The 2022 MLB season is in the home stretch. When you’re not watching Albert Pujols trying to surpass 700 career homers or Aaron Judge trying to set an American League homer record…or win the Triple Crown, it’s all about the playoffs. To keep you updated as the postseason approaches, we’re posting a picture of the playoffs every day until Game 162, which takes place on October 5, and highlighting games that can ultimately make all the difference.
What does the MLB playoff format look like in 2022?
First things first, you may remember that as part of the collective bargaining agreement that ended the lockout, team owners and players extended the postseason. There are currently six teams from each league, three division winners and three wilds. This means a new path to the World Series, and various considerations for watching races come down to the wire.
When each league field is set up, it will look like this:
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The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds – the top two division winners – said goodbye to them in the division series, which is a huge advantage. The remaining four teams will battle it out in a new three-game wildcard series replacing the one-game wildcard showdown, which will take place exclusively at Top Seed Park.
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The winner of the division with the worst record will become the #3 seed and will host the #6 seed, the worst-recorded wildcard team. The winner of this series will face the No. 2 seed, regardless of which team comes out on top.
The top two wilds, seed #4 and #5, will play each other. The winner will move forward to face the top seed.
From there everything will look familiar. The Division Series will feature the best of five games. The Championship Series and World Series will be the best of the seven, with the higher seeded team having home advantage by hosting games 1, 2, 6 and 7.
There will be no tie-breaks in game 163. Draws will be decided by the results of personal meetings between the teams. If it’s also a tie, the league will pass a procession of other records in the season to find a winnerstarting with intradivisional records.
What does the playoff picture look like now?
If the season ended and the playoffs started this morning, this is what the league bracket would look like.
No. 1 seed: Houston Astros (AL West won)
No. 2 seed: New York Yankees (postseason berthed)
Wild card series: No. 3 Cleveland Guardians (AL Central won) vs. No. 6 Seattle Mariners
Wild Card Series: No. 4 Toronto Blue Jays vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay Rays
Still in the draw: Baltimore Orioles (4 games to wild), Chicago White Sox (7.5 games to wild), Minnesota Twins (9.5 games to wild)
No. 1 seed: Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West and top seed)
No. 2 seed: New York Mets (postseason berth secured)
Wildcard series: No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals vs. No. 6 Philadelphia Phillies
Wild Card Series: No. 4 Atlanta Braves (postseason seat filled) vs. No. 5 San Diego Padres
Still in the game: Milwaukee Brewers (1.5 games to the wildcard, 6.5 games to the NL Central), San Francisco Giants (8.5 games to the wildcard)
What key races are left?
The most important race is for the NL East crown. The Mets and Braves are heading into a weekend streak that could define the division and the No. 2 seed that comes with this important farewell to the division streak.
Much of the rest of the intrigue is also related to the NL. The Brewers are the only team not currently in the playoffs and have over a 1% chance of making it. FanGraphs rates their odds at 20.3% and gives the Phillies the lowest odds (86.9%) of any team currently in the field.
In AL, pushing is for positioning. The wildcard AL seed may rotate several times before the end of the season, with the Blue Jays maintaining a two-game lead for the No. 4 seed going into the series against the division-leading Yankees.
What are the important games today?
The Yankees and the Blue Jays meet in Toronto. The Blue Jays haven’t technically dropped out of the AL East race, but they’re really playing to stay two steps ahead of the Rays and Mariners. (And not to give up on Aaron Judge’s historic 61st home run.)
Elsewhere, the Braves are playing against the lowly Washington Nationals. Every day seems a must to win this Mets-Braves duel as Atlanta is currently 1.5 games behind New York with a three-game set coming up on Friday. The Braves are 12-4 against Washington this year.