Chaos in the Playoffs: Is the MLB Playoff Format Messed Up?

(top) Rhys Hoskins celebrating a home run against the Atlanta Braves in the 2022 NLDS
(bottom) The Texas Rangers celebrating after scoring a run in the 2023 ALDS
(top) Rhys Hoskins celebrating a home run against the Atlanta Braves in the 2022 NLDS (bottom) The Texas Rangers celebrating after scoring a run in the 2023 ALDS
Sophia Walker

In 2022, with the new collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players Association, baseball introduced a new playoff format that gave the top two teams in each league a bye into the divisional round. Since then, only three teams with those byes have advanced to the next round- and it has been the same team two of the three times.

At the beginning of the 2022 Playoffs, the four teams that received byes were the New York Yankees and Houston Astros in the American League, and the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League. The Yankees and Astros both beat their opponents (the Cleveland Guardians and Seattle Mariners) that came through the wild card round, however the Dodgers and Braves were beaten rather badly by the San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies.

(top) Gabriel Moreno hitting a home run off Lance Lynn in the 2023 NLDS
(bottom) Ronald Acuna Jr. returning to the dugout after striking out in the 2023 NLDS (Sophia Walker)

Continuing into the 2023 season, the Dodgers and Braves had the byes in the first round in the NL, and once again were beaten, with the Dodgers losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Braves losing to the Phillies for the second straight year. Furthermore, the 1-seeded Baltimore Orioles were swept by the Texas Rangers. The only team with a bye that made it past the first round was again the Houston Astros, who won the World Series in 2022.

The issue that could be causing problems in the playoffs is the fact that, aside from the All Star break in July, MLB players play games almost every single day. A break as long as the teams that have byes get can make it harder on players to stay ready and locked in. The more often that hitters see live pitching, the more likely they will be prepared for games in the future.

With nearly a week off, teams have had to get creative with how to stay ready. The Braves had simulated games this year, although it still didn’t help them as they lost in the exact same fashion they did before. The Dodgers’ and Orioles’ efforts in doing the same were also futile.

Some players and managers were asked their opinions on the format, and to mixed results. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that the playoff format isn’t an excuse for his team, stating, “There’s some things with the format that people can dissect or whatever, but the bottom line is that the last two years we’ve got outplayed in the postseason.”

However, many people believe that the layoff of five days, which is even longer than the All-Star break, can very much hurt teams. While no team will complain about resting their ace to pitch in game one of the division series, the issue comes with the hitters.

In game one of the National League Division Series (NLDS) between the 1-seeded Braves and 4-seeded Phillies, the Braves hitting core was held silent as they were shut out at home for the first time all year. Game two continued this trend, with Atlanta being no-hit for six innings by the Phillies’ Zack Wheeler. The Braves came back and won that game, however in games three and four in Philadelphia, they only scored a combined three runs over 18 innings en route to another NLDS loss.

The Orioles also had offensive struggles in games one and three of the American League Division Series (ALDS) against the eventual World Series Champion Rangers. They scored 8 runs in game two, however it still wasn’t enough as they gave up 11, and were swept out of the ALDS.

The Dodgers also continued the trend of offensive struggles in their NLDS matchup against the Diamondbacks. The Dodgers were only able to scratch across two runs in each of their three games en route to getting swept by an opponent that they traditionally beat badly in the regular season, going 8-5 against them in the regular season this year.

While teams say that they cannot use the break as an excuse, it certainly can create issues for hitters. There is a strategy called “icing the kicker” in football, where the defending team will call a timeout right before their opposition attempts a field goal, in an attempt to throw off the kicker, who was preparing for the kick for the entire drive.

The MLB playoffs may accidentally ice the best teams in the league and give lower-seeded teams an unfair advantage at winning because the best teams’ hitters are being iced.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has stated that there will not be immediate changes to the format, and that it needs time to play out.


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About the Contributors
Brayden Brewer
Brayden Brewer, Staff Writer
Brayden Brewer is a staff writer for the Grizzly Gazette on the Sports News Team and the captain of the baseball team here at Golden Valley. He is a senior who has played baseball all four years of high school and has a deep interest and understanding in the world of sports. Aside from sports, he loves country music and lifting weights. His favorite artist is Zach Bryan.  Brayden wants to go into sports journalism in college and continue with it as a career. He wants to cover all of the sports that he can at Golden Valley, and continues to regularly attend GV sports events. Brayden’s favorite teams are the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Kings, and his favorite baseball  players are Aaron Judge, Gerrit Cole, and Anthony Volpe. His favorite hockey player is Adrian Kempe because he is the best scorer the Kings have had since the greatest hockey player of all time, Wayne Gretzky. He also loves watching Penn State football on Saturdays and is excited for the Drew Allar era.
Sophia Walker
Sophia Walker, Staff Writer
Sophia Walker is a Staff Writer  for the Sports New Team on the Grizzly Gazette and she is in her last year of highschool. She's very passionate about writing about campus activities, student spotlight stories and community issues because she wants to be involved with everything that is happening and to be able to share what needs to be shared which is very important to her. Being a part of the Grizzly Gazette to her is extremely important because there is so much that is going on and all people need to be educated with everything in the world and our community which is very diverse and different. She loves journaling, writing their thoughts and making poems with what happens to make her feel better and researching common things going on to learn more. She also loves helping people and leading them in any way she can, she strives to help and understand anyone. She has had many hobbies including hockey, dance, tennis, volleyball, and acting. Eventually I would love to be a therapist or counselor for families, relationships, and or with any people in need of help or support.