How to determine playoff tiebreakers

July 25th, 2022

With the 2022 expansion of the postseason field from 10 teams to 12 teams, tiebreaker games will no longer be used to resolve ties in the standings at the conclusion of the regular season. That means no more “Game 163.”  

Instead, ties will be broken by math, with specific outcomes from the regular season determining final standing or seeding. This change was made so that the postseason can begin promptly after the conclusion of the regular season and that division winners with a bye during the Wild Card Series round will not be forced to sit idle longer than is fair or necessary. 

As a reminder, the new playoff format is as follows.

  • Six teams per league qualify: Three division winners and three Wild Cards
  • The top two division winners in each league get a bye to the Division Series.
  • The third division winner and third Wild Card (seeds 3 and 6) face off in the Wild Card round (best-of-three). Higher seed hosts all three games. Winner advances to face the No. 2 seed in Division Series.
  • The second and third Wild Cards (seeds 4 and 5) also play in Wild Card round (best-of-three). Higher seed hosts all three games. Winner advances to face the No. 1 seed in Division Series.
  • Division Series is best-of-five as it has always been; League Championship and World Series remain best-of-seven, with team with better regular-season record having home-field advantage.

Be it a tie atop the division, a tie for the final Wild Card spot, a tie between two division winners (with postseason seeding at stake) or any other tie that would affect the postseason field, tiebreakers will be determined in this order.

1. Head-to-Head Record
The first and simplest tiebreaker is the result of the season series between the tied teams. If Team X and Team Y tie for the top spot in the division and Team X went 10-8 against Team Y, then Team X is the division champion. If Teams X, Y and Z all finish tied at the top, then the team with the best combined winning percentage against the two other clubs would be the division champ.

2. Intradivision Record
If the head-to-head record is also a tie, then the involved clubs’ records within their division will break the tie. This applies even if the tie is for a Wild Card spot between two teams that do not reside in the same division. The team with the superior intradivision record would win the tiebreaker.

3. Interdivision Record
In the event of a head-to-head and intradivision record tie for the involved teams, then the tie would be settled based on how they fared against teams within their league but outside of their division. So for an AL East team, it would be the record against teams from the AL Central and AL West.

4. Last Half of Intraleague Games
Should the interdivision record also be a tie, the next tiebreaker will be determined by the involved clubs’ last-half records against teams within their league (AL for AL teams, NL for NL teams). Note that these are the records from the last half of games mathematically, not just the games after the All-Star break (which typically comes after the mathematical midpoint).

5. Last Half of Intraleague Games Plus One
Should the records of the involved clubs in the second half of intraleague games also be a tie, then the outcome of the last game of the first half of intraleague games is used. Should that also be a tie, then the previous intraleague game on the schedule is used. This process is repeated until the tie is resolved.