American League postseason
The American League postseason currently includes three different rounds that serve to determine the American League's pennant winner, who will represent the junior circuit in the World Series. The American League postseason has only existed since 1969; before that, the American League champion was the team which had the best record during the regular season, or which won a one-game playoff if two teams finished tied for first place:
- The American League Wild Card Game, first played in 2012, pits the two wild card teams. The winner of the game moves on to the next round.
- The two American League Division Series (or ALDS) are best-of-five series among the winners of the three divisions (the AL East, AL Central and AL West) and the winner of the Wild Card Game; from 1995 to 2011, there was only one wild card team, which was directly slotted into one of the Division Series. During that period, two teams from the same division could not meet in the Division Series. That changed with the introduction of a second wild card team in 2012; the teams are now seeded in order of their record in the regular season, with the three division winners occupying the first three seeds, and the wild card team having the fourth.
- The American League Championship Series (ALCS) has been disputed in a best-of-seven format between the winners of the two Division Series since 1995. When the American League only included two divisions (the AL East and AL West) from 1969 to 1993, the ALCS was played between the winners of the two divisions with the exception of 1981 (see below). From 1969 to 1984, the ALCS was played in a best-of-five format; it became a best-of-seven format in 1985.
- Because of the 1981 strike which eliminated a third of the scheduled games, the season was separated into two halves. The first- and second-half winners from each division faced eachother in a best-of-five Division Series to determine which teams would move on to the 1981 ALCS.
- The 1994 postseason was cancelled altogether because of the 1994 strike.
In any context, a one-game playoff may be necessary to determine which team will play in the postseason; that game is considered part of the regular season, however.