MLB Teams

Major League Baseball (MLB) teams today make up two different leagues. In MLB there is the American and National Leagues. A long history of great teams started in the late 1800s and has paved the way for the MLB -America’s first and greatest professional sport.

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The MLB Teams and Conference Structure

After expansion, both leagues reached the current level of 15 teams each.

The current MLB League structure is set up with an equal number of 15 teams. These teams fall into three divisions with five teams each.

MLB Teams: American League

East Division Central Division West Division
Toronto Blue Jays Minnesota Twins

Oakland Athletics

Tampa Bay Rays

Detroit Tigers Los Angeles Angels
New York Yankees Cleveland Indians Texas Rangers
Boston Red Sox Chicago White Sox Houston Astros
Baltimore Orioles Kansas City Royals Seattle Mariners

MLB Teams: National League

East Division Central Division West Division
Miami Marlins Cincinnati Reds Colorado Rockies
Atlanta Braves Pittsburgh Pirates Arizona Diamondbacks
New York Mets Chicago Cubs Los Angeles Dodgers
Washington Nationals St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco Giants
Philadelphia Phillies Milwaukee Brewers San Diego Padres

The popularity of Major League Baseball over the past few decades has resulted in a combined league with 30 teams. These MLB teams show outstanding competition in all divisions.

There are currently 162 regular MLB games during the regular season. The teams with the most wins will be the division champs in each league.

The level of team-wins also determines the playoff bracket seedings, which leads to the World Series.

The MLB Playoffs

The number of teams in MLB has doubled since 1901, while division structure altered the path to the World Series.

For many years the championship participants were each league’s first-place team. These teams had the most wins over the long season.

In 1969, the expansion allowed for the setup of two divisions (East and West) in each league. This was the start of the MLB playoffs.

The current MLB Postseason format includes a Wild Card game, the Division, and League Series and finally the World Series.

MLB Playoff Brackets

Wild Card 1 game playoff 2 Best win/loss records of non-Division winning teams
Division Series Best-of-5, 2-2-1 format Best win/loss record of 3 Division Winners faces the Wild Card Winner
League Championship Series Best-of-7, 2-3-2 format Division Series Winners play for League Championship
World Series Best-of-7, 2-3-2 format American League versus National League Champs

Under the current MLB playoff structure, a total of ten teams will qualify. In each league, two teams will qualify for the Wild Card round.  Three Division winners will take part in the 5-game division series.

The win/loss record during the MLB season is important for:

  • the division series bracket
  • the possibility of home-field advantage

For example, using the format of 2-2-1 for the Division Series:

The team with the better win/loss record during the regular season will have the first 2 and last game at home. They will also have game 5 at home if required. This is a home-field advantage of 3 games to 2.

A team that consistently wins at home has a significant advantage to advance to the next round in the playoffs.

However, the home-field advantage in the championship series is not determined by the win/loss records of the league champs. The winner of the All-Star Game held in mid-July determines this.

The MLB All-Star Game is a single game that features a line-up of the National League’s best players versus thos from the American League. The winning team in the MLB All-Star Game wins an advantage for its League champ.

After a 162-game season, it should be clear who the best teams are in each league. The MLB playoffs, however, provide other teams that have performed well with a chance at the annual championship series.

In 2019, the Washington Nationals won a one-game Wild Card round and went on to win the series. Could this be the year where the top teams in each League pack up early? Maybe!

The MLB playoffs always provide exciting professional baseball action enjoyed by fans everywhere.

MLB Team Performance

In the early years of the MLB, there were a few great teams.

The New York Yankees are the most successful team in MLB's long history. The Yankees won 27 World Series Championships beginning in 1923 and most recently in 2009.

There have been 115 Champions in the long history of MLB competition. 23% of those crowned champs wore Yankee pinstripes. That is a significant winning percentage for this well-known New York team.

Historically, New York was the center of baseball championships. From 1949 through the Series in 1959, New York City teams won the majority of the championships.

Most baseball experts consider the New York Yankees 1927 team to be the best team in MLB history. This is the team with the “murders row” lineup that included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The 1927 Yankees had a regular-season record of 111 wins versus 44 losses and swept the Series 4 games to none. Also notable with the 1927 World Series this was this first time an American League team and swept a National League team.

Other notable MLB performances include the Toronto Blue Jays championship victories in 1992 and 1993. The Blue Jays franchise started in 1977 in the American League. It was the first non-US franchise to win an MLB championship.

