Now that the 2022 Major League Baseball season has advanced to September, most of the focus is on the race for playoff berths. While the stretch drive into which we’ve just dipped our toes may not be the most gripping we’ve ever witnessed, quite a bit still hangs in the balance.
In terms of division races, the American League Central is the most hotly contested at the moment. Presently, just two games separate the top three teams in the division – the Cleveland Guardians, the Minnesota Twins, and the Chicago White Sox – and thanks to the generally underwhelming nature of the division, the two teams who come up short likely won’t have a wild-card spot on which to fall back.
Elsewhere, the New York Yankees against steep odds have slumped their way into a contested American League East race with the Tampa Bay Rays. Over in the National League, the NL East is the one to watch, as the New York Mets hold a tenuous lead over the reigning-champion Atlanta Braves.
On the wild-card front, the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles seem poised for a mortal struggle over the third and final American League berth, and the Rays and Seattle Mariners – respective occupiers of the top two spots – aren’t so secure that they can ease off the rest of the way. In the senior circuit, it’s essentially three teams – the San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies, and Milwaukee Brewers – dueling for the last two berths. The Brewers are working from behind and have been struggling for some time.
Now let’s jump into the detailed standings, current playoff match-ups, and postseason odds, and let’s also recall that the structure of the postseason is different starting this year.
The new, 12-team playoff format
During the recent negotiation of the new collective bargaining agreement, players and owners agreed to a new and expanded postseason structure moving forward. That new structure begins with the current season, and here’s a reminder of how it will work.
- The postseason field grows from 10 teams to 12 teams with the addition of an extra wild-card entrant in each league.
- The Wild Card Game has been replaced by the best-of-three Wild Card Series, which functions as the first round of play. The higher seed in each Wild Card Series will host all the games of that series, be it two or the maximum three games.
- The top two division winners in each league, as determined by best overall record during the regular season, get a first-round bye. That means they advance straight to the best-of-five Division Series that functions as the second round.
- The four wild-card round participants in each league comprise the division winner with the worst record among division winners and the three non-division winners with the best records. That division winner is automatically the No. 3 seed regardless of whether one or all of the other wild-card teams has a better record.
- To summarize, here’s how the playoff seeding will work in each league — No. 1 seed (bye to LDS): Best record in league; No. 2 seed (bye to LDS): Second-best record among division winners; No. 3 seed: Third-best record among division winners; No. 4 seed: Best record among wild-card teams; No. 5 seed: Second-best record among wild-card teams; No. 6 seed: Third-best record among wild-card teams.
The League Championship Series and World Series remain best-of-seven series with home-field advantage going to the team with the best record in each series. Note that there’s no re-seeding after any round.
Got it? Now here’s where things stand right now when it comes to the races for these berths and seeds.
If the season ended today…
- Byes: No. 1 Astros, No. 2 Yankees
- Wild Card Series: No. 4 Rays vs. No. 5 Mariners
- Wild Card Series: No. 3 Guardians vs. No. 6 Blue Jays
- Byes: No. 1 Dodgers, No. 2 Mets
- Wild Card Series: No. 4 Braves vs. No. 5 Padres
- Wild Card Series: No. 3 Cardinals vs. No. 6 Phillies
(Postseason projections are from SportsLine; expanded standings can be viewed here)