Major League Baseball wild card

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In Major League Baseball (MLB), a wild card refers to two teams in each of the two leagues (American and National) that qualify for the postseason despite failing to win their division. The wild card is the team that has the best winning percentage in their league, excluding the three division winners.

One wild card (1994–2011)[edit]

From 1969 through 1993, division leaders in each league advanced to the League Championship Series, with the winners of each LCS meeting in the World Series. However, with an expanding number of teams over the years, making the playoffs became increasingly difficult. The new system was instituted in 1994 (but first used in 1995 because a players strike canceled the 1994 playoffs) when Major League Baseball expanded from two to three divisions per league. In the new three-division leagues, each league had four teams in the playoffs. In addition to the three division winners, a wild card team made the playoffs as the fourth seed. This was the team with the most wins amongst non-division winners. The wild card matchup was played in the first round between the League leader in wins and the wild card team.

Historic anomalies[edit]

A "wild card" rule was used in the 1981 season after a players' strike wiped out the "middle third" of the season. The owners decided that the winners (in each division) of either "half" of the abbreviated season would make playoffs, with the caveat that if the same team won both halves then the team from the division with the second-best record from the second half would enter the playoffs as a wild card. However, the wild card rule was not actually used since all four divisions had different first-half and second-half winners. As a result of the hastily contrived format, the Cincinnati Reds finished the regular season with the best record in all of baseball (66-42 .611) but failed to qualify for the playoffs because they finished 1/2 game behind the Dodgers in the first half and 1.5 games behind the Astros in the second half. The Astros finished 8 games back in the first half and the Dodgers 6 back in the second.

Two wild cards (2012–present)[edit]

On November 17, 2011, MLB announced that it would be adding two wild-card teams to the postseason.[1] The two wild-card teams in each league face each other in a one-game playoff. The winner of this game advances to meet the top seed in the Division Series. The revised playoff system began with the 2012 season.[2]

Wild-card winners by year and by most wild-card titles[edit]

For each league's list of wild-card winners by year and teams with most wild-card titles, see:

Combined wild-card game, division-series, LCS, and World Series record as wild-card winners[edit]

Wild-card team Series record* Playoffs
Florida/Miami Marlins 6–0 Won 1997 World Series and 2003 World Series
Anaheim Angels/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3–0 Won 2002 World Series
Boston Red Sox 6–6 Won 2004 World Series[3]
St. Louis Cardinals 4–2 Won 2011 World Series[4]
New York Mets 3–2 Lost 2000 World Series to New York (AL), 4–1[5]
San Francisco Giants 2–1 Lost 2002 World Series to Anaheim, 4–3
Houston Astros 3–2 Lost 2005 World Series to Chicago (AL), 4–0[6]
Detroit Tigers 2–1 Lost 2006 World Series to St. Louis Cardinals, 4–1
Baltimore Orioles 2–2 Lost 1996 American League Championship Series to New York (AL), 4–1.[7]
Colorado Rockies 2–3 Lost 2007 World Series to Boston Red Sox, 4–0[8]
Seattle Mariners 1–1 Lost 2000 American League Championship Series to New York (AL), 4–2.
New York Yankees 1–4 Lost 2010 American League Championship Series[9]
Los Angeles Dodgers 0–2 Lost 2006 National League Division Series[10]
Atlanta Braves 0–2 Lost 2010 National League Division Series[11]
Chicago Cubs 0–1 Lost 1998 National League Division Series
Oakland Athletics 0–1 Lost 2001 American League Division Series
Milwaukee Brewers 0–1 Lost 2008 National League Division Series
Tampa Bay Rays 0–1 Lost 2011 American League Division Series
Texas Rangers 0–1 Lost 2012 American League wild-card game


(*) – Counts one-game wild-card playoff in the statistics.

Facts[edit]

  • The following teams have won the World Series as a wild-card team: Marlins (1997 and 2003), Angels (2002), Red Sox (2004), and Cardinals (2011), meaning that three consecutive titles were won by a wild card (2002–2004).
  • A wild-card team appeared in the World Series each year from 2002–2007.
  • The Angels beat the Giants in the 2002 World Series, the only time when both teams were wild cards.
  • The Baltimore Orioles, in 1996, were the first wild-card team to win a Division Series.
  • The Florida Marlins, in 1997, were the first wild-card team to reach the World Series, the first to win a World Series (1997), and, by winning in 2003, the first to win the World Series twice as a wild card. Also, the Marlins are the only team to win a World Series without winning a division title.
  • The Red Sox have been a wild-card team seven times, with the Yankees appearing four times, and the Rockies three times.
  • The following teams have won the wild card in consecutive years: Red Sox (1998–1999, 2003–2005, 2008–2009), Astros (2004, 2005), Mets (1999, 2000), and Cardinals (2011, 2012).

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]