Everything to Know on MLB Playoff 2022 Races, Tiebreakers, Best Matchups, More

Zachary D. RymerSeptember 27, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07: Francisco Lindor #12 and Brandon Nimmo #9 of the New York Mets celebrates after scoring on Pete Alonso #20 2-run double in the third inning as Spencer Strider #65 and William Contreras #24 of the Atlanta Braves look on against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field on August 07, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
The Mets and Atlanta still haven't decided the NL East. (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Major League Baseball's 2022 regular season will end in a little over a week on Oct. 5, so it's about time to get to know the playoff picture in depth.

This is the part where everyone should take a deep breath, because suffice it to say, there's a heck of a lot that still needs to be determined.

We're going to run through every bit of need-to-know information, including which of the 12 playoff spots—remember, this is the first year of MLB's expanded postseason format—in the American League and National League have already been clinched, which are still available and the outlooks for teams that haven't yet been eliminated from contention.

To jazz things up, we'll also present our wish lists for series in the AL and NL playoffs and, naturally, the World Series.

The Situation in the American League

The Houston Astros pose for a photo after clinching the American League West title with a win over the Tampa Bay Rays during a baseball game Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

How the AL Playoff Picture Looks Right Now

First-Round Byes: Houston Astros (1)* and New York Yankees (2)^

Wild Card Series 1: Tampa Bay Rays (5) at Toronto Blue Jays (4)

Wild Card Series 2: Seattle Mariners (6) at Cleveland Guardians (3)*

Division Series 1: Rays/Blue Jays vs. Astros

Division Series 2: Mariners/Guardians vs. Yankees

*Astros clinched AL West, Guardians clinched AL Central

^Yankees clinched playoff spot

What's Still Up for Grabs?

No. 1 Seed: Astros (101-53) lead Yankees (94-59) by 6.5 G

The No. 1 seed and, with it, home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs is the Astros' to lose. They're 21 games over .500 since the Yankees began a 33-36 backslide on July 9.

AL East Title: Yankees lead Blue Jays (87-67) by 7.5 G

The Yankees could have ended the division race Monday in Toronto, but the Blue Jays eked out a win in extras to fight another day. Yet with the Yankees' magic number still at two, the Jays have little margin for error.

Wild Cards

  1. Blue Jays (87-67): +3 G
  2. Rays (84-69): +0.5 G
  3. Mariners (83-69): +0 G
  4. Baltimore Orioles (80-73): 3.5 GB
  5. Chicago White Sox (76-77): 7.5 GB
  6. Minnesota Twins (74-79): 9.5 GB

Whereas the Blue Jays are 17-8 in September, Tampa Bay is in a 6-11 funk and Seattle is in a 3-7 skid. The Mariners are also dealing with some ill-timed injuries to Rookie of the Year favorite Julio Rodríguez (back) and slugger Eugenio Suárez (finger).

On the plus side for Seattle, its remaining schedule will have it punching further below its weight than any other contender in the AL:

Graph via Google Sheets

The Rays are not so lucky. Their last nine games are all on the road and include six against Cleveland and Houston. The Orioles, likewise, have their gap-closing work cut out for them, especially with three at New York and another three versus Toronto to end the season.

Tiebreaker Scenarios

Under new rules, all ties will be resolved by the standings in lieu of a do-or-die Game 163. The first tiebreaker is head-to-head records, followed by intradivision records, interdivision records and the last half of intraleague games.

Simply looking at head-to-head records, we see another advantage for the Astros in the race for the No. 1 seed and, for now, an edge for the Yankees over the Blue Jays in the AL East:

  • No. 1 Seed: Astros over Yankees, 5-2
  • AL East: Yankees over Blue Jays, 9-8

Meanwhile, here's the picture in the wild-card race:

  • Blue Jays: 9-10 vs. Rays, 2-5 vs. Mariners, 8-8 vs. Orioles, 3-4 vs. Twins, 4-2 vs. White Sox
  • Rays: 5-2 vs. Mariners, 10-9 vs. Orioles, 2-4 vs. Twins, 2-4 vs. White Sox
  • Mariners: 4-2 vs. Orioles, 2-4 vs. White Sox, 3-4 vs. Twins
  • Orioles: 5-2 vs. White Sox, 3-4 vs. Twins
  • White Sox: 6-7 vs. Twins

With their season series against the Rays and Mariners already complete, the Blue Jays might want to win their final three-game set against the Orioles between Oct. 3-5 just to be safe. Otherwise, the Rays are in the best shape here.

