MLB has expanded the postseason in 2022, which gives each league an extra spot, and tweaks the format a bit.
For the Blue Jays the good news is that despite a relatively disappointing first half of the 2022 campaign, they still find themselves in a playoff position at the moment. It’s the last Wild Card spot, which would make them the 6-seed in the American League at the moment, and they’ll have plenty of competition for their position with teams like the Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, and more nipping at their heels. Even the Orioles are still technically in the playoff hunt at this point in the MLB calendar.
Since things have changed a bit, and there were a lot of reports about the new CBA over the winter, many fans are a bit confused with how things work exactly. With that in mind, I thought I’d break down how the new format works, and how the playoff picture would look if the regular season was over at the All-Star break.
As of this writing, here are the playoff standings for the American League:
1- New York Yankees (64-28)
2- Houston Astros (59-32)
3- Minnesota Twins (50-44)
4- Tampa Bay Rays (51-41)
5- Seattle Mariners (51-42)
6- Toronto Blue Jays (50-43)
If you’re wondering why the Twins have a worse record but are still ahead of the next three teams, it’s because they are the current division leaders in the AL Central. Regardless of records, the top three seeds will be the division winners. The Yankees lead the East, the Astros hold the league in the West, and the Twins are atop the Central standings. Among those three teams, the 1-3 seeds will be determined by record, as you can see above.
The 4-6 seeds are simple enough as well, with the rest of the American League field competing for the three remaining Wild Card spots. But how does it work from there?
The first and second seeded teams will receive a bye in the first round, while the 3rd seed squares off against the 6th, and 4th vs. 5th in the opening round, which are each determined by a three-game series. That means that if the season ended today, the Blue Jays would play the Twins in the first round. The part that I just learned this week is that as the higher seed for the Wild Card round, the Twins would host all games in this series.
Once the opening round is over, the first seed will play the winner of the 3 vs. 6 series, and the second seed plays against the 4 vs. 5 winner. So hypothetically, if the Jays and Mariners won their opening match-ups, here’s how Round 2 would look:
Yankees (1) vs. Mariners (5)
Astros (2) vs. Blue Jays (6)
Regardless of which teams win the Wild Card round, there will be no re-seeding in this new format, which is why the 6th seeded Blue Jays wouldn’t have to play the 1st seeded Yankees just yet. These match-ups would be in the typical five-game format for an ALDS/NLDS, and each team would get a chance to host at least one game.
I have to admit, I’m glad that MLB has done away with a one-game Wild Card chaos. As exciting as those games were, it always felt wrong to me for a team to play 162 regular season games, make the playoffs, and then get knocked out after one loss. To each their own, but I much prefer things this way.
At the end of the 2021 season the Blue Jays found themselves in a similar position, and had the format started a year earlier they would have snuck into the playoffs as the sixth seed, just as they are now. At 14.5 games behind the Yankees, it’s possible that the division may be out of reach, but it still wouldn’t hurt to move up from their current spot as the last qualifying team, especially with so many challengers close behind.
With 69 games remaining in the regular season, here’s hoping we see the best of the Blue Jays, especially as they ramp up for the stretch run and into what could be an exciting playoff opportunity. This team hasn’t reached their potential just yet, and as long as they can hang around in the postseason picture, hopefully they’ll peak at just the right time.