Baseball Wild Card Rules

By Eric Powell

In 1995, Major League Baseball introduced the Wild Card into their playoff vernacular by allowing non-division champions into postseason play. Throughout baseball's history, two teams from each league (American and National) would make the playoffs, play in a seven-game series with the winner moving onto the World Series. Once the Wild Card was introduced, a total of four teams (three division winners and one Wild Card winner) from each league made the playoffs, creating more competition during the regular season and different stories in the postseason.

Division Race

Each MLB league (American and National) has three divisions (West, Central and East). Each of these divisions has four, five or six teams. Throughout the course of a 162-game season, teams in each division play all other teams in their own league and some from the other league, with a majority of their games against teams in their own divisions. The team with the best overall record in each division makes the playoffs as a division champion. Wild Card teams cannot be division champions.

Determining the Wild Card

Once a second place division team is out of the hunt for their respective division championship, their record is compared to each other second place team in their league. The team with the best overall record wins the wild card. If two teams have identical records, they play in a one-game playoff to determine the wild card champion. If three or more teams have identical records, then tie-breaking rules determine which of the tied teams would face off to determine who earned the wild card berth.

The Wild Card Round

Once all four teams from each league have reached the playoffs, they face off in the Wild Card round of the MLB playoffs. Four different two-team "best of five" series begin, with the first two games of each being played at the higher seeded team's stadium. Wild Card teams are automatically the lower seed in their series, even if they have a higher record than the division winner they are facing. The next two games are then played at the lower-seeded team's stadium with fifth (if necessary) games played back at the higher-seeded team's stadium.


About the Author

Eric Powell is a counselor on Hawaii. He graduated from Oregon State University in 2004 and Georgia Southern University in 2006. During his time at OSU, Powell worked as a sportswriter and covered many OSU sports. At Georgia Southern, Powell wrote for "The George-Anne" as sportswriter and columnist.

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