The 2023 Postseason Schedule Is Out

Houston Astros
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

A quick hitter here: today, MLB released the schedule for the 2023 playoffs. It’s not exactly compelling reading; for the most part, teams play a series of games against each other, mostly every day except for travel, just like you expect. But the new 12-team playoff format is still fresh, so let’s run down the relevant structure of the rounds just as a reminder.

Wild Card Round
This one is the same as before and will likely remain this way for as long as this playoff format exists. The worst division winner and the three wild card teams in each league play (up to) three straight games, at the better seed’s stadium, on three straight days, October 3–5. That means that a lot of teams will be burning their best three starters in this round, but there’s nothing new here, so let’s move on.

Divisional Series
Last year, the two leagues had different schedules, despite the same wild card schedule, to avoid days with no baseball whatsoever. That same general structure is preserved this year. The AL starts with two games on October 7 and 8, then a travel day, then games on the 10th and 11th, another travel day, and a potential Game 5 on the 13th. The NL is staggered differently: they start with a game on the 7th followed by a day off, then have a game on the 9th followed by a travel day, two straight games on the 11th and 12th, and finally a travel day before a potential Game 5.

This is a change from last year, as both leagues have more off-days baked into the schedule. In 2022, teams more or less had to use five starters if they went the distance in the wild card round. The 2022 NL schedule had only one off-day total across the round, and while the AL schedule had two off-days, it closed with three games in three days across two cities. With more time thanks to the lack of a lockout-impacted schedule, the rest days have multiplied. An NL team could use its three best starters in the wild card round, a fourth starter in Game 1, and then its three best starters again in Games 2–4. Amazingly, its ace could come back for Game 5 on regular rest; he’d be pitching on October 3, 9, and 14, hardly a strenuous schedule.

That won’t work quite as well in the AL, but it won’t be much worse. An ace could pitch on October 3, 8, and 13, with four days of rest between each start. Relative to last year, this year places less premium on depth and more on top-end starting pitching. Fifth starters, I’m sorry: your services likely won’t be required.

Championship Series
The ALCS schedule is almost exactly what baseball fans are used to: two games, a travel day, three games, another travel day, and then the last two games. The NL schedule is the same, other than the fact that it starts a day later. That double-travel-day setup means teams will never play more than three games in a row, which means a four-man rotation and shortened bullpen should work just fine. This was not the case last year, when both league schedules provided for five straight games with no travel day, again because of the compressed timeline. The takeaway here is the same: rotation depth is less important than it was in the 2022 postseason.

World Series
No change to the standard World Series format, which mirrors this year’s championship series format: two games, a travel day, three games, another travel day, and then the last two games. It’s the same schedule we’re all used to, with all the same implications for rest.

The broad takeaway: the schedule is returning to the rhythm of the playoffs from before last year (weirdo 2020 season excluded, naturally). Players will be more rested, which I’m sure they’re in favor of. Games are still staggered to minimize days without baseball. That’s about it; may the best team win.

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