National League Division Series
In Major League Baseball, the National League Division Series (NLDS) determines which two teams from the National League will advance to the National League Championship Series. The Division Series consists of two best-of-five series, featuring the three division winners and the winner of the wild-card play-off.
The Division Series was implemented in 1981 – for that season only – as a result of a midseason strike with first-place teams before the strike taking on the first-place teams after. In 1994, Major League Baseball decided to implement the Division Series permanently, because it was restructuring each league into three divisions. (The new division series had a somewhat different format than the one-off 1981 tournament. Additionally, the implementation of this decision, however, was delayed a year, until 1995, due to the 1994–1995 players' strike.) Previously, because of a players' strike in 1981, a split-season format forced a divisional playoff series, in which the Montreal Expos won the Eastern Division series over the Philadelphia Phillies three games to two while the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Houston Astros three games to two in the Western Division. The team with the best overall record in the major leagues, the Cincinnati Reds, failed to win their division in either half of that season and were controversially excluded, as were the St. Louis Cardinals, who finished with the NL's second-best record. The Atlanta Braves have currently played in the most NL division series with thirteen appearances. The St. Louis Cardinals have currently won the most NL division series, winning ten of the thirteen series in which they have played. The Pittsburgh Pirates (who finished with a losing record from 1993 to 2012) were the last team to make their first appearance in the NL division series, making their debut in 2013 after winning the 2013 National League Wild Card Game. In 2008, the Milwaukee Brewers became the first team to play in division series in both leagues when they won the National League wild card, their first postseason berth since winning the American League East Division title in 1982 before switching leagues in 1998. Milwaukee had competed in an American League Division Series in the strike-shortened 1981 season.
The NLDS is a five-game series where the wild-card team is assigned to play the divisional winner with the best winning percentage in the regular season. The two remaining divisional winners meet in the other (NLDS) series with the team with the second best winning percentage, hosting that series. (From 1998 to 2011, if the wild-card team and the division winner with the best record were from the same division, the wild-card team played the division winner with the second-best record, and the remaining two division leaders played each other.) The two series winners move on to the best-of-seven NLCS. The winner of the wild card has won the first round seven out of the 11 years since the re-alignment and creation of the NLDS.[needs update] According to Nate Silver, the advent of this playoff series, and especially of the wild card, has caused teams to focus more on "getting to the playoffs" rather than "winning the pennant" as the primary goal of the regular season.
Initially, the best-of-5 series played in a 2-3 format, with the first two games set at home for the lower-seed team and the last three for the higher seed. Since 1998, the series has followed a 2-2-1 format, where the higher seed team plays at home in Games 1 and 2, the lower seed plays at home in Game 3 and Game 4 (if necessary), and if a Game 5 is needed, the teams return to the higher seed's field. When MLB added a second wild card team in 2012, the Division Series re-adopted the 2-3 format due to scheduling conflicts. It reverted to the 2-2-1 format from 2013 onwards.
- Team names link to the season in which each team played
|Team||Wins||Losses||Win %||Most recent
|13||St. Louis Cardinals||10||3||.769||2014||2015||33||18||.647|
|13||Los Angeles Dodgers||7||6||.538||2018||2018||25||24||.510|
|8||San Francisco Giants||4||4||.500||2014||2016||15||18||.455|
|4||New York Mets||4||0||1.000||2015||2015||12||4||.750|
|4||San Diego Padres||1||3||.250||1998||2006||4||10||.286|
|5||Atlanta Braves vs. Houston Astros||Braves, 3–2||1997, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005|
|3||San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals||Cardinals, 3–0||1996, 2005, 2006|
|3||St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers||Cardinals, 2–1||2004, 2009, 2014|
|3||Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves||Dodgers, 2–1||1996, 2013, 2018|
|2||St. Louis Cardinals vs. Arizona Diamondbacks||Tied, 1–1||2001, 2002|
|2||Florida Marlins vs. San Francisco Giants||Marlins, 2–0||1997, 2003|
|2||Chicago Cubs vs. Atlanta Braves||Tied, 1–1||1998, 2003|
|2||Philadelphia Phillies vs. Colorado Rockies||Tied, 1–1||2007, 2009|
|2||San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves||Giants, 2–0||2002, 2010|
|2||New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers||Mets, 2–0||2006, 2015|
NOTE: With the Houston Astros move to the American League at the conclusion of the 2012 season, the Braves vs Astros series is not currently possible.
- 1996, 1997, & 2007 are the years in which the National League Division Series finished in sweeps in both series.
- See: Division Series § 1993-1994: Proposal, realignment, and cancellation of 1994 postseason.
- Nate Silver, "Selig's Dream: The Wild Card as Enabler of Pennant Races," in Steven Goldman, Ed., It Ain't Over 'til It's Over (New York: Basic Books): 170-178.
- 1984 NL Championship Series, Baseball-Reference.com
- 1997 AL Division Series, Baseball-Reