Major League Baseball wild card

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In Major League Baseball (MLB), the wild card teams are the two teams in each of the two leagues (American and National) that have qualified for the postseason despite failing to win their division. Both teams in each league possess the two best winning percentages in their respective league, excluding the three division winners.

One wild card per league (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, unless both teams were in the same division, which resulted in the wild card facing the second best division winner in the league.

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 per league (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 post season 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
Kansas City Royals 3–0 TBD (advanced to 2014 World Series)
Boston Red Sox 6–6 Won 2004 World Series[3]
St. Louis Cardinals 5–2 Won 2011 World Series[4]
San Francisco Giants 5–1 TBD (advanced to 2014 World Series)
Lost 2002 World Series to Anaheim, 4–3
New York Mets 3–2 Lost 2000 World Series to New York (AL), 4–1[5]
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, 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, 4–0[8]
Seattle Mariners 1–1 Lost 2000 American League Championship Series to New York (AL), 4–2
Pittsburgh Pirates 1–2 Lost 2013 National League Division Series to St. Louis, 3–2[9]
Tampa Bay Rays 1–2 Lost 2013 American League Division Series to Boston, 3–1[10]
New York Yankees 1–4 Lost 2010 American League Championship Series to Texas, 4–2[11]
Atlanta Braves 0–2 Lost 2010 National League Division Series to San Francisco, 3–1[12]
Los Angeles Dodgers 0–2 Lost 2006 National League Division Series to New York (NL), 3–0[13]
Oakland Athletics 0–2 Lost 2001 American League Division Series to New York (AL), 3–2[14]
Chicago Cubs 0–1 Lost 1998 National League Division Series to Atlanta, 3–0
Cincinnati Reds 0–1 Lost 2013 National League Wild Card Game to Pittsburgh
Cleveland Indians 0–1 Lost 2013 American League Wild Card Game to Tampa Bay
Milwaukee Brewers 0–1 Lost 2008 National League Division Series to Philadelphia, 3–1
Texas Rangers 0–1 Lost 2012 American League Wild Card Game to Baltimore


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

Notable wild card team achievements[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.
  • So far, the 2002 World Series and the 2014 World Series are the only times 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 qualified as a wild card in consecutive years: Red Sox (1998–1999, 2003–2005, 2008–2009), Astros (2004, 2005), Mets (1999, 2000), Cardinals (2011, 2012), and Pirates (2013, 2014).

See also[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]