The regular season is officially in the books (okay, maybe there’s one or two more games slowly drawing to a close as you’re reading this), and the 2022 MLB playoffs are due to start on Friday – and this year’s postseason could be epic.

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In addition to the new format, which features 12 teams and a three-game wildcard round that is guaranteed to bring drama into October from the get-go, there are so many storylines to follow throughout that it has the chance to be everything. – the time of the great month of baseball.

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Below we highlight 12 themes that will dominate all of sport when the new 12-team format kicks off.

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See schedule and playoff bracket | MLB playoff preview

1. This is the best playoff format… ever

I think baseball has finally nailed it. Yes, there are those who will always favor the old two-pennant or four-division winning schemes, but the 12-team scheme is an improvement over the 10-team (which has been the norm for the past decade). The do-or-die wild card game that’s been around since 2012 never really felt right and honestly never turned into a must-watch drama that the sports world stopped watching anyway.

As we saw in the 16-team time grid in 2020, these fast three-game streaks are a treat. They’re still overwhelmed, but they’re more like baseball than winner-take-all.

Importantly, this format still rewards the best teams with a first-round farewell and the opportunity to rest the pitching staff and build the rotation. My only comment on where baseball landed this year is that a seven-game streak in the division would be better than a five-game streak—maybe next year, when the start of the season isn’t delayed by the lockout.

2. There is a super team with 111 wins and no one knows what to do with their World Series chances.

The Los Angeles Dodgers won 111 games, more than ever for a National League team in a 162-game season, trailing only the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1998 New York Yankees in total. If they win it all, they will fall with this Yankee team as one of the greatest of all time; if they don’t win it all, they will be sent to the last pages of history along with these Sailors.

Since 2017, the Dodgers have had four 104-win seasons, a surprisingly long period of dominance… but just one World Series title. Their only league title came in the shortened 2020 season when playoff games were played in front of empty stadiums or at neutral venues. It counts – or as my friend who is a long time diehard Dodgers fan told me, it counts as one-third of the title. And don’t forget that in the postseason, teams were allowed to play in 28-man lineups, which allowed the Dodgers to use starters as substitutes and relievers as starters and do things they might not have been able to do with a 26-man lineup.

Alden Gonzalez dealt well with the pressure the Dodgers faced in October of this year. In a way, they are playing for two championships: 2022 and 2020 confirmation. While manager Dave Roberts told Sportzshala that he “absolutely” considers the Dodgers a dynasty – and four 104-win seasons certainly back up that claim – two titles would definitely cement their place in history as one. of the greatest teams of all time.

3. We have a real chance to repeat

After winning the World Series in 2021, the Atlanta Braves lost to Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers and got younger and better, winning 101 games for their fifth straight division title. No team has been a World Series champion since the Yankees won three consecutive victories from 1998 to 2000; The Braves have the strength, the pitch and the momentum – after stealing the NL East last week with the New York Mets’ three-game sweep – to do it.

And it’s not just repetition, the Braves may be here on their way to a dynasty. Their turn from a 10-and-a-half-game deficit to a division title began when they called up Michael Harris II to play center field in late May and moved Spencer Strider into the rotation. From June 1, the first win of a 14-game winning streak, they led 78-34 through the end of the regular season. Strider’s injured oblique muscle may prevent him from making the playoffs, but they still have Max Fried, 20-game winner Kyle Wright and last October’s hero Charlie Morton, as well as a roster that led the NL in home runs.

4. Speaking of dynasties… what should we do with the Houston Astros?

You may have already noticed that there are a lot of good teams at the top of the playoff bracket this year. We have four clubs with 100 wins: the Dodgers, Astros, Braves and Mets, while the Yankees finished with 99 wins. Unable to predict the baseball nature of the postseason doesn’t guarantee we’ll see two of these teams in the World Series, but if we do, there’s a good chance we’ll see a classic series. The last 100-win World Series game was in 2017, when the Astros beat the Dodgers in seven thrilling games. Before that, you need to go back to 1970 to have two teams with 100 World Series wins.