Matchup Wish List

1. Astros vs. Yankees

The Astros and Yankees played 13 of 14 possible games in the American League Championship Series in 2017 and 2019, with the latter ending by way of one of the most dramatic walk-offs in recent playoff history:

Of course, it came out a few months later that the Astros weren't operating on the level when they beat the Yankees in '17. Among those who weren't thrilled was Aaron Judge, who said: "I just don't think it holds any value with me. You cheated, and you didn't earn it."

2. Mariners vs. Blue Jays

Both of these teams have multiple aces atop their starting rotations, including former Blue Jay Robbie Ray and Luis Castillo for Seattle and Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah for Toronto. And in Rodríguez and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the offenses are headed by two of MLB's most dynamic young hitters.

3. Guardians vs. Rays

Who wouldn't want to see a battle between two of the cheapest teams in the American League? We're being facetious, of course, but the combination of frugality and quality in Cleveland and Tampa Bay is only possible because both are loaded with young talent.

The Situation in the National League

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 13: Manager Dave Roberts #30 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates with teammates after defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 13, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Dodgers defeated the Diamondbacks 4-0 to clinch the National League West division. ˆ (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

How the NL Playoff Picture Looks Right Now

First-Round Byes: Los Angeles Dodgers (1)* and New York Mets (2)^

Wild Card Series 1: San Diego Padres (5) at Atlanta (4)^

Wild Card Series 2: Philadelphia Phillies (6) at St. Louis Cardinals (3)

Division Series 1: Padres/Atlanta vs. Dodgers

Division Series 2: Phillies/Cardinals vs. Mets

*Dodgers clinched NL West and No. 1 seed

^Mets and Atlanta clinched playoff spots

What's Still Up for Grabs?

NL East Title: Mets (97-57) lead Atlanta (96-58) by 1 G

The Mets have spent 143 days in first place, compared to all of two for Atlanta. Yet these clubs haven't been separated by more than two games since Sept. 2, and they still have a three-game series left that starts this Friday. Get hyped, as they say.

NL Central Title: Cardinals (89-65) lead Brewers (82-71) by 6.5 G

The Cardinals were four games behind the Brew Crew as recently as July 30. The two teams have gone in opposite directions since then, and St. Louis can clinch the division with a win over Milwaukee as soon as Tuesday.

Wild Cards

  1. Atlanta (96-58): +12 G
  2. Padres (85-68): +1.5 G
  3. Phillies (83-69): +0 G
  4. Brewers (82-71): 1.5 GB
  5. San Francisco Giants (75-78): 8.5 GB

Either Atlanta or the Mets is going to claim the NL's top wild-card spot. And with the Giants that far out of it, the race is effectively a three-horse affair between the Padres, Phillies and Brewers for two spots.

The Padres and Brewers are both 11-6 in their last 17 games, while the Phillies are skidding with losses in seven out of their last 10 games. On paper, though, the latter two have it a tad easier opponent-wise than San Diego down the stretch:

Graph via Google Sheets

Up next for the Padres are three games against the Dodgers, who've won 12 out of 16 in the season series so far. Yet the Dodgers also don't have anything left to play for, and the same may be true of the White Sox and Giants by the time the Padres get to them.

The Phillies, meanwhile, finish with 10 straight games on the road. The softest landing thus belongs to the Brewers, who end with seven games against the lowly Miami Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks at home.

