- How the Playoff System Works
- How Many Teams Make the Playoffs
- Why the Number of Teams in the Playoffs Has Increased
How many teams make the playoffs in Major League Baseball has been a hotly contested topic for years. Some say that the current system is fair, while others believe that it gives an unfair advantage to certain teams.
How the Playoff System Works
In Major League Baseball, the playoff system is set up so that the team with the best record in each league advance to the World Series. There are a total of 30 teams in Major League Baseball, and each team plays a 162-game season. The playoffs begin in October, and the World Series is played in November.
The Wild Card
In baseball, thewild card teams are the two teams in each league that have the best records but did not win their division. The other two playoff spots in each league are reserved for the division winners. In order to make the playoffs, a team must first win their division, or be one of the wild card teams.
The Divisional Series is a best-of-five series between the two wild-card teams and the team with the best record in each league. The winners of each Divisional Series then advance to play each other in the League Championship Series (ALCS and NLCS).
The American League and National League champions then face each other in the World Series, which is a best-of-seven series.
In order to ensure that there are always four playoff teams from each league, even if one or more divisional races are not close (that is, no team is within five games of first place), MLB has used a “wild card” system since 1994.
The Divisional Series
The Divisional Series is the first round of the playoffs. The team with the best record in each division plays the team with the worst record in the other division in their league. The two remaining teams in each league play each other. The winners of each series advance to the League Championship Series.
The League Championship Series
The League Championship Series (LCS) is a best-of-seven playoff pitting the two winners of the American League and National League Division Series. The winner of the LCS advances to the World Series.
The current LCS format began in 2014. Prior to that, from 1969 through 2013, the LCS was a best-of-five series. From 1985 through 2013, there was also a second-tier playoff series called the League Division Series (LDS).
In 2014, Major League Baseball expanded its playoffs to include a total of 10 teams: the six teams with the best records in each league and two wild card teams in each league. The two wild card teams in each league play each other in a one-game playoff, with the winner advancing to the LDS.
The current LDS format is a best-of-five series. The LDS winner in each league faces the team with the best record in that league in the LCS.
The World Series
The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB). As the name suggests, it is a best-of-seven playoff between the champions of MLB’s two leagues—the American League (AL) and the National League (NL)—to determine which team is the best in baseball. It is considered by many to be the highlight of the baseball season.
The first modern World Series was played in 1903. The winners of that year’s AL and NL pennants met in a best-of-nine series, with Boston defeating Pittsburgh five games to three. Since then, the World Series has been played every year except 1904 (when no champion was crowned) and 1994 (when a players’ strike prevented its conclusion). From 1903 to 2019, there have been 114 editions of the World Series.
How Many Teams Make the Playoffs
So, how many teams make the playoffs in Major League Baseball? Well, that answer has changed a few times over the years. As of 2019, 10 teams make the playoffs in MLB- 8 from the National League and 8 from the American League.
In the Wild Card Era (since 1994)
From 1994 to 2011, four teams from each league qualified for the playoffs. These four teams included the three division winners, plus a Wild Card team. The Wild Card team was the one non-division winner with the best regular season record. In 2012, this playoff system expanded to include two Wild Card teams from each league. This means that now six teams from each league qualify for the playoffs (the four division winners, plus two Wild Card teams).
In the Divisional Era (since 1969)
The Divisional Era of Major League Baseball (1969–1993) was when MLB was split into two divisions within each of the two leagues. The American League was split into the East Division and the West Division, while the National League had the East Division and the West Division. The first round of the playoffs, which was instituted in 1995, is called the Wild Card Game. The Wild Card Game is a one-game playoff between the two Wild Card teams in each league. The winner of that game moves on to play thedivision winner with the best record in a best-of-five series.
In the League Championship Era (since 1903)
Since 1903, when the modern World Series was first played, there have been between four and eight teams competing in the playoffs each year. In the current format, introduced in 2012, there are two rounds of best-of-seven playoff series before the World Series. In each league, the team with the best record after the 162-game regular season earns home-field advantage for all playoff games.
The number of teams in the playoffs has varied over time. Between 1903 and 1968, there were between four and eight teams in the playoffs each year. In 1969, Major League Baseball (MLB) expanded to twelve teams, which meant that eight teams would make the playoffs. This system remained in place until 1993, when MLB again expanded, this time to fourteen teams. As a result of this expansion, ten teams now made the playoffs each year. In 2012, MLB further expanded to thirty teams, which necessitated a change to the playoff format. Under the current format, introduced that year, there are two rounds of best-of-seven playoff series before the World Series. In each league, the team with the best record after the 162-game regular season earns home-field advantage for all playoff games.
The number of teams in the playoffs has varied over time and will likely continue to do so as MLB expands in the future. The current format is well suited to MLB’s current thirty-team landscape but may need to be tweaked as more teams are added.
Why the Number of Teams in the Playoffs Has Increased
In 2012, Major League Baseball expanded the number of teams that make the playoffs from eight to ten. The reasoning behind the expansion was to increase the chances of more teams being in contention for the postseason, and to create more “engaging baseball experiences.” The expansion has been a success, with more teams being in the playoff race and more team-specific merchandise being sold.
The Addition of the Wild Card in 1994
The most significant change to the playoff format came in 1994, when baseball expanded from two divisions per league to three. As part of the realignment, baseball added a Wild Card spot to each league. The Wild Card team is the second-place team in each league who had the best record among all of the second-place teams.
The addition of the Wild Card has resulted in an increase in the number of teams making the playoffs. In 1993, only four teams (two from each league) made the playoffs. In 1994, with the addition of the Wild Card spot, six teams made the playoffs (three from each league). Since 1994, a total of ten teams (five from each league) have made the playoffs each year.
The Addition of the Divisional Series in 1969
In 1969, four teams were added to the Major League Baseball playoffs. This was done by adding a second tier of playoffs, called the Divisional Series. The Divisional Series is a best-of-five series that matched up the winners of the four divisional championships. The four teams that won their respective divisional championships would then move on to the League Championship Series.
The Addition of the League Championship Series in 1903
The first World Series was held in 1903, but it was a very different tournament than the one we know today. There were only eight teams in Major League Baseball at the time, so all eight qualified for the postseason. The World Series itself was a best-of-nine affair, and it wasn’t held every year—the 1904 World Series was canceled because the New York Giants refused to participate.
The tournament expanded in size several times over the next few decades. In 1919, the number of teams increased to 12, and the tournament expanded again in 1926 when the League Championship Series was introduced. The LCS pit the winners of the American League and National League against each other, with the winner advancing to the World Series.
The current playoff format was introduced in 1969, when both leagues were split into two divisions each. The four divisional winners qualified for the postseason, with the two divisional winners with the best records receiving a bye to the LCS.