If the playoffs started today, these would be the matchups

August 4th, 2023

As it does every year, the Trade Deadline has provided some clarity when it comes to the postseason picture. This season’s Deadline helped separate the 30 teams into those who aim to contend in 2023 and those who hope for better luck next year.

An eventful Deadline saw teams like the Angels, Padres and D-backs announce their intentions to make a playoff push, while the Mets and Cardinals decided to retool for 2024 amid disappointing seasons.

With under two months remaining in the regular season, things are shaping up for an entertaining playoff race. It’s time to see which teams are on pace to make the playoffs and have a shot at bringing home a World Series trophy.

Here’s a look at what the postseason would look like if it opened today.

All stats are through Thursday’s games.


Byes: Orioles (1) and Rangers (2)

Wild Card Series matchups

Blue Jays (6) at Twins (3)

Astros (5) at Rays (4)

Just missed: Red Sox (2 games out of WC), Yankees (2.5 games out of WC), Guardians (2.5 games out of AL Central)

A lot has changed since our previous update after the All-Star break, with the Orioles overtaking the Rays for the American League’s best record -- no easy feat after Tampa Bay’s 13-0 start to the season. But the O’s (67-42) have played stellar baseball all year, holding a two-game lead over their division foes as of Thursday. With the Rays currently in a Wild Card spot, that gives the Rangers, who currently lead the AL West by 1 1/2 games, the other first-round bye for now. Texas is tied with the Braves for the best run differential in baseball thanks to a .272 team batting average (first in MLB) and an .802 OPS (second). The Rangers bolstered their rotation at the Deadline by acquiring Max Scherzer from the Mets, while Baltimore traded for pitcher Jack Flaherty.

As for the Wild Card picture, the Twins are in line to return to the postseason for the first time since 2020, when they lost to the Astros in the Wild Card Series. Minnesota is just two games over .500 after Thursday’s win with Cleveland close behind, meaning the AL Central winner is likely to have a worse record than all three Wild Card teams. With a historically strong AL East featuring all five teams over .500, the defending World Series champion Astros will have to settle for a Wild Card berth if they can’t overtake the Rangers. Houston made a big splash at the Deadline by acquiring Justin Verlander from the Mets, while Tampa Bay traded for Guardians starter Aaron Civale.

Division Series matchups

Blue Jays (6) or Twins (3) at Rangers (2)

Astros (5) or Rays (4) at Orioles (1)

As was the case in our last update, no current AL division leader has a cushion of more than 2 1/2 games, which could make for considerable movement during the stretch run. For now, though, the AL’s top seeds should bring some new blood. The Orioles are on pace to win their division for the first time since 2014, while the Rangers should finish with a winning record for the first time since 2016. The Astros have, of course, won two World Series titles since 2017; none of the other five teams has won it all since Joe Carter’s walk-off homer for the Blue Jays in 1993.


Byes: Braves (1) and Dodgers (2)

Wild Card Series matchups

Reds (6) at Brewers (3)

Phillies (5) at Giants (4)

Just missed: Marlins (0.5 games out of WC), D-backs (1.5 games out of WC), Cubs (2 games out of WC, 2.5 games out of NL Central)

Thanks to a historically good offense, the Braves have been baseball’s best team by winning percentage in 2023. Through Thursday’s games, Atlanta enjoyed a comfortable 11.5-game edge over the second-place Phillies, by far the biggest division lead in the Majors. Despite questions about their quiet offseason and injuries in their starting rotation, the Dodgers are still on pace to get a bye into the Division Series, leading the Giants in the NL West. Los Angeles added Lance Lynn, Joe Kelly, Amed Rosario, Kiké Hernández and Ryan Yarbrough in Deadline deals, while the Braves added infielder Nicky Lopez and relievers Brad Hand and Pierce Johnson.

While the NL’s two byes appear destined for the winners of the East and West divisions, the Central remains quite competitive. The Reds led the division until Thursday's Brewers win and Cincy's loss to the Cubs, who have won 11 of their past 13 games to rocket up the Wild Card standings. The Giants and Phillies have played good baseball lately to hold the top two Wild Card spots, but it’s anybody’s race. Besides the Reds, the Marlins lurk half a game back with the D-backs, Cubs and Padres all within five games of a playoff spot. All those teams made Deadline moves and appear to be going for it, making for a busy playoff picture and engaging Wild Card race.

Division Series matchups

Reds (6) or Brewers (3) at Dodgers (2)

Phillies (5) or Giants (4) at Braves (1)

While a potential Dodgers-Giants matchup wouldn’t happen until the NLCS, there’s still an opportunity for a rivalry playoff series here. The Phillies beat the Braves in four games in the 2022 NLDS, eventually advancing to the World Series. It seems safe to say Atlanta would like revenge on its NL East rival. The other NLDS would likely pit the NL West winner against either the Central champ or the No. 6 seed -- and the Padres reached the NLCS from the third Wild Card position just last year, beating the 111-win Dodgers in the Division Series to do so.

Who’s out from last year?

Cardinals, Guardians, Mariners, Mets, Padres, Yankees

By trading Flaherty to the Orioles, Jordan Montgomery to the Rangers and Paul DeJong and Jordan Hicks to the Blue Jays, the Cardinals gave up hope on a return to the postseason. The Mets have done the same, dealing Verlander, Scherzer and other key pieces. The Mariners and Yankees are still battling for an AL Wild Card spot with the Padres slightly further out in the NL race, while the Guardians are within reach of the AL Central crown. But as of now, only six of last season’s 12 postseason teams are poised to return in 2023.

Who’s new this year?

Brewers, Giants, Orioles, Rangers, Reds, Twins

The Brewers are currently poised to make their fifth playoff appearance in six seasons. The Giants stand a good chance of returning to the playoffs after following a 107-win 2021 season with an 81-81 campaign in 2022, while the Reds last made the postseason in 2020. The Twins were AL Central champs in 2020; the Orioles and Rangers -- the AL’s top two seeds -- each last made the playoffs in 2016.