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Navigating the MLB Playoffs: Understanding the Divisional Structure and Changes Ahead

Understanding the MLB Playoff Structure

Baseball is considered “America’s pastime.” It’s a sport that’s been played for over a century and is steeped in tradition. One of the most exciting aspects of the season is the postseason.

October brings with it the Major League Baseball playoffs, which culminate in the “Fall Classic,” also known as the World Series. But, how does a team make it to the playoffs, and what does it take to win it all?

This article will answer these questions and more, diving into the intricacies of the MLB playoff structure.

Divisions in MLB

The MLB is divided into three divisions – East, Central, and West – in both the National League (NL) and the American League (AL). Each division has five teams, and the divisional alignments are based on geography.

The East division teams are located across the east coast of the US, Central division teams are in the Midwest, and West division teams are on the West Coast.

Playoff Berths

The MLB postseason includes ten teams. The three division winners from each of the two leagues earn automatic berths into the playoffs.

Additionally, two wild-card teams from each league make the playoffs based on having the best record of non-division winning teams. In the case of ties in the standings, there are usually one or more one-game “playoff” games to determine who advances.

Benefits of Winning the Division

The MLB playoff system rewards teams that win their division. The top two division winners in each league get a bye from the wild card round and advance to the divisional series (often called the “Divisional Round”).

The third division winner is seeded behind those two teams and must play in the opening round of the postseason, also known as the “Wild Card Round.”

Number of Rounds

The MLB playoffs are divided into four rounds: the Wild Card Round, the Divisional Round, the League Championship Round (often referred to as the “League Championship Series”), and the World Series. In the Wild Card Round, the two wild card teams from each league face off in a one-game playoff.

The winner advances to the Divisional Round, where they’ll face the top two division winners from the same league. In the League Championship Series, the winners of the Divisional Round face off in a best-of-seven series.

The teams that advance then go on to compete in the World Series in a best-of-seven format.

Playoff Seeding

The MLB playoffs are seeded based on the teams’ regular-season records. The top two division winners in each league receive a bye in the Wild Card Round.

The third division winner is seeded third, and the two wild-card teams are seeded fourth and fifth, with the top wild card team seeded fourth.

Rounds and Match-ups

The Wild Card Round is a one-game playoff, while the Divisional Round and League Championship Series are best-of-five and best-of-seven series, respectively. In the Divisional Round, the team with home-field advantage hosts the first two games, and the opponents host the next two.

If necessary, the final game of the series is played in the team with home-field advantage’s ballpark. The same structure applies in the League Championship Series, except that it switches to a 2-3-2 format.

The Wild Card and Divisional Rounds are played over an eight-day span, with each round having off-days. The League Championship Series and World Series have off-days between games but are played continuously.

Playoff Format Changes in 2022

Beginning in 2022, the MLB postseason will expand by adding two more teams. With twelve teams now making the playoffs (8 division winners and four wild cards), the Wild Card Round will become a best-of-three series instead of a one-game playoff.

Additional Teams and Games

The expanded playoffs ensure that an extra team from each league will gain a chance to compete in the postseason but will significantly impact the race for the playoffs. In addition to the increase in teams, the extra games will result in the postseason starting earlier.

The postseason races will also have longer-reaching implications on teams’ in-season strategies.

Competition Across the League

The changes to the playoff format can both benefit and hurt teams’ chances of making the postseason. A team in a loaded division has more competition for a top seed or even a playoff berth, while those in weaker divisions may have a better chance of making the postseason.

Pre-Planning for Postseason

It’s crucial to understand the MLB playoff structure and how the changes impact the postseason. Some teams that may have previously been out of contention under the old format will now have a better chance of making the playoffs.

As the season progresses, it becomes increasingly important for teams to factor in the potential playoff structure changes when considering their in-season strategies.


The MLB postseason is unique in its structure, and as games get played, there’s a lot that can change. However, understanding the basics of the playoff structure, including how teams qualify, the number of rounds and games, and the benefits of winning divisions, allows for a more educated view of the postseason.

