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Fans' guide to Minor League playoff procedures

Return of half-seasons to lower levels puts more clinchings in play
June 10, 2022

Believe it or not, it’s already “magic number season” for much of the Minor Leagues. That’s right, there will be playoff berths clinched in June once again thanks to playoff procedures at Double-A, High-A and Single-A that are similar to those pre-pandemic. The Minor Leagues' highest level was in the

Believe it or not, it’s already “magic number season” for much of the Minor Leagues.

That’s right, there will be playoff berths clinched in June once again thanks to playoff procedures at Double-A, High-A and Single-A that are similar to those pre-pandemic.

The Minor Leagues' highest level was in the news earlier this month when it was announced that Las Vegas Ballpark would host the inaugural Triple-A Triple Championship Weekend, consisting of three winner-take-all games. But since the details are a little more complicated at the lower levels, below is a guide for fans on why some clubs are already getting the champagne on ice to celebrate their postseason-clinching moment.

The most significant change from last season -- when the top two teams in the final regular season standings competed in a single playoff to determine the league champion -- will be that the number of postseason participants from Single-A to Double-A will expand from two teams to four (with one exception). These four-team playoffs will consist of two best-of-3 division series followed by a best-of-3 championship series.

The exception? The six-team High-A Northwest League will continue to include two teams in its playoff and play a single, best-of-5 championship series similar to last year. But, like the other circuits, the determination of those teams will revert to a pre-pandemic format.

Each league at those three levels will have a division winner of the first half, which winds down in the coming weeks. All three Double-A leagues, which have a scheduled 138-game season, will end their first half with the 69th contest on June 26. The other two levels, which play 132 games in a full season, have June 23 as a target for their 66th and final game of the first half.

Of course, all this is complicated by potential rainouts or postponements, but this is where the first-half end date becomes more important than the number of games played. All scheduled games must be made up before those dates in order to count toward a first-half record.

With the exception of the Northwest League, each circuit at these levels has two divisions, and the team with the best winning percentage in each division will receive a postseason berth, regardless of the number of games played. In the NWL, there will be only one team with the best winning percentage that can book their spot in the championship series.

As an example, Dayton and Cedar Rapids are currently atop the standings in their respective divisions in the High-A Midwest League. If they still have the top winning percentage in their divisions on June 23, they will each have a spot in the Midwest League playoffs.

In terms of specific scenarios heading into the weekend, Aberdeen currently has the lowest magic number in the Minors at 5, meaning the IronBirds could clinch a High-A South Atlantic League playoff berth as early as Sunday. Over in the Single-A Florida State League, St. Lucie has a magic number of 6, and they're currently in a series with second-place Jupiter. (Fort Myers is the only other team with a magic number in the single digits at 7).

Of course, any math gets further complicated in the event of a tie. But what baseball fan doesn’t love an arithmetic-based tiebreaker?

If two teams finish with the same winning percentage, then the winner will be determined by the head-to-head records between those two teams. If that number is also identical, then the team with the best winning percentage in the final 20 games of the half – which is a period that began at the end of last week – will be named the winner. In the event that neither of the first two scenarios broke the tie, then an additional game will be added to the final 20 – like the final 21 or 22 – until a team finally emerges with the better winning percentage.

Besides a postseason berth, winning the first-half also brings a club home-field advantage in the division series because that winner will host Game 2 and 3, if necessary. The championship series is a little more luck of the draw. In even years, like 2022, the winners of the division series from the North, East and Northeast divisions will host Game 2 and a potential Game 3. In 2023 and other odd number years, the South, West and Southwest division winners will have the advantage.

Again using our friends in the Midwest League as an example, Dayton would host Games 2 and 3 if it were to face Cedar Rapids in a championship series this year.

Alright, we’re finally rounding third on all this.

The same procedures will be in effect to determine the other two teams -- or team in the case of the Northwest League -- to participate in the individual playoff series. Essentially, as of June 27 at Double-A and June 24 at High-A and Single-A, all teams reset to a 0-0 record. The second-half winners will be determined by the winning percentage over the remaining games on the last date of the regular season. At Double-A, the season ends on Sept. 18, while the High-A and Single-A seasons end Sept. 11.

It’s absolutely possible that the first-half winner would finish with the best second-half record as well. In that event, the team with the second-best full-season record in the division would get the remaining spots in the playoff. The winners of the division series face each other in the league championships.

This format does well to keep clubs and fans involved during years where they might otherwise have been eliminated much sooner in the season. Teams could benefit from the promotion of an exciting prospect in the second half or find a way to get hot at the right time regardless of any early-season struggles.

It’s baseball – anything could happen. And the return of the half-season format opens endless possibilities for more even fun in the Minor Leagues.

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for