How Many Games in the MLB Season Affect the Postseason Picture?
The Major League Baseball (MLB) season is a marathon that lasts for 162 games. Every game counts, but how many of those games actually affect the postseason picture? This is a question that many baseball fans and experts have been debating for years. In this article, we will explore this topic and try to come up with an answer.
Before we dive into the numbers, let’s first take a look at the MLB postseason format. The postseason consists of ten teams: the six division winners and four wildcard teams. The two wildcard teams from each league play a one-game playoff to determine which team will advance to the Division Series. The Division Series is a best-of-five series, and the winners of those series move on to the League Championship Series, which is a best-of-seven series. The two League Champions then face off in the World Series, which is also a best-of-seven series.
With this format in mind, let’s now look at how many games in the regular season affect the postseason picture. The short answer is, every game matters. However, some games matter more than others.
The most important games are obviously the ones between division rivals. Teams play 19 games against each of their division opponents, for a total of 76 games. These games have the biggest impact on the postseason picture because division titles are guaranteed playoff spots. Winning the division also means that a team will have home-field advantage in the Division Series, which can be a huge advantage in a short series.
The next most important games are the ones against teams in the same league. This is because the wildcard teams come from the same league as the division winners. Therefore, a team’s record against the other teams in their league is a good indicator of their chances of making the playoffs as a wildcard team. Teams play 66 games against teams in their league.
The least important games are the ones against teams from the opposite league. These games don’t have much of an impact on the postseason picture because the two leagues don’t play each other until the World Series. Teams play 20 interleague games each season.
So, how many of these games actually affect the postseason picture? Let’s look at some numbers.
In the 2019 MLB season, the Washington Nationals won the National League East with a record of 93-69. They finished eight games ahead of the second-place Atlanta Braves. If we assume that the Braves won all eight of those games, the Nationals would have finished with a record of 85-77. This would have put them in third place in the division, behind the Braves and the New York Mets. In this scenario, the Nationals would not have made the playoffs.
Now let’s look at the wildcard picture. In the 2019 season, the two National League wildcard teams were the Milwaukee Brewers and the eventual World Series champion Nationals. The Brewers finished with a record of 89-73, while the Nationals finished with a record of 93-69. If we assume that the Brewers won all four of their games against the Nationals, they would have finished with a record of 93-69, the same as the Nationals. However, the Brewers would have won the tiebreaker because they had a better record against teams in their own league. In this scenario, the Nationals would not have made the playoffs as a wildcard team.
These examples illustrate just how important every game is in the MLB season. A win here or a loss there can mean the difference between making the playoffs and watching them from home.
Of course, these are just hypothetical scenarios. It’s impossible to know exactly how each game will play out, and there are many other factors that come into play, such as injuries, trades, and managerial decisions. But the point remains that every game matters.
So, how many games in the MLB season affect the postseason picture? The answer is, all of them. But as we’ve seen, some games matter more than others. Division games and games against teams in the same league are the most important, while interleague games are the least important. But in the end, it’s the cumulative effect of all 162 games that determines which teams make the playoffs and which ones don’t. It’s a long and grueling season, but that’s what makes the MLB postseason so exciting. Every team has a chance to make a run, but it all starts with those 162 games.