With changes on the horizon in 2022, it’s even more vital to understand how a team’s prospects of making the postseason may be impacted. With the MLB regular season already underway, it’s essential to understand the importance of the playoffs and the structure that determines which teams will compete for the World Series title.

While the regular season may be exciting, with intense match-ups between division rivals, the pressure on division leaders to remain in first place, and the pursuit of personal and team records, the playoffs add another level of importance to the season.

Enjoyment of Regular Season

More often than not, teams with winning records during the regular season make the playoffs, and those pulling up the rear tend to miss out on the postseason. As a result, there’s typically added excitement towards the end of the season when teams are battling it out for a playoff spot.

Fans of teams fighting to make the playoffs can enjoy the regular season just as much as those supporting teams in first place. A win or loss can have significant implications and could be the deciding factor in whether a team makes it to the postseason or not.

Pressure on Division Leaders

While the playoffs are undoubtedly the ultimate prize for every MLB team, winning a division title is also crucial. That’s because it guarantees a bye in the wild card round, which lowers the risk of elimination and puts a team in a more favorable position to make a deep run in the postseason.

Division leaders have the added pressure of maintaining their lead throughout the season, making it important to understand the playoff structure and the paths of least resistance to the World Series.

Benefits of Understanding Structure

Understanding the structure of the playoffs can be beneficial to the enjoyment and engagement of the regular season. By knowing what’s at stake during the regular season, fans can have a better understanding of how things are likely to play out during the playoffs.

In addition, knowledgeable fans can make more strategic decisions regarding which games to attend, keeping an eye on potentially interesting postseason previews and how they may affect the playoff picture. Keeping tabs on who’s likely to make the playoffs and who isn’t can also create interesting races for individual records, like home run and batting titles.

Key Takeaways

Perhaps the most important reason to understand the structure of the playoffs is the potential outcomes. Changes to the postseason format in 2022 mean that two additional teams will be competing for a chance to play in the World Series.

Fans who understand the implications of the added teams can have a better understanding of which teams have a reasonable chance of making it to the playoffs and which don’t. It’s particularly important to keep tabs on whether a team is likely to finish the regular season in first place, as it could mean a bye in the wild card round, which is a significant advantage.

Knowing the structure of the playoffs can also help fans understand what to look out for during the regular season. Tight races for division titles and wild card spots can increase a team’s motivation to win, making games more entertaining to watch.

Similarly, knowing which teams are in good form heading into the playoffs can give fans more excitement and suspense as they watch their favorite teams gear up for another postseason run.


In the end, understanding the structure of the playoffs is crucial for baseball fans hoping to make the most out of their favorite pastime. With the race for the playoffs in full swing, fans can gain plenty of excitement even if their favorite team isn’t in first place.

By keeping tabs on changes to the postseason format, paying attention to individual races, and understanding the advantages of winning a division, baseball fans can increase their enjoyment and engagement with the sport, making every inning an even more thrilling experience. Understanding the MLB playoff structure is crucial for baseball fans to enjoy and make the most of the regular season and playoffs.

With intense pressure on division leaders and exciting races for wild card spots, the playoffs add another level of importance to the season. By understanding the structure, fans can make more strategic decisions, keep up with potential playoff previews, and grasp the implications of postseason format changes.

Ultimately, knowing how the playoffs work can enhance the experience for fans and keep them engaged throughout the year.


Q: How many teams make it to the MLB postseason?

A: Ten teams, with three division winners and two wild card teams from each league. Q: How is the postseason structured?

A: The playoffs are divided into four rounds – the Wild Card Round, the Divisional Round, the League Championship Series, and the World Series. Q: What are the benefits of winning a division?

A: Winning a division guarantees a bye in the wild card round, which is a significant advantage and lowers the risk of elimination. Q: How are teams seeded in the playoffs?

A: Teams are seeded based on their regular-season records, with the top two division winners in each league receiving a bye in the Wild Card Round. Q: What are the changes to the postseason format in 2022?

A: Two additional teams will make the playoffs, and the Wild Card Round will become a best-of-three series.

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