in each league before the Division Series, League Championship Series, and World Series as before.
In 2021, MLB reverted back to the playoff structure that the league had from 2012 through 2019. Five teams from both the American and National Leagues made it to the playoffs. The No. 4 and No. 5 seeds (the Wild Card teams) faced each other in a single game. The winner then moved on to face the No. 1 seed in the league in the Division Series.
With the collective bargaining this offseason (that included a lockout), the MLB owners wanted to return to 16 teams in the playoffs. The MLBPA balked on the idea and, eventually, they compromised on 12 teams being in the playoffs in 2022, or 40 percent of the MLB teams. In adding this, they got rid of tiebreaker games (Game 163).
In 2018, there were two Game 163s (one to decide the NL West and one for NL Central). Unless they change the structure back to the way it was before in future years, those two games will be the last Game 163s in MLB history.
With the new playoff structure, here are some important notes for how the postseason will look like when they start in two weeks.
What is the new MLB Playoffs structure?
With 12 teams in the playoffs, there will be six teams from both the American and National Leagues in the postseason.
The new teams will be accommodated in the Wild Card round. Each league will now have two Wild Card rounds and they will expand from a single game to a best of three series. However, all three games (if needed) will be played consecutively at the higher-seeded team’s stadium.
In the Wild Card round, here’s what the structure would look like.
- No. 6 @ No. 3
- No. 5 @ No. 4
The winner of the former series faces the No. 2 seed in the Division Series and the winner of the latter series advances to face the No. 1 seed in the DS.
The only change for 2022 in the DS, CS, and World Series is that some of the travel days (before game three and game five in the DS and before game three and game six in the CS and World Series) have been eliminated so that the postseason can finish earlier (since the season started later due to the lockout).
Can a non-division winner get a bye?
No, a non-division winner cannot get a bye in the Wild Card round.
Each league has three divisions (the East, Central, and West). The top two division winners get byes in the Wild Card round and automatically advance to the DS. The lowest winning division winner will be the No. 3 seed in the Wild Card round.
This year, the Cleveland Guardians in the American League are almost certainly going to win the Central. However, for much of the season, they have had the worst record of any of the potential playoff teams. Regardless of that, if they win their division, they would be the No. 3 seed, even if they had the worst record of the playoff teams.
Will MLB playoffs have reseeding?
No, there is no reseeding in the playoff structure. So, for example, in the aforementioned American League playoff picture, if the Seattle Mariners (the No. 6 seed as of this publication) were to beat the Guardians in the Wild Card round, they would face the Yankees (No. 2 seed).
In the other AL Wild Card round, either team (the Toronto Blue Jays or Tampa Bay Rays) are a higher seeded than Seattle but the Houston Astros (No. 1 seed) would still have to face them regardless.
Who would have made the MLB playoffs in 2021?
In 2021, here are the teams that actually made the MLB playoffs listed from East to West division leaders and the two Wild Card teams in order of seeding.
- American League: Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees
- National League: Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals
If 2022’s playoff structure was in place in 2021, the Toronto Blue Jays (91-71) would have also made the playoffs in the American League and in the National League, the Cincinnati Reds (83-79) would have made it in.
Who does the new MLB Playoffs structure affect the most?
The weakest division winner is affected the most in the new playoff scenario. In the 2012-2019, 2021 playoff structure, all of the division winners got to the Division Series. This also happened in nearly every previous playoff incarnation in the division era (since 1969). The only time they didn’t was in 2020 … but all of the playoff teams played in the Wild Card round.
If the No. 3 seed gets through the Wild Card series, they are up against the No. 2 team in the Division Series, which is easier than the No. 1 (in theory). But for starting pitching, if they use their best starting pitcher in Game 1 and it goes three games, they have one off day in between rounds. If they want to keep that pitcher on regular rest, that starter would not start until game 2.
If they save their ace for Game 3 and Game 3 happens, their ace would not be available until Game 3 in the DS. For Game 5 of the DS (depending on the league), that ace would only have one or two days rest so they (most likely) would not be available for those games, even in relief.
Why did the MLB Playoffs expand?
The simple answer is money. By expanding the Wild Card round by games and amount of teams, they add at least six more playoff games per season with as many as 10 extra playoff games.
The playoff teams get more money at the gate, in merchandise, concessions, and in TV revenue. Players also get more money in playoff shares as well and there’s a better chance for players on smaller market teams to make the playoffs.