Now that September baseball is upon us, and the playoff race is coming to a head, the Yankees are in a good position to be playing in October. As of September 9th, they trail the AL best Houston Astros by five games. Catching up is entirely possible, but should that even be the Yankees goal? Sure, the AL team with the best record guarantees them home field education at least until the World Series, but perhaps the quality of competition will be lower.
To start, let’s review the new MLB playoff format since it changed with the new CBA. In 2022, 12 teams will make the postseason, six from each league. The top three division winners, and then the top three Wild Card teams from each league will make it. In the Wild Card series, which is now a best of three series rather than a one-game elimination, the division winner with the lowest record will face off against the wild card team with the lowest record. The winner of that series will face off against the two-seed in that league. The best wild card team and they second best wild card team will face off to earn a chance to play against the one-seed. From that point, it’s the playoff format we’re used to with the Division Series games followed by the Championship Series, then the World Series.
Right now, in the American League, the seeding would look like this:
1- Houston Astros
2- New York Yankees
3- Cleveland Guardians
4- Tampa Bay Rays
5- Seattle Mariners
6- Toronto Blue Jays
With that, if the season ended today, the Blue Jays would be taking on the Guardians to see who would be playing the Yankees in the ALDS. When compared to the other Wild Card series, playing the winner of that series looks a lot more manageable than playing the winner of Tampa Bay-Seattle, two of the hottest teams in baseball at the moment. Of course, the goal of each regular season should always be to finish with the best record possible, but the Yankees may have a better time finishing with the second seed.
Cleveland is winning the Central thanks to the lack of good competition in that division. The White Sox have been a major disappointment this season, although injuries played a significant part in that. Even so, they are only two games back of the Guardians. As are the Twins who had been playing some solid ball up until very recently. They’re not doing themselves any favors in the playoff hunt, as they’re on the verge of getting swept by the Yankees in a four-game set. Any of those teams would be better to face than the Rays or the Mariners, who have been allergic to losing for the better part of a month now. Toronto has also been impressive during that time, although again, with their inconsistency, I’m sure the Yankees would prefer to play against them over Tampa and Seattle as well.
Of course, all this depends on whether or not the Yankees can keep their lead over the Rays, who have been red hot recently. Combine that with the Yankees inconsistency since the All-Star Break, and the Bombers have their work cut out for them down the stretch, as they look to preserve their five-game lead over Tampa Bay, including a huge weekend series in the Bronx against said them.