Tiebreaker Scenarios

Now that everyone knows the drill regarding the new tiebreaker protocols, we find that the Mets and Cardinals have head-to-head advantages in the NL East and Central races:

  • NL East: Mets over Atlanta, 9-7
  • NL Central: Cardinals over Brewers, 9-8

As for the wild-card race:

  • Atlanta: 3-4 vs. Padres, 11-8 vs. Phillies, 3-3 vs. Brewers, 4-3 vs. Giants
  • Padres: 3-4 vs. Phillies, 4-3 vs. Brewers, 11-5 vs. Giants
  • Phillies: 4-2 vs. Brewers, 1-5 vs. Giants
  • Brewers: 3-4 vs. Giants

Two things stand out here, with one being that the race for the third spot may well be decided by the Phillies' 4-3 advantage over the Brewers.

The other is that there is no head-to-head advantage between the Brewers and Atlanta. But with Atlanta having thus far gone 43-25 in the NL East as the Brewers have gone 41-33 in the NL Central, the tiebreaker would default to the former if need be.

Matchup Wish List

1. Dodgers vs. Atlanta

The Dodgers and Atlanta have collided in the National League Championship Series in each of the last two postseasons, with the Dodgers winning en route to a World Series championship in 2020 and Atlanta returning the favor in 2021. The two clubs have been on course for a rematch for a while now, posting roughly equal records since June.

Then there's the Freddie Freeman factor. Would Atlanta fans still love him if he helps dispatch his former team from the playoffs? Only one way to find out...

2. Cardinals vs. Mets

We're just plain looking forward to seeing Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer in action in October, regardless of who they're up against. But if they have to take on Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and a rejuvenated Albert Pujols, well, we won't complain.

3. Padres vs. Phillies

Speaking of star-studded offenses, how about Juan Soto and Manny Machado on one side and Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto on the other? Potential pitching matchups between Aaron Nola and Yu Darvish and Zack Wheeler and Joe Musgrove don't sound too shabby either.

Looking Ahead to the World Series

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 05: The Commisioners Trophy on a pedestal during the Celebration at Truist Park on November 5, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia.   (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Who Will Have Home-Field Advantage?

Easy. Whichever team had the better record in the regular season.

The only potential conflict as of now is in relation to the Mariners and Phillies, who are both 83-69. If that holds true and they end up meeting in the Fall Classic, home field would default to the Phillies because they won the lone series the two teams played this season.

Which Team Has the Best Odds to Win It All?

According to DraftKings, the favorites to win the 2022 World Series line up like so:

  1. Dodgers: +350 (bet $100 to win $350)
  2. Astros: +425
  3. Yankees/Mets: +500
  4. Atlanta: +900
  5. Blue Jays: +1400
  6. Cardinals: +2200
  7. Mariners: +2500
  8. Rays/Padres: +2800
  9. Guardians: +3000
  10. Phillies: +3500
  11. Brewers: +8000
  12. Orioles: +80000
  13. Giants/Twins/White Sox: +200000

If you're asking us, these odds probably underrate Atlanta and the Cardinals and probably overrate the Yankees and Blue Jays.

The most promising long shot? The Guardians. That pitching staff is loaded, and their offense is the peskiest in the league on account of its penchant for contact hitting. Plus, the phrase "been there, done that" surely applies to manager Terry Francona.

Matchup Wish List

1. Dodgers vs. Yankees

The Dodgers, formerly of Brooklyn, and the Yankees, always of the Bronx, have met in the World Series 11 times before, but not since 1981. We'd say it's been long enough, and goodness knows this matchup would be good for the World Series' sagging ratings.

2. Brewers vs. Mariners

Do the Brewers and Mariners have history with each other? Uh, no. Not really. But the Mariners have never been to the World Series and the Brewers have only been once, so having the two of them in the same Fall Classic would make for the ultimate "something's gotta give" scenario.

3. Padres vs. Rays

Elsewhere in "something's gotta give" scenarios, Padres vs. Rays in the World Series would be the next-best thing after Milwaukee vs. Seattle. Though both clubs have played in the Fall Classic multiple times before, neither has won it.

4. Guardians vs. Anyone

Guardians vs. who? Doesn't matter. We'll be fine with whoever so long as Cleveland were to get its shot. With the franchise's last World Series title coming all the way back in 1948, theirs is the longest championship drought still running in baseball.

5. Atlanta vs. Astros

Last year's clash between Atlanta and Houston in the Fall Classic wasn't especially memorable, but hey, who doesn't like a rematch?

Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

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