How Do Baseball Playoffs Work: A Casual Guide to the Postseason

Baseball playoffs can be pretty exciting but also a bit confusing.

With 12 teams vying for the title, the structure is set up to keep fans on the edge of their seats. It all starts with the Wild Card Series, where the lowest-seeded division champion and three Wild Card teams compete in a best-of-three series.

This kicks off the intense competition and sets the stage for the rest of the playoffs.

Players compete in a series of elimination games.</p><p>Winning teams advance through rounds until two remain for the championship

After the Wild Card Series, the winners move on to the Division Series.

These matchups are also thrilling, featuring the top-seeded teams that earned a bye in the first round.

The Division Series is a best-of-five battle, and the winners from these games advance to the next stage.

With each team fighting fiercely, every game counts in this elimination format.

The postseason culminates in the League Championship Series and then the highly anticipated World Series.

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Regular Season and Seeding

A baseball field with teams competing in regular season games, followed by a seeding process to determine playoff matchups

The MLB regular season sees each team playing 162 games.

The outcome of these games determines not just who makes it to the playoffs, but how teams are seeded.

How Teams are Seeded

Teams in Major League Baseball are seeded based on their regular season records.

The best teams get higher seeds.

The top seed goes to the team with the best record in their league.

Other top seeds go to the winners of the other two divisions in each league.

Division Winners and Wild Card Teams

The playoffs include six teams from each league: three division winners and three Wild Card teams.

The division winners automatically get the top three seeds.

Wild Card teams are next.

They are the three teams with the best records that did not win their division.

Tiebreakers and Head-to-Head Records

When two teams finish the season with the same record, tiebreakers come into play.

The first tiebreaker is usually the head-to-head record between the teams.

If the teams have the same head-to-head record, other factors like division and league records are used to break the tie.

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Postseason Format Overview

A baseball diamond with teams competing in playoff games, fans cheering in the stands, and a playoff bracket displayed on a scoreboard

The MLB postseason consists of several rounds: the Wild Card Round, Division Series, League Championship Series, and the World Series.

Each of these rounds has its own unique format and rules, offering fans an exciting journey to the championship.

Wild Card Round

The Wild Card Round is the first stage of the MLB postseason. Twelve teams qualify: three division winners and three Wild Card teams from each league.

  • The third-best division winner in each league plays against the lowest-seeded Wild Card team in a best-of-three series.
  • The other two Wild Card teams compete in another best-of-three series.

The winners of these matchups advance to the next stage.

Division Series

Following the Wild Card Round is the Division Series.

This round is a best-of-five series, pitting the winners of the Wild Card games against the top two seeded division winners.

  • The No. 1 seed in each league gets a bye through the Wild Card Round and faces the lowest-seeded team advancing from the Wild Card games.
  • The No. 2 seed plays the remaining Wild Card winner.

The first team to win three games advances.

League Championship Series

The League Championship Series (LCS) determines the champions of the American League (AL) and National League (NL).

The LCS is a best-of-seven series.

  • Teams with better regular-season records get home-field advantage.
  • The winners of the respective Division Series in the AL and NL face off for the pennant.

The first team to win four games moves on to the final round.

World Series Explained

The World Series is the ultimate goal for every MLB team.

It’s a best-of-seven series between the champions of the AL and NL.

  • Home-field advantage alternates each year between leagues.
  • The team that wins four out of seven games is crowned the World Champion.

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Determining Home-Field Advantage

A baseball stadium filled with cheering fans as two teams compete for home-field advantage in the playoffs

Home-field advantage in baseball playoffs is critical and is decided based on several factors, including regular season records and league champions.

Regular Season Records and League Champions

Home-field advantage mainly depends on a team’s regular season record.

The team with a higher regular season win record usually gets to play more games at home, especially in crucial series like the Division and Championship Series.

For example, if Team A finishes with 100 wins and Team B with 95, Team A gets home-field advantage.

The league champions, who win their divisions, also play a role in this.

Division winners with the best league records often get priority for home-field advantage.

This means they get to play more games in their home park, giving them a potential leg up in high-stakes playoff games.

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