How do the Major League Baseball playoffs work? What happens if two teams tie for a divisional title? Find out the answers to these questions and more in our comprehensive guide.
The Major League Baseball playoffs are a tournament held after the end of the regular season to determine the champion of the American League (AL) and the National League (NL), as well as the champions of each league’s respective division. The playoffs began in 1969.
How the MLB Playoffs Work
The Major League Baseball playoffs are a tournament held after the conclusion of the regular season to determine the pennant winner of each league. The American League (AL) and National League (NL) champions are determined by a best-of-seven playoff series.
The Wild Card Game
The first round of the playoffs is a best-of-five series called the Division Series (DS), in which the division winner with the best record in each league plays the wild-card team with the worst record. The four remaining teams in each league play each other in two best-of-five series called the League Championship Series (LCS). The winners of each LCS advance to the World Series, which is a best-of-seven championship series between the champions of each league.
The Division Series
In each League, the division winner with the best record plays the division winner with the worst record, and the other two division winners play each other. These four teams are matched in a best-of-five series, with the first two and last two (if necessary) games played at the home ballpark of the higher seeded team. The middle three games of each Division Series are played at a ballpark of one of the two remaining teams, selected before the postseason starts.
The Division Series began in 1981 as best-of-seven contests. That format was used through 1985 and then was changed to best-of-five. In 1995, home field advantage in all rounds went to the team that had earned it by having had the better regular season record; prior to that year, it alternated between divisions from round to round.
The League Championship Series
The League Championship Series (LCS) is a best-of-seven playoff and one of two final postseason competitions leading to the World Series, the other being the American League Division Series (ALDS). It is played by the winners of the National League Division Series (NLDS) and the American League Championship Series (ALCS).
TheLCS winner receives the Commissioner’s Trophy and represents their respective league in the World Series. In Major League Baseball,the LCS is animated on television by TBS. Game 1 is played on a Friday, followed by Game 2 Saturday, Game 3 on Sunday, and Games 4–7 on Tuesday–Thursday or Wednesday–Friday.
The World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB). The objective of the World Series is to produce a champion that wins the best-of-seven games between the two remaining teams of the playoff tournament. Currently, the American League (AL) champions play against the National League (NL) champions to determine which team will receive the Commissioner’s Trophy.
The winner of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) earns a berth in the World Series to play against the winner of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), with home-field advantage alternating between the leagues. As of 2019, there are 14 members of MLB: nine in the NL and five in AL. At present, eleven cities have teams in MLB: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, New York City (the Bronx), Oakland–Oakland Coliseum Area), Philadelphia , Pittsburgh , Saint Louis , San Diego , San Francisco–Oakland Bay Area , Seattle , Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater and Washington D.C.–Baltimore metropolitan area .
An odd number of teams results in one team being idle on any given day. To avoid this situation happening during critical postseason games (such as Game 7s), two 15-team leagues were created following Major League Baseball’s expansion in 1961. In each league, three divisional winners and a Wild Card team make up the eight playoff teams.
The Major League Baseball playoffs are a tournament held after the conclusion of the MLB regular season. The playoffs began in 1969, and since then, have undergone numerous changes. The playoff format currently in use features four rounds of best-of-seven series. The four teams that win their respective divisional series advance to the championship series, which is also a best-of-seven series. The winner of the championship series advances to the World Series to face off against the champion from the other league.
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