Friday, October 7 is the start of the MLB Playoff season, and for some of us that means its time to get smart enough about baseball and who’s playing to keep up with the conversation at the office, the gym, the bar or the kitchen table. Between now and November 5, you may be called upon on to share which team you’re rooting for. So it might be good to invest a little time in knowing who’s actually in this thing. Thankfully, the Minneapolis field office of our Sports Desk is ready with answers. And explanations in plain English! Here’s everything you need to know to get excited about the 2022 MLB Playoffs including new format, the teams, the top storylines, and individual players to watch.
everything you need to know about the MLB Playoffs 2022
Welcome to our annual Major League Baseball playoff preview! We are a father and son duo who love baseball and are looking forward to this year’s postseason. We will explain the new playoff format, preview the 12 playoff teams, discuss the top playoff storylines, and identify the individual players who deserve your special attention between now and November 5, the date on which the seventh game of the World Series is scheduled.
What is the path to the World Series in the 2022 MLB Playoffs?
As part of the new 2022 Collective Bargaining Agreement, Major League Baseball (MLB) agreed to change its playoff structure by adding one playoff team in each league and expanding the existing Wild Card Game to a best of three Wild Card Series. The three division winners in each league are now joined by three “wild card” teams. Wild card teams are the league’s teams who finished with the three best records among the teams who did not win their divisions.
The two teams in each league who posted their league’s best and second-best regular season records will receive a “bye” that enables them to bypass the Wild Card Series. The other four teams in each league will be ranked according to their regular season records and play each other in the four Wild Card Series.
The Wild Card series has a unique feature now: the team with the better record will host all three games. The Wild Card Series winners in each league will play against one of the two teams who received a bye in the Wild Card series in a best of five League Division Series (LDS.) The LDS winners in each league play each other in a best of seven League Championship Series (LCS.) The LCS winners play each other in the best of seven World Series.
Who is playing in the MLB post-season this year?
Here are the twelve playoff teams, what got them here, and their paths forward.
national league teams in 2022 MLB Playoffs
NL #1: Los Angeles Dodgers (National League West Division Champion)
The Dodgers enter the playoffs as the favorites to win the World Series. They broke their franchise wins record, again, in the 2022 regular season, finishing with an MLB best 111 wins. Their lineup is full of elite players – led by outfielder Mookie Betts and infielders Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner – who hit for average and power. It is paired with a well-balanced pitching staff comprised of both young studs and seasoned veterans. If we must name a weakness, it is the bullpen. But even that may be a reach.
NL #2: St. Louis Cardinals (National League Central Division Champion)
Any analysis of the Cardinals must start with their two infielders who are contenders for the 2022 National League Most Valuable Player Award: third baseman Nolan Arenado and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. All these two have done is play stellar defense and mash (hit pitches hard and often) for a full season.
Infielder Tommy Edman is not as well-known as his two teammates but has a chance for a coming out party in the playoffs. He is a switch hitter and a strong fielder who can play multiple positions well. Two veteran left handers – Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery – led the Cardinals’ starting rotation in the second half of the regular season. The Cardinals’ bullpen is centered around Ryan Helsley, one of baseball’s hardest throwers. Helsley consistently throws pitches at over 100 mph, resulting in eye popping velocity numbers for fans. The Cardinals have a lot of good pieces. Do they have a full puzzle?
NL #3: Atlanta Braves (National League East Division Champion)
The Braves won the 2021 World Series and have a stronger roster now than when they won it all last year. Star outfielder Ronald Acuña is healthy and recovered from the knee injury that caused him to miss last year’s playoffs. Star infielder Ozzie Albies may return for the playoffs after being on the Injured List for the second half of the regular season because of a broken finger.
Braves Nation is really excited, however, about two first-year players who were still playing minor league baseball last year this time. Outfielder Michael Harris II and pitcher Spencer Strider will likely finish first and second in the voting for the 2022 National League Rookie of the Year Award. It is no coincidence the Braves’ regular season fortunes turned around after they promoted these two players from their minor league affiliates. Strong left-handed relief pitchers are valuable assets in the playoffs, and the Braves’ bullpen has two of them.
The Braves led the Dodgers three games to one in the 2020 National League Championship Series (NLCS) before the Dodgers rallied to win the series in seven games. In the 2021 NLCS, the Braves defeated the heavily favored Dodgers. We would not be surprised to see them in this year’s NLCS for the third year in a row.
NL #4: New York Mets (First National League Wild Card Team)
This team is the best it has been in a long while. With a pitching rotation anchored by Jacob deGrom, baseball’s best pitcher, and Max Scherzer, a veteran, future Hall of Famer with plenty of fuel left in his tank, the Mets’ pitching staff is arguably the MLB’s best.
