How Do the MLB Playoffs Work?

Discover the tiered format, elimination rounds, and strategic depth of the MLB playoffs. Stay informed on the current format to enrich your postseason experience.

As of the 2022 season, Major League Baseball‘s playoffs have grown to involve a total of 12 teams, a notable increase from the past structure where only 10 made it to the postseason.

This expansion allows for six teams from each the American League (AL) and National League (NL) to participate.

These include each league’s trio of division winners as well as three wildcard entrants, ensuring a more comprehensive competition.

New Wild Card Series Structure

The previously known single-elimination Wild Card Game has been replaced.

Now, a best-of-three Wild Card Series takes the stage.

This series is set to occur at the ballpark of the higher-seeded team, offering a consistent and fair advantage to teams that performed better during the regular season.

Seeding and Advancement

Seeding in each league follows a structured order:

  • No. 1 seed: Best record in the league
  • No. 2 seed: Second-best among division champions
  • No. 3 seed: Third-best among division champions
  • No. 4 seed: Top wildcard team
  • No. 5 seed: Second wildcard team
  • No. 6 seed: Third wildcard team

Both the first and second seeds are granted a bye, automatically qualifying them for the Division Series.

The remaining teams partake in the Wild Card Series, with the No. 3 seed facing the No. 6 seed, and the No. 4 seed contending with the No. 5 seed.

Division Champions versus Wild Card Teams

Despite any regular-season records, standing as a division winner secures a better seed than wildcard teams.

This ensures that teams winning their respective divisions receive the recognition they deserve for their regular-season accomplishments.

Series Format Details

Post-Wild Card Series, the bracket is fixed and teams are not reseeded.

The top seed will face off against the winner of the No. 4 and No. 5 seed matchup.

Meanwhile, the second seed takes on the victor between the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds.

As for the Division Series, it remains a best-of-five encounter, following a 2-2-1 format which favors the team with the superior regular-season record, hence awarding them home-field advantage.

Subsequent rounds, namely the League Championship Series and the World Series, stick to their traditional best-of-seven framework, aligning with the 2-3-2 home-field advantage setup.

Addressing Regular Season Ties

With the phase-out of Game 163, or tiebreaker games, all ties are broken using set criteria, starting with the head-to-head record.

This clear-cut approach swiftly addresses any regular-season records that end in a deadlock.

World Series Edge

Home-field advantage in the culminating World Series is awarded to the pennant winner with the most impressive regular-season record, disregarding the postseason seeding within the league.

If teams are evenly matched, tiebreakers such as head-to-head and intradivision records come into play to determine the host.

The goal of these adjustments is to reward regular-season performance while maintaining a fair and thrilling path to determine the eventual World Series champion.

October baseball has thus evolved to be more inclusive and competitive than ever.

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SuchBaseball Staff