How many wild card teams in baseball? The AL West-leading Rangers are on the brink of securing their playoff spot, needing just one more win to do so. They will face off against the Mariners in a crucial four-game series to close out the season. Meanwhile, the Orioles need just one more win to clinch their first division title since 2014, and the Blue Jays are three wins away from locking up an AL wild-card spot.
In the National League, all divisions have been accounted for, but just the final two wild-card spots are up in the air. The Diamondbacks have the edge on the No. 5 seed, while the Marlins control their own destiny for the No. 6 seed
However, the playoff picture is notable for who is not in it. The Padres, Yankees, Mets, and Cardinals – all expected contenders – have had disappointing years and have been eliminated.
As the playoffs approach, tiebreakers could come into play to determine playoff spots and seeding. MLB uses head-to-head record as the top tiebreaker among teams that finish with the same record.
2023 MLB Playoffs format
The National League and American League each send six teams to the postseason, three division winners from each league and three Wild Card teams, the non-division winners with the best records.
The No. 1 seed in each league goes to the team with the best overall record in that league.
The No. 2 seed goes to the division winner with the next best record, while the No. 3 seed goes to the remaining division winner.
The team with the best record that did not win its division gets the No. 4 seed, with the Wild Card team with the second-best record getting the No. 5 seed and the team with the third getting the No. 6 seed.
It pays to be the top two seeds. Those teams get byes straight into the Division Series, while the No. 3 seed takes on the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed takes on the No. 5 seed in the first round of the postseason, the Wild Card round.
The Wild Card round is played at the higher seed over three days, with whoever winning the best-of-3 series advancing to the Divisional Round.
The winner of the series between the No. 4 and No. 5 seed will face the No. 1 seed in the Divisional Round and the other series will be the No. 2 seed against the No. 3 or No. 6 seed series winner.
The Divisional Round is a best-of-5 five games, with the first two at the higher seed, Games 3 and 4 at the lower seed and the deciding fifth game, if necessary, at the higher seed.
The winners of the Divisional Round advance to play in the League Championship Series and the World Series, which are best-of-7. The higher seeds get to host the first two games and the last two games of the series, with the lower seed getting the middle three games.
Home-field advantage in the World Series goes to the team with the best record in the regular season, not to the league that won the All-Star Game.
2023 MLB end of season tiebreakers
MLB teams used to play a tiebreaker game at the end of the season if they were tied, but that is no longer the case.
MLB adapted a tiebreaker system to resolve ties and eliminate tie-breaker games at the conclusion of the regular season.
Tiebreakers are first broken by head-to-head records, then it goes to records in your own division, if needed.
A third tiebreaker, if needed is which team has a better record in league games that were not in your division.
In the unlikely event of another tie, the fourth tiebreaker is a team’s record in their league over the second half of the season.
Interestingly, the fifth and final tiebreaker is the outcome of the last game of the first half of intraleague games.
HOW DOES BASEBALL’S WILD-CARD ROUND WORK?
The best-of-three wild card format is in its second season. The format was changed in 2022 from the sudden death one-game format that was in place since 2012 with the exception of the COVID-19 pandemic-affected 2020 season.
Six teams each from the American League and National League qualified for the postseason, including the three division winners in each league. The three wild card teams in each league are the teams with the best records that didn’t win their division.
The top two division winners with the best records in each league got a bye and don’t have to play in the wild card round. One big advantage for the higher seed in those wild card series is they get to host all three games.
The Rangers-Rays winner faces Baltimore in the Division Series, the Twins-Blue Jays winner plays Houston, the Phillies-Marlins winner starts at Atlanta and the Brewers-Diamondbacks winner gets a matchup with the Dodgers.
Many of baseball’s recent rule changes will still be in effect during the postseason, including the pitch clock, a ban on extreme infield shifts and a limit to how many times a pitcher can disengage from the rubber. The pitch clock was a huge change for the sport and widely celebrated, cutting average game time by more than 20 minutes this season.
There is one rule that won’t make the postseason cut: the so-called “ghost runner” in extra innings.
During the MLB regular season, if a game goes to extra innings, a runner is placed at second base to start the 10th inning when each team bats. That won’t happen in the postseason. Extra innings will be played just like the previous nine.
How many teams make the playoffs in MLB Wild Card standings?
Three. In total, 12 MLB teams make the postseason, six from the American League and six from the National League.
Three of each of those buckets make the playoffs via a wild card spot after three division winners from each of the AL and NL earn an automatic berth.
This is a recent change, as the postseason field expanded in 2022 from five teams to six teams in each league, eliminating the single wild card game.
How is all that seeded?
Seeding for the six teams gives preference to the division winners over team record. The division winners earn the first three seeds, in order of record. The three wild card teams are then seeded 4-6 in order of best record.
The top two seeds receive byes and don’t play in the wild card round, but the third division winner must play the third wild card team in the wild card round, which is a three-game series.
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