The Astros also have four 100-win seasons since 2017, including 107 in 2019 and 106 this season. Sign-stealing scandal or not, if they win the World Series, they might be the dominant franchise of this era. And an added bonus? After 25 years in the big leagues and his 12th playoff run, coach Dusty Baker is looking to finally win the final game of the season.

To make things more interesting, the Astros show up on a collision course to face the Yankees in the American League Championship Series for the third time since 2017. Remember the war of words between Astros owner Jim Crane and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman after Cashman yelled that the only thing that kept the Yankees from reaching the World Series in previous seasons was “something so illegal and horrible.” A Yankees-Astros ALCS battle would be an epic battle, even if it’s one Evil Empire against another.

5. New York baseball is back

This is the Yankees’ 13th season since they last played in the World Series in 2009 – an unacceptable time frame for the richest and most historically successful baseball team with 27 titles in a sport in which the richest teams have a decisive advantage. . Longtime fans will notice that the Yankees are heading into the infamous World Series drought from 1982 to 1995, an era of terror under George Steinbrenner that saw him change 13 managers and seven general managers.

On the other side of town: The Mets won 100 games for only the fourth time in franchise history and the first time since 1988, but they enter the postseason with a bitter taste of defeat after losing the last series to the Braves. Everyone knows that Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer can take the team to the playoffs, but deGrom has hit 14 runs and 6 home runs in 21 innings compared to his last four starts, so he’ll need the Mets to find that groove where he showed. 1.66. The ERA ended with his first seven starts since returning in August. However, this is hardly a two-man team: Pete Alonso led the NL in RBIs, Francisco Lindor could finish in the top 10 in MVP voting, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker got off to a solid 3-4 start, and Edwin Diaz was blocked. nearer. The Mets had their moments after that success in the 1980s, including two World Series appearances, but it’s been 36 years since their iconic 1986 team won it all.

6. Did you really think we forgot about Aaron Judge?

Yes, both teams have been keeping New York baseball interesting all season, but no one has been more at the center of it than the man who just completed a 62-home run campaign, and fans of both New York teams dream of free agency. will end with him signing a contract with their club.

Now we have Judge trying to end what is arguably the best season for any player in history – by that I mean a historic regular season, a great playoff. as well as World Series title. Ted Williams in 1941? Didn’t even win a pennant. Karl Yastrzemsky in 1967? Highest WAR in a single season for a positional player other than Babe Ruth, but the Red Sox lost the World Series. Bob Gibson in 1968? 1.12 ERA and a career-high 17 strikeouts in one World Series game, but he lost Game 7. Dwight Gooden in 1985? The Mets missed the playoffs. Pedro Martinez in 1999? The Red Sox lost in the ALCS. Barry Bonds in 2001? The Giants didn’t make the playoffs. Bonds in 2002? He had a great postseason, but the Giants lost Game 7 of the Fall Classic. Mookie Betts in 2018? The 10.7-WAR season, which matched Judge and the Red Sox, won the World Series, but the Betts had a lackluster playoff (.210/.300/.323).

7. Can GOAT come out on top?

Let’s not forget another batter who made home run history this season, Albert Pujol. Every player would like to come out on top, either still playing well or with a bunch on the field. Almost none of them do this. Pujol and Yagye Molina have a chance to do so – and perhaps Adam Wainwright will join them in retirement too (he hasn’t officially announced his status for 2023 yet).

Three St. Louis Cardinals legends have reunited this season with Pujols returning from a 10-year banishment, and all three will play a key role in what happens to the club in October. Like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, two of the greatest players of their generation, most likely to finish 1-2 in NL MVP voting, and who are both aiming for their first trip to the World Series.

8. Playoff Drought Winners

While the Cardinals enter this postseason with plenty of October experience, there are two franchises that are about to get their first taste of the playoffs in a long, long time. The Seattle Mariners and the Philadelphia Phillies ended two of the longest playoff droughts, securing a place in the wild, although both teams will hit the road in the first round – Seattle in Toronto, Philadelphia in St. Louis .

When Cal Raleigh hit his home run for a point and a wild card seat, the Mariners celebrated like they had won the World Series. Can you blame them? Twenty-one years is a long time between the playoffs…