How Baseball Works

A guide to Major League Baseball

brought to you by Ab Initio Games


The Basics
Hitting/Getting on Base
Scoring and Base- Running
Batting Lineup
Fielding and Positions
Rotation and the Bullpen
Pitches and Pitching
Regular Season
World Series and Playoffs
Umpires and Scorers
The Field of Play
All-Star Game
Common Terms
Useful Links
Index Page
Gameplan Baseball

The World Series (and the Playoffs)

The Playoffs

At the end of the regular season the three divisional winners (ranked 1, 2 and 3 according to their win-loss records) and two wild-card teams (ranked 4 and 5) from each league (the American League and the National League) go forward into the playoffs. 

The two wild-card teams play each other in a one game "winner takes all" match, with the survivor joining the three divisional winners in the "Divisional Series" (effectively the quarter finals, as there are two pairs of teams in each league). The four teams in each league play two series of knockout baseball to determine the who "wins the pennant" (by tradition, the league winners are awarded a pennant to fly over their stadium). The two league winners then meet in the "World Series" (believed to be so called, because the first sponsor was the "Daily World" newspaper).

The first round of the playoffs (known as the "Divisional Series") are played over the best-of-five games (the first two at one venue, then two at the other, then a fifth at the first venue if required), with the higher ranked team having "home field advantage" (i.e. three home games and two on the road). The second round of the playoffs (known as the "Championship Series") are played over the best-of-seven games, with home field advantage meaning four home games (two games at one venue, three at the other, then two more at the first venue).

In the first round, the no.1 ranked team plays the no.4 ranked team (and no.2 plays no.3), unless they came from the same division, in which case 1 plays 3, and 2 plays 4. Ties in rankings are broken by the toss of a coin!

Note: the Major Leagues keep changing the formats for seedings, who plays who and schedules, and the TV companies have an impact on scheduling as well.

If a team can clinch a postseason series early it's a big advantage, as they can rest their players and "set up" their pitching rotation for the next series (if your star pitcher had to play in the final game of the Divisional Series, he won't be rested enough to pitch until the middle of the Championship series). However, if a hitter doesn't play for more than a day or two he tends to get out of rhythm, and teams with a few days off will normally play one or two practice matches (but not involving their pitchers).

Normally (unlike the regular season) there is a day's travel in the middle of the series when the venue changes, so teams can normally have smaller pitching rotations for playoff series (because of the extra days' rest). Teams will normally change their rosters slightly for playoff series, perhaps bringing in an extra hitter for a pitcher, or a pitcher more used to pitching from the bullpen.

The World Series

The playoffs climax with the World Series (also known as the "Fall Classic"), matching up the champions of the two leagues, playing a best of seven series with AL rules in AL ballparks, and NL rules in NL ballparks. 

Home field Advantage for the World Series is currently decided by whichever league wins the "All-Star Game" - a serious debating point for all Baseball fans. In the past the two leagues simply took turns - one year the AL, the next the NL.


This website, "How Baseball Works", is a guide to the game of the Baseball, brought to you by the online interactive Baseball Management game, Gameplan Baseball. For more details about Gameplan Baseball, including our free online startup offer please see Ab Initio Games or contact: