The match for the 2022 World Series is set.
And that’s not exactly what anyone expected when the playoffs started.
The Houston Astros will represent the American League for the fourth time in six seasons after summarily outplaying the New York Yankees in four games. Of the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies reached the Fall Classic for the first time since 2009 after defeating the San Diego Padres.
Following a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners this past offseason, the playoffs have worked quite differently from previous years.
Instead of two Wild Card teams in each league playing against each other in a single game before entering the Division Series, three Wild Card teams were granted entry into the best of three Wild Card Series.
It went very differently in each championship.
The AL Championship Series featured teams with the two best records, both with 99 or more wins.
In the NL, however, it was two teams that earned entry as the last two Wild Cards. The two failed to win their division or reach the 90 win mark.
Advancing the sixth-seeded Phillies through three rounds of the playoffs offers hope to some franchises that may struggle to assemble a lasting powerhouse and/or who may already have such a formidable team in their division. .
With more opportunities to reach the playoffs with three Wild Cards in each league, MLB hopes more teams will take the bait to push for discord, especially as rewards for tanking have been diminished. with new rules surrounding the amateur draft.
At the start of the 2022 season, 29 teams had reached the playoffs via Wild Card. It’s perhaps fitting that the only team not to benefit from the one or two Wild Card system did so the first year the third Wild Card was instituted: the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Colorado Rockies won the first-ever Wild Card in the 1995 season. Since then, they’ve made the playoffs a total of five times in 30 seasons, all via Wild Card.
Under the current format, the Rockies would have actually hosted a three-game Wild Card streak in 1995, 2007 and 2009 as the club finished top of the Wild Cards.
2017 and 2018 wouldn’t have needed to win a single game – which they respectively lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks and won to the Chicago Cubs – but rather two games in three days.
Naturally, a question comes to the fore regarding the new playoff format: how many more times would having a third Wild Card have put the Rockies in October with a chance of making a Phillies-style run?
Colorado has notoriously never won a single NL West title. In their entire existence, they have finished around 18.5 games behind the top-ranked club in the division. (The 2022 Rockies finished 43.0 games behind the Dodgers at 111 wins for the furthest end from the top.)
In 19 of their 30 seasons, Colorado has finished either last in the division or second to last.
Taking a moment to consider the rest of the senior circuit, the Rockies didn’t fare much better, ranking 10th in a league with 14–16 clubs. (There were 14 teams in the NL from 1993 to 1997, 16 teams from 1998 to 2012 and 15 from 2013 to present.)
Perhaps even more disappointing to learn that Colorado finished about 8.5 games behind last-place Wild Card, on average.
Excluding their five playoff appearances and the one they could have won in 1996, the Rockies finished within 5.0 games of Wild Card third place in five different years and within 10.0 games at seven times.
These aren’t numbers to inspire confidence that the new playoff format will allow for an infusion of purple if history continues to repeat itself for Denver’s only baseball franchise.