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What Are Baseball Playoffs?

Dan Cavallari
By
Updated Mar 06, 2024
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Like any other professional sport, the baseball season culminates with the best teams in the league advancing to the post-season. The baseball playoffs typically begin in mid to late September and last all through October, sometimes into early November. The top teams from each division, plus one wild card from the American league and one from the National league, advance to the baseball playoffs. Each team vies to reach the World Series, in which one American league team and one National league team compete for the title of world champion.

The playoffs happen in three rounds. Since there are three divisions in the American League and three in the National League, there are three division champions at the end of the year in each league. This necessitated the creation of the wild card team – a team that did not win any division but had the best record among all teams who did not make the playoffs. In each league, the four playoff teams are then paired up to play a best-of-five series: the wild card team plays the division champion with the best record, and the remaining two teams form the other pair. The winner of each division series goes on to play in the championship series.

The playoffs continue with the league championship series, which is a best-of-seven series between the two winners in each league of the division series. This is the second step toward advancing to the World Series. The winner of the league championship series is deemed league champion and advances to the World Series to face the champion of the other league. During the World Series portion of the playoffs, the champion of the American league and the champion of the National league square off in a best-of-seven series to determine the world champion.

In each series within the baseball playoffs, home team advantage is determined by record. For example, in the division series, games one and two are played at the home of the team with the better record. The third and, if necessary, fourth game are played at the home of the team with a poorer record. The fifth game, if necessary, goes back to the home of the team with the better record. In the World Series portion of the baseball playoffs, the games are similarly staggered between the two teams among the seven games.

Sports&Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari , Former Writer
Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.

Discussion Comments

By cardsfan27 — On Jan 12, 2012

@jcraig - I know exactly what you mean and I am wondering what players who played in the days where only two teams made the playoffs would think with the continual chances players are given to win nowadays.

The expansion of the playoffs has prolonged the season to the point that it is ending in November when people have stopped caring about baseball and are more focused on the beginning of the NBA season and the middle of the season for football right as playoff scenarios are developing there.

I feel like baseball now is not concerned so much with giving more teams a chance in the playoffs as they are more concerned with generating extra revenue for playoff games with tickets selling for hundreds of dollars with upwards of fifty thousand people in the stands.

As a baseball fan I really wish that they would simply keep with the 3 round format but expand the first round to seven games.

Even the best team can lose in five games and seven makes it more of an accomplishment. I would also make the playoffs end before places like the Northeast start to get heavy snow. One of these days it will snow and the will have to delay the playoffs and there will be a huge mess on baseball's hands.

By jcraig — On Jan 11, 2012

@jmc88 - I agree with you and there are several pitchers out there that agree that it is stupid to waste players for only one more game. This idea is all Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's doing and he is seen as a villain by many purists to the game of baseball.

The expansion of the divisional round of the playoffs meant that it does not really matter to win one's division, which was seen in the past as a phenomenally impressive thing, but one just has to get into the playoffs and get hot in order to be crowned champion of baseball.

After all in order to win the World Series one has to beat all teams they play and a champion of a division does not necessarily win every time.

People are split on this issue and feel it is either a good or bad thing. What I am afraid of is the baseball playoffs will someday expand into something like 16 teams and become so diluted teams with losing records would get into the playoffs like the NBA or the NHL.

By jmc88 — On Jan 11, 2012

@Izzy78 - I have to be totally honest I am not a purest by any means but I think that the new expansion of the playoffs completely diludes the playoffs even further and makes going to the playoffs even less significant.

The article does not mention this, but in the new collective labor agreement for 2012 they have decided that the playoffs will be expanded to 10 teams with the two wild card winner of each league having a play in game to decide who goes on to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

I think that this is a very dumb thing to do because a team gets to claim it went to the playoffs and play only one extra game to get in. I feel like this was done only for the extra revenue of ticket sales and television ratings for the game and that it takes away from the beauty of the game and what it means to be a team good enough to make the playoffs.

By Izzy78 — On Jan 10, 2012

The Major League baseball playoffs have undergone a radical change over the years. Years and years ago prior to 1969 the playoffs only consisted of the winners of the National and American Leagues and that left the rest of baseball in the dust.

Usually only a few teams would play well enough to even have a chance to make it to the playoffs and most teams were perennially picked not to go to the World Series.

However, in 1969 they changed the format entirely and made it so that the winners of the two divisions of each league would meet each other in a short playoff to decide who was the better team to go to the World Series.

This was a good change because it gave more teams chances to make the playoffs while still not watering down the importance of making the playoffs.

In 1995 the playoffs changed to including three division winners and 1 wild card winner in each league allowing for a three round system to be put into place. Purists hate this system and will hate in more in a couple years when it expands to 10 teams with a play in game.

Dan Cavallari

Dan Cavallari

Former Writer

Dan Cavallari, a talented writer, editor, and project manager, crafts high-quality, engaging, and informative content for various outlets and brands. With a degree in English and certifications in project management, he brings his passion for storytelling and project management expertise to his work, launching and growing successful media projects. His ability to understand and communicate complex topics effectively makes him a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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