MLB CBA: Explaining New 12-Team Playoff Format Beginning In 2022
World Series, 2021 Playoffs
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

While Major League Baseball shifts their attention to free agency and the beginning of Spring Training, there remain plenty of new rules taking shape this season that should be broken down. One of these rules is a new, 12-team playoff format.

An expanded playoffs was one of MLB’s most powerful requests, essentially saying a deal could not be agreed to unless the playoffs received some sort of boost. League ownership pushed hard for 14 teams, but the MLBPA pushed back even harder.

Ultimately, the two sides settled on 12 teams with a brand new format going into effect in 2022. Here, we’ll take a look at this format as well as what the playoffs would have looked like under this format for the past few years.

12-team playoffs

Outside of the 2020 season, the playoffs have featured three division winners and two wild card teams in each league since 2012. In those nine seasons, the two wild card teams would face off in a one-game playoff, with the winner acting as the No. 4 seed in the Divisional Series.

Now, with six teams making it in each league, the format has taken a bit of a turn. The three division winners will get automatic bids and top-three seeds as usual, but the three best non-division winners will make the postseason instead of two.

The three division winners will be given the No. 1 through No. 3 seeds, with No. 1 and No. 2 receiving a bye in the Wild Card round. Then, the three wild cards teams will be ranked No. 4 through No. 6 by record.

In the Wild Card round, the No. 3 seed will host the No. 6 seed in all three games of a best-of-three series. The No. 4 seed will do the same against the No. 5.

The winner of the No. 3-No. 6 series will move on to face the No. 2 seed in a standard five-game Divisional Series. The winner of No. 4-No. 5 will take on the No. 1 seed. There is no re-seeding.

Another change is that Game 163 has been eliminated as a tiebreaker. Instead, MLB will use a system of tiebreakers similar to the NFL to determine who gets higher seeds or who makes the playoffs in the event of a regular season tie.

Previous playoffs

So how would this change have affected playoffs from previous seasons? Let’s take a look at the standings from 2019-2021 to see how things would have played out.


AL byes: 1. Rays (100-62); 2. Astros (95-67)

AL wild card round: 6. Blue Jays (91-71) at 3. White Sox (93-69) and 5. Yankees (90-72) at 4. Red Sox (90-72)

NL byes: 1. Giants (107-55); 2. Brewers (95-67)

NL wild card round: 6. Reds (83-79) at 3. Braves (88-73) and 5. Cardinals (90-72) at 4. Dodgers (106-56)

2020*60-game season

AL byes: 1. Rays (40-20); 2. Athletics (36-24)*tiebreaker

AL wild card round: 6. Yankees (33-27) at Twins (36-24) and 5. Indians (35-25) at 4. White Sox (35-25)

NL byes: 1. Dodgers (43-17); 2. Braves (35-25)

NL wild card round: 6. Marlins (31-29) at 3. Cubs (34-26) and 5. Cardinals (30-28) at 4. Padres (37-23)


AL byes: 1. Astros (107-55); 2. Yankees (103-59)

AL wild card round: 6. Cleveland (93-69) at 3. Twins (101-61) and 5. Rays (96-66) at 4. Athletics (97-65)

NL byes: 1. Dodgers (106-56); 2. Braves (97-65)

NL wild card round: 6. Mets (86-76) at 3. Cardinals (91-71) and 5. Brewers (89-73) at 4. Nationals (93-69)

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