The first MLB team in Canada was the Montreal Expos club formed in 1969, in the National League. The Expos later relocated to Washington D.C. to become the Washington Nationals in 2005.

When a losing season turns around and ends in a World Series victory, it tends to make history. 

This happened with the Boston Red Sox in 2004 after going without a championship since 1918.

The Chicago Cubs won their first World Championship since 1908 with a series win in  2016.

Recent championship performance demonstrates growing parity in MLB competition. MLB competition no longer favors the clubs with the highest player salary budgets.

The Boston Red Sox and San Francisco have each won three World Series since 2000.

The most recent MLB champion was the Washington Nationals that relocated to D.C. ending decades of MLB action in Montreal, Canada.

MLB Team Moves

The MLB team moves that occurred have given growing cities access to major league play, setting up great regional rivalries. In nearly 120 years of MLB history, there have been relatively few moves. 

One surprising early move was the 1903 Baltimore Orioles to New York. The New York team was initially called the New York Highlanders and later changed to the Yankees.

In 1954 the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and the team was again called the Orioles. The Baltimore Orioles have faced their American League East rival Yankees ever since.

It's shocking for fans in Baltimore to hear the Yankees were once long ago the Orioles.

The most significant MLB team moves occurred in 1958. During this year the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants both moved West. The Dodgers to Los Angeles and Giants to San Francisco. This ended the decades of great inter-city MLB competition in New York.

There are a few teams that needed to settle before winning a World Series. In 1953 the National Leagues Boston Braves moved West to Milwaukee. A few years later, the Braves were World Champs, beating the Yankees in 1957.

The American League Athletics left Philadelphia in 1955 and made two Western moves. The first move was to Kansas City and years later moved again further West to Oakland in 1968. The Oakland Athletics had a mini-dynasty in the early 1970s winning three World Series in a row.

Most recently the Montreal team moved to Washington DC. Here they became the Washington Nationals and were the 2019 World Champs. 

The Expansion of MLB Teams

Until the 1950s each league had a total of eight teams. As the US population grew in the post-war years, so did the popularity of Major League Baseball.

To meet the growing demand, the American League added three new teams in 1961. The Los Angeles Angels, the Minnesota Twins, and a new Washington D.C Senators team came into play.

In 1977, the number of teams in the American League expanded from 12 to 14. This expansion established a second MLB team in Canada.

The Toronto Blue Jays were the first American League franchise in Canada to match the National League’s Montreal Expos. The Mariners was the team name for the new Seattle franchise. The National League continued with 12 teams for several years.

In 1993 two new franchises came to the National League - the Colorado Rockies and the Florida Marlins. Fans could now attend MLB games at stadiums in all four corners of the US and Eastern Canada.

MLB expansion reached its current level of 30 teams in 1998 when each league added a single team. The American League expanded further South into Florida. It granted a franchise to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

The National League moved West into Phoenix and added the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Arizona D-backs were a very successful new franchise and won the World Series in 2001. 

Number of MLB Games

The 1961 team expansion in the American League also expanded the number of games played.

To ensure each team played an equal amount of games, the season stretched to 162 games. In the past, teams had played 154-game seasons.

The National League adopted the 162-game season the following year.

Both Leagues have continued with the 162-game season schedule since 1962.

A Great Sports Tradition

The National League of Professional Baseball Clubs was the first professional baseball league. It began in 1876. Years later, the American League of Professional Baseball Clubs was founded. This rival league began in 1901.

A championship series that matched the best team from each league started in 1903. This became known as the World Series. The annual World Series event became the world's most well-known professional sports championship.

In the early years of professional baseball, most teams were in the US Northeast. As the US population began expanding West and South, so did MLB expansion. There are currently 15 MLB teams in both the National and American leagues. Major league teams are in every region of the US with one in Toronto, Canada.

While teams are only located in North America, MLB has an immense worldwide fan base. Many major league players have come from other parts of the world, boosting the popularity of MLB games. Major league players from Mexico, Central America, Cuba, and Japan have excited baseball fans in their home countries.

Some MLB regular-season games take place outside North America. Since 1997, the MLB series has taken place in various countries. These include Monterrey Mexico, Tokyo, Japan, and recently in London, England.

The World Series is one of the most popular professional sports events in the world. This championship series has had a long and historic run. This year will provide another exciting match of league champions. The division and league playoff rounds will determine the world series participants.

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6 March 2020
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