With Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, players and owners settled on a new and expanded postseason structure that grew the field of 10 teams to 12 with the addition of an extra entrant in each league.
The old wild card play-in game has been replaced by a best-of-three Wild Card Series, which functions as the first round of play, with the top two teams in each league earning a first-round bye. The higher seed in each first-round series will host all the series’ games, be it two or the maximum three games.
With today’s game results, we finally have a lock on the Wild Card playoff picture, including some compelling matchups in this first-ever playoff format.
- Los Angeles Dodgers: NL West, No. 1 seed in NL, Bye, MLB Best Record
- Houston Astros: AL West, No. 1 seed in AL, Bye
- Atlanta Braves: NL East, No. 2 seed in NL, Bye
- New York Yankees: AL East, No. 2 seed in AL, Bye
- Cleveland Guardians: AL Central, No. 3 seed in AL
- St. Louis Cardinals: NL Central, No. 3 seed in NL
- Toronto Blue Jays: Wild Card, No. 4 seed in AL
- New York Mets: Wild Card, No. 4 seed in NL
- Seattle Mariners: Wild Card, No. 5 seed in AL
- San Diego Padres: Wild Card, No. 5 seed in NL
- Tampa Rays: Wild Card, No. 6 seed in AL
- Philidelphia Phillies: Wild Card, No. 6 seed in NL
Wild Card Odds
For the first time in history, bookmakers are handicapping baseball playoff series that will be played entirely at the home park of the higher seed. And as expected, the four home teams check in as series favorites.
According to the oddsmakers at Yukon Gold Casino, the New York Mets are the biggest favorite at -195 over the San Diego Padres +175, followed by the Toronto Blue Jays at -175 over the Seattle Mariners +155. The National League Central Division champ St. Louis Cardinals are a slight favorite at -125 over the Philadelphia Phillies at +105. At the same time, the Cleveland Guardians, the American League Central Division winners, are a near pick at -120 against the Tamps Rays at even odds.
San Diego Padres +175 over New York Mets
The New York Mets won 101 games and still lost National League East in the final two weeks of the season, going 5-5 in their last ten games, including losing three straight against the Atlanta Braves, the team that eventually won the division.
The San Diego Padres will face Mets aces Max Scherzer and Jason deGrom in the series’ first two games, which seems like a recipe for two losses until you factor in the +175 series odds. Not only are the odds attractive, but the Padres will roll out Yu Darvish, who just won the September Pitcher of the Month Award, going 5-1 in six starts, with a 1.85 ERA and 44 strikeouts against eight walks in 39 innings.
Darvish up against either Scherzer or deGrom seems like a coin toss, and a Padres split against the two would set up an anything-can-happen series-deciding game #3.
St. Louis -125 over Philadephia
As a slight favorite over the Philadelphia Phillies, the St. Louis Cardinals appear to be a value bet in the National League wild-card round.
The Cardinals played well down the stretch, pulling away from the Milwaukee Brewers to win the National League Central. Their regular season record of 93-68 puts them significantly ahead of the Phillies at 87-74, and unlike Philadelphia, they’ve had time to set their pitching rotation.
The Cardinals / Phillies series will open with an afternoon game on Friday and evening games on Saturday and Sunday (if necessary). All games will be in St. Louis, where the Cardinals were 53-28. The Phillies went 40-41 on the road this season.