2023 MLB playoff format explained: how many teams, wild cards, games...
The Major League Baseball playoffs begin on 3 October, with the Houston Astros looking to become the first team in over 20 years to defend the Commissioner’s Trophy.
The 2023 MLB playoffs kick off this week with four Wild Card ties, as eight teams battle it out to make it through the postseason’s initial stage.
From there, MLB’s title contenders must negotiate two more playoff rounds if they’re to reach North American baseball’s championship decider - the World Series - in late October. At that point, the two franchises still standing in the postseason will go head to head to lift the Commissioner’s Trophy as 2023 champions.
Who won the World Series last year?
The Houston Astros are the reigning kings of MLB, having beaten the Philadelphia Phillies to win the World Series a year ago and secure the second title in their history. The Astros are back in the postseason in 2023 - and will bid to become the first team to retain the MLB championship since the New York Yankees’ ‘three-peat’ between 1998 and 2000.
How many teams are in the 2023 MLB playoffs?
This is the second season since the playoffs were expanded from 10 teams to 12. Six franchises each from MLB’s two leagues - the American League and the National League - have progressed from the regular season to the postseason, in which AL and NL teams are kept apart until the World Series.
Which teams have qualified for the 2023 MLB playoffs?
At the end of the regular season, the winners of the MLB’s six divisions - AL East, AL Central, AL West, NL East, NL Central and NL West - all qualify for the playoffs. So, too, do the three teams in each league with the next-best win-loss record. Heading into the playoffs, the six AL teams and six NL teams are all given a 1-6 seeding determined by the strength of their regular-season record.
The top two AL and NL seeds all get a bye through the Wild Card Series.
Which teams are in the Wild Card Series?
The Wild Card round, which in 2022 was expanded to include eight rather than four teams, features seed Nos. 3 to 6 in each league. Where the Wild Card stage was previously just a single knockout game, it’s now a best-of-three series which, this year, gets underway on Tuesday 3 October. Seed No. 3 faces No. 6, and seed No. 4 plays No. 5. In each tie, the higher seed gets home-field advantage throughout.
What are the Wild Card Series matchups?
Up next: the Division Series
Once the Wild Card Series is done and dusted, eight teams remain in the MLB playoffs: the four regular-season division winners, and the four victorious teams from the playoffs’ first round. In each Division Series matchup, a division winner is paired with a Wild Card tie winner.
Again, the higher seed gets home-field advantage, but in the best-of-five Division Series, that doesn’t mean they potentially get five games at their stadium; instead, they’re the home team for Games 1 and 2, and for Game 5 if it’s needed.
What are the Division Series matchups?
In the Division Series, which is due to begin on Saturday 7 October, the two top seeds in the AL and NL face the winners of the Wild Card clashes between seeds No. 4 and No. 5. The second seed takes on the winner of No. 3 vs No. 6.
Championship Series decides AL and NL pennants
The winners of the four Division Series matchups then progress to the Championship Series, where the American League and National League champions are decided in two best-of-seven matchups. Here, home-field advantage for the higher seed translates into home matches in Games 1 and 2, and Games 6 and 7 if they’re needed. The 2023 Championship Series is set to get going on Sunday 15 October.
And finally… the World Series!
Once the AL and NL pennants have been handed out, it’s time for the top dogs in the Championship Series to duke it out for the MLB title in the World Series, which is also best-of-seven. Home-field advantage goes to the team with the better win-loss record in the regular season and, as in the previous round, applies to Games 1, 2, 6 and 7.
This year’s World Series is scheduled to begin on 27 October, with Game 7 (if needed) scheduled for 4 November.