While their lineup does not hit as many home runs as the Braves’ lineup, it has enough star power to make noise in October. Infielders Jeff McNeil (the 2022 National League Batting Champion,) Francisco Lindor, and Pete Alonso lead the Mets’ lineup. Relief pitcher Edwin Diaz has an electric fastball and a “wipeout” (pitch that batters often swing at and miss for strike three) slider combo that have enabled him to post the MLB’s highest strikeout rate during the regular season.
Because of his popular “walk-out music” (the song played over the stadium public address system when a relief pitcher enters the game from the bullpen), Citi Field will be rocking to the tune of trumpets in the playoffs.
NL #5: San Diego Padres (Second National League Wild Card Team)
The Padres biggest storyline revolved around their young, star shortstop who missed the entire season. Fernando Tatis Jr.’s wrist injury and suspension for using a Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) set the Padres back.
Their roster changes at August’s trade deadline and great seasons from infielders Manny Machado and Jake Cronenworth, however, propelled them to the postseason. Their starting pitching is deep but lacks someone in the elite tier. Their bullpen is their biggest question mark.
NL #6: Philadelphia Phillies (Third National League Wild Card Team)
The Phillies played well while their best player, outfielder Bryce Harper, missed two months in the middle of the season. First year players stepped up, and catcher J.T. Realmuto returned to peak form.
The first two pitchers in the Phillies’ starting rotation, Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola, are impressive. Their lineup is full of big-name veterans, complemented by rising stars. Even more so than the Dodgers and Padres, the Phillies’ bullpen will cause the team’s fans to hold their breath in the late innings of close games.
American League teams in 2022 MLB Playoffs
AL #1: Houston Astros (American League West Division Champion)
Yep, that’s right. The 2021 American League Champions. The villains, the cheating scandal, all the storylines from the Astros’ 2017 World Series Championship. The Astros bring a hotel bell captain’s cart full of baggage with them as they enter their sixth consecutive postseason.
Allow us to take you directly to the bottom line. This team is very good and enters the postseason as the favorite to win the American League Championship. Outfielder Kyle Tucker, designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, and infielder Jeremy Pena are talented, young position players who joined the established stars from the 2017 World Series team during the last five years.
The Astros’ pitching staff, led by Justin Verlander, is as deep as any team’s and they have playoff experience. If your favorite team is not in the playoffs, the Astros are likely not your first choice. Dusty Baker, the Astros’ beloved manager, is still searching for his first World Series Championship. His quest is something everyone can support.
AL #2: Cleveland Guardians (American League Central Champion)
The Guardians, who were the Indians until the end of the 2021 season, are the youngest team in baseball and the youngest team in the postseason. The team has an incredible pitching staff that was outstanding in the last month of the season. Infielder Jose Ramirez is one of the MLB’s best players. His power/ speed combination makes him one of the most fun players to watch. Cleveland’s recipe for success has been run prevention, and that will continue in the playoffs.
On a team full of good young players, outfielder Steven Kwan merits notice because he rarely strikes out. This makes him an intriguing player in today’s “all or nothing” offensive game. The Guardians are a hot team coming into October, and their pitching can keep them in striking distance against anyone.
AL #3: New York Yankees (American League East Champion)
Outfielder Aaron Judge has been the heart of this team all year long. He broke the American League single season home run record by hitting 62 home runs during the regular season. Do not leave the room or go to the concession stand when he is batting.
The rest of the Yankees are good, too. The lineup mashes and the pitching staff is headlined by household names Gerrit Cole and Aroldis Chapman, along with successful newcomers Nestor Cortes and Clay Holmes. This is the best Yankees team we have seen in a while. Is this their year?
AL #4: Toronto Blue Jays (First American League Wild Card Team)
This is as scary of a lineup for an opposing pitcher as there is in all of baseball. The Blue Jays can hit “one through nine” (first batter in the lineup through to the last), and the middle of their batting order can do real damage.
Infielder Bo Bichette is coming off a historic offensive month in September, and infielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is one of the game’s best pure hitters. The Blue Jays’ pitching staff is the reason why they are a wild card team and not a division champion, but their guys are still good.
Catcher Alejandro Kirk is someone you may not know, but who is an interesting player to watch. He is one of MLB’s best hitting catchers and makes the Blue Jays’ lineup more threatening by adding production from a fielding position that is usually underwhelming offensively.
AL #5: Seattle Mariners (Second American League Wild Card Team)
The Mariners got here with a strong starting rotation led by offseason free agent signee Robbie Ray and trade deadline acquisition Luis Castillo. Their lineup is anchored by infielder Ty France and outfielder Julio Rodriguez, the frontrunner for the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year Award.
The Mariners are incredibly easy to root for if you aren’t already one of their fans. Their starting rotation is good, their bullpen is great, and their fielding is stellar. Their playoff success will be determined by whether they can hit well enough, especially at the bottom of their lineup. We are certainly pulling for them!
AL #6: Tampa Bay Rays (Third American League Wild Card Team)
The Rays have become known for having a low payroll but getting the most out of their players. They develop their young players with impressive consistency and end up in the postseason almost every year at a fraction of the financial salary cost that other teams pay.
Once again, pitching is the backbone of this year’s Rays team. Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen led their starting rotation all year, and the Rays once again found ways to get the most out of their bullpen arms. Starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow, who missed almost the entire regular season while recovering from arm surgery, is electric.
He throws a 100-mph fastball and knee- buckling curveball that make the Rays a must-watch when he is pitching.
The Top 4 Storylines to Follow
There are teams and players who bring fascinating stories into the postseason with them. Here are four that we think are worth following.
Storyline #1: The Cardinals Farewell Tour
Albert Pujols, one of the best hitters of all time, and Yadier Molina, one of the best catchers of all time, are finishing their careers in St. Louis, the same place where they started. Pujols, Molina, and long-time star teammate Adam Wainwright are iconic players on a team that honors its great players more than any other except for the Yankees.
The 2022 playoffs are their last ride together. It will be emotional for them and Cardinals fans, regardless of how it ends. You can count on plenty of commentary about this from the TV broadcasters but try to recognize them for the great players they are and enjoy their last moments together while you can. Baseball is a better game with them in it.
Storyline #2: Jacob deGrom in the Postseason
There are a lot of reasons the Mets have not been to the postseason since 2016, but none of them can be pinned on Jacob deGrom. This guy has been the best pitcher in baseball for years, and we get to see him pitch on the biggest stage while he is in his prime.
Storyline #3: The Droughts are Over!
The Mariners and Phillies ended the longest playoff droughts in the American and National leagues, respectively when they earned their playoff berths. For the Mariners, the drought lasted 21 years, which means that one of us (Michael) was a one-year-old on the date of the last Mariners’ playoff game. On a smaller scale, the Yankees last won the World Series in 2009, when one of us (Michael) was a fourth grader.
The twelve-year World Series championship drought probably feels as long to Yankees fans, who are accustomed to and expect regular success, as the 21-year playoff drought feels to the humble Mariners fans. It will be interesting to see how these teams, and their fan bases, handle their opportunities to experience success after many seasons of disappointment.
Storyline #4: Remember These Names
Every World Series champion needs a hero. In 2022, it could easily be an already popular and established player like Aaron Judge, Dodgers’ first baseman Freddie Freeman, Francisco Lindor, or Mookie Betts.
It could, however, be like years past when the Cardinals’ David Freese (2011), the Cubs’ Ben Zobrist (2016), the Nationals’ Howie Kendrick (2019), and the Braves’ Jorge Soler (2021) came through in big spots.
In addition to the players identified in our teams preview, keep your eye on these players, who are not as well-known because of their youth, their team’s market size, or their lack of career accolades, but who could become stars in the 2022 playoffs:
- Evan Phillips (RHP – Dodgers)
- Tommy Edman (2B/SS – Cardinals)
- Joe Musgrove (RHP – Padres)
- Kyle Schwarber (OF – Phillies)
- Triston McKenzie (RHP – Guardians)
- Logan Gilbert (RHP-Mariners)
- Wander Franco (SS – Rays)
2022 MLB World Series Predictions
We end with our World Series predictions:
- Michael: St. Louis Cardinals over Houston Astros
- Vince: Los Angeles Dodgers over Houston Astros
everything you need to know about the MLB playoffs 2022
Neither one of our two favorite teams earned 2022 playoff berths. Because our fandom stretches across all of MLB, we are excited about the 2022 MLB playoffs anyway! We hope you enjoy the games with family and friends.
About the Authors
Michael Thomas is a data analyst, a 2022 NCAA Division III Baseball Academic All-American and graduate of The College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, and the nephew of Dandelion Chandelier founder Pamela Thomas-Graham. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His favorite Major League Baseball team
is the Minnesota Twins.
Vincent Thomas is a community college academic dean, a former practicing attorney, and the brother of Dandelion Chandelier founder Pamela Thomas-Graham. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His favorite Major League Baseball team is the Detroit Tigers.