MLB’s postseason format is likely headed for big changes next year; here’s what it might look like

Will the 2021 postseason be the ultimate one below the present 10-team format? That appears fairly doubtless. 

The present collective bargaining settlement (CBA), the negotiated accord that governs the working relationship between gamers and golf equipment, expires in December, and it’s totally doubtless that the following CBA will contain an expanded postseason. That subsequent CBA will likely be in pressure previous to the beginning of the 2022 season. 

There’s additionally a further backdrop to this, because the 2020 season — closely abbreviated by the COVID-19 pandemic — featured a 16-team playoff subject. That was a one-off association, but it surely gave followers, observers, gamers, and house owners a chronic style of what a extra expansive postseason fray would appear and feel like. As effectively, the league reportedly has for a while had long-term designs on a 14-team playoff structure that would come with a handful of fascinating structural wrinkles. 

The ten-team subject and the related Wild Card Recreation in every league has been part of MLB since 2012 (with, once more, the exception of 2020), however there’s more cash to be made by increasing the postseason. Either side need extra of that. 

By extension the lack of the 10-team postseason and the alternative of it with one thing bigger very doubtless means the tip of the “one and performed” Wild Card Recreation. Whereas there isn’t any doubt the knockout format results in excessive anxiousness and intrigue, it additionally appears a bit absurd given the huge sprawl of the 162-game common season. On one other degree, groups compete throughout divisions for the wild card berths, and that may result in disparities by way of schedule energy. Then once in a while you get a case like this yr’s NL Wild Card Recreation, through which a real juggernaut just like the Dodgers is lowered to maybe having their postseason final 9 innings. Whether or not that is a function or bug doubtless relies upon upon your rooting pursuits. 

So what would possibly issues seem like as an alternative? Let’s briefly discover the 2 main candidates to change into MLB’s subsequent playoff construction — the 16-teamer exampled in 2020 or the 14-teamer famous above. 

The 16-team postseason

On this one, which, once more, was in pressure for the 2020 season, the six division winners are joined by the six second-place finishers in every division. Then the sector is rounded out with the 2 high third-place finishers in every league primarily based on common season file. That brings the entire to sixteen. 

Groups that will’ve made it this yr below this format: The six division winners going could be the Rays, White Sox, Astros, Braves, Brewers, and Giants. The six second-place groups getting bids could be the Red Sox, Cleveland, Mariners (playoff drought ended), Phillies, Cardinals, and Dodgers. The highest two third-place finishers in every league to make it could be the Yankees and A’s within the AL and Reds and Padres within the NL. 

What turns into of the present wild card groups?: As an alternative of enjoying in a one-and-done recreation, the Pink Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals would play the best-of-three Wild Card Sequence below this 2020-style format. 

Execs of the 16-team method: Inclusivity is the phrase right here. It grows the playoff subject by a whopping 60 %, which in flip means far more down-the-stretch engagement throughout the league. Extra followers in additional cities will likely be watching contending baseball groups late within the season, and that is a possible strategy to develop the sport. And, no, a bigger playoff subject will not rob us of ultimate day drama in most seasons. Slightly, it’ll simply slide that drama a bit additional down the meals chain. 

Cons of the 16-team method: It is too massive, as greater than half the league would qualify for the postseason. As effectively, there aren’t sturdy incentives to do far more than make that giant playoff subject and see how issues go in October. Positive, you would possibly see extra groups behave like contenders within the offseason, however there could be little trigger to run top-end payrolls and assemble the type of roster energy we see with, say, the Dodgers. That is as a result of the benefit of being the No. 1 seed versus the No. 6 seed and even No. 8 seed would not be that notable. 

Ultimate verdict: It is so massive that it whittles away the significance of baseball’s gargantuan common season, and the seeding incentives are too weak. Get outta right here, 16-team postseason.

The 14-team postseason

So here is how what’s believed to be MLB’s favored path ahead would work, in bullet-point kind for immediately’s busy gross sales skilled: 

  • Seven groups from every league make the postseason. That is three division winners for every league plus the highest 4 information amongst non-division winners get wild card bids. 
  • The group with the most effective file in every league will get a wild card spherical bye.
  • The 2 different division winners and high wild card group host all video games of three-game collection within the wild card spherical.
  • These two remaining division winners get to choose their wild card spherical opponents (throughout a dwell broadcast) from the three different wild card groups. The highest wild card group performs the unpicked group.
  • Three collection winners and the group with a bye advance to divisional spherical.

Evidently, these are some fascinating wrinkles. 

Groups that will’ve made it this yr below this format: Rays, White Sox, Astros, Pink Sox, Yankees, Mariners, A’s, Braves, Brewers, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Reds, Phillies

What turns into of the present wild card groups?: The Dodgers and Cardinals doubtless could be assembly within the first spherical, anyway, because the Brewers and Braves could be choosing the Reds and Phillies in some order as their first-round opponents. 

Execs of the 14-team method: There’s tons to love right here. It grows the postseason subject considerably, which retains extra fan bases engaged all through the season, but it surely nonetheless lets lower than half the league into the playoffs. As effectively, the first-round byes in every league present incentives for the most effective groups to maintain it at full bore even when the division’s been wrapped up for a while. As well, having the opposite two division winners select their first-round opponents is a extremely compelling little bit of build-up main into postseason play. Actually, this simply looks like quite a lot of enjoyable, and it additionally does not diminish the significance of the common season as a lot because the 16-team subject does. That is particularly the case given the excessive worth of touchdown a first-round bye. 

Cons of the 14-team method: When you object to this one, then it is since you merely can’t abide any additional enlargement of the postseason and the essentially associated additional diminishment of the common season. Troubling information for you: Additional enlargement goes to occur. 

Ultimate verdict: It says right here that is certainly one of the best ways ahead. Name it the smart center floor between the established order and the considerably unwieldy and NBA/NHL-grade playoff subject of 2020. It bears repeating that the first-round bye incentives and pick-your-opponent intrigue are glorious additions to the calculus. 

Within the meantime? Within the meantime, let’s get pleasure from what figures to be the ultimate run of the 10-team association. 

2021 MLB postseason gear now out there

The 2021 MLB Playoffs begin Oct. 5 and 6 with the AL and NL Wild Card video games. In celebration, 2021 MLB postseason gear is now out there for choose groups. Shop hoodies, shirts, and more here.

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Aila Slisco is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Aila Slisco joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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