The new post-season format for Major League Baseball for the 2022 season expands the playing field, creates more games and offers a different pennant path. The wild card game is eliminated and gone is a one-match playoff to break the links in the standings. Instead, the league offered a three-game wild card series. In addition, MLB has expanded the playoff field from 10 to 12 teams.
As October approaches, here’s everything you need to know about MLB’s new match format.
What is the new format?
MLB will implement a 12-team playoff bracket, featuring six teams from each league, instead of last year’s format with 10 teams (five from each league). Each side of the arc will have three class winners and three wild card class teams.
Instead of having a single elimination wild card game, the new format features a series of best of three wild cards.
What if there was a tie at the end of the regular season?
There is a tie breaker. Game 163 eliminated. Now, all relationships will be mathematically resolved as the first tiebreak goes to the team with the best record during a head-to-head match in the regular season.
For example: If Team X and Team Y tied for the top spot, and Team X went 11-8 against Team Y in the regular season, then Team X—having won more matches—will become the top seed.
If the direct scoring is also a tie, then the team’s records within the Division will be used as the next tiebreaker. The team with the best record in the division will be awarded the highest ranked.
If the records within the divisions are tied, then the draw will be settled on the teams’ records against teams within their league but outside their division (or playing between divisions). For example, if National League West teams are tied, then a tiebreaker will be based on the team’s record against teams from NL Central and NL East compared to their opponent’s record.
If the inter-divisional record is also tied, the tiebreak will be determined by the club’s records in the latter half of the season against teams in their league. The NL team will be compared to other NL teams and the AL team to other AL teams. The number of matches will be from the sporting halfway point of the season, not from after the All-Star break.
If the records of the clubs participating in the second half of the indoor matches must also be equal, the result of the last match from the first half of the indoor matches will be used. If this results in a tie, the previous indoor match on the table is used. The process is repeated until the tie is resolved.
How are these teams classified?
Each league consists of six seeds:
- 1st place: Best Recording
- Ranked #2: Second Division One winner
- Ranked No. 3: Third place winner in the First Division
- Ranked #4: Best wild card team record
- Ranked #5: 2nd best record among wild card teams
- Ranked #6: 3rd best record among wild card teams
What would the arch look like?
The No. 1 and 2 seeders in each league bid farewell in the first round and advance to the Division Series. For the wild card series, seed #3 will face seed #6, while seed #4 will face seed #5.
All three wild-card games will be hosted by the top seed, with each series of wild-cards to be completed within a three-day window so class winners do not have a long layover.
Teams will not be reconstituted after the Wild-Card series.
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What happens after the Wild-Card streak?
Team #1 will face the winner of the #4 Wild Card Series and #5 in the Division Series. Ranked #2 will face the winner of the Wild Card Series #3 and #6.
Nothing else has changed regarding the Division Series. It remains the best of five series as the home domain advantage moves to the top seed. The best of five format will run in a 2-2-1 formation, with the top seeds hosting games 1, 2 and 5.
There are no changes to the Championship Tournament and World Championship. Both remain the best of seven – in 2-3-2 form – and the team with the best record of the regular season will be given a home advantage.
When do the qualifiers start?
All four wild card series will begin on Friday, October 7, with the critical match 3s on Sunday October 9, if necessary. ESPN will broadcast all wild card games on TV.
The opening games of all four AL and NL division series are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, October 11, with any potential 5 game scheduled for October 16 (NLDS) and October 17 (ALDS) on FOX and TBS.
The National League Championship series is scheduled to begin on October 18 and will be televised by FOX or FS1. The MLS Championship Series begins October 19 on TBS.
The World Championships will begin on October 28 and run until November 5 on Fox.
How did all this come together?
The structural change was negotiated as part of the MLB and MLBPA’s new collective bargaining agreement, which the two sides finalized in March.
The MLB proposed a 14-team playoff but the MLBPA held out with a 12. The 14-team MLB proposal was four wild card teams. The first team in each league would have bid farewell to the Division Series, while the winners of the two divisions who did not finish with the best record in their league would have chosen their first-round opponent from the bottom three wild card teams. Players were concerned about allowing too many teams into the playoffs and the league eventually settled on a 12-team setup. 2022 Postseason is the first version with those new changes.
What will last year’s qualifiers look like in the new format?
Well, the 2021 world champion Atlanta Braves were going to be on the Wild Cards Tour. Here’s how to break up last year’s postseason in the new format:
The Tampa Bay Rays, who had the best record in the AL, and the Houston Astros could have had a first round. Finishing off the division leaders, the Chicago White Sox of the AL Central had the 6th-seeded Toronto Blue Jays in the Best of Three Wild Card series. The Chicago-Toronto winner had moved on to play Houston at ALDS.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting – like the real last fall. If you remember, the Red Sox and the Yankees tied for a season record of 92-70 – both teams landed a wild card but the tiebreak determined the ratings. Boston and New York met 19 times in the regular season with Boston winning the overall series 10-9, meaning that in the new format Boston would have secured the No. 4 seed with New York taking the No. 5 seed.
Last October, Boston defeated New York in a playoff match at Fenway Park. In the new format, the Red Sox and Yankees will play each other in a three-game series with the winner playing Tampa Bay.
The National Association is simpler. In the new format, the San Francisco Giants, who led the league with a score of 107-55, would have ensured the top seed farewell. The Milwaukee Brewers also had a goodbye. Ultimate World Champion Braves, as division captain, had played the No.6-ranked Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Cards series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers had slipped to the No. 4 seed and played the fifth seed St. Louis Cardinals in the second wild card game. The Giants could have played the winner at Los Angeles St. Lewis was in the NLDS and the Brewers played the winner at Atlanta-Cincinnati.
(Top photo: Troy Taormina/USA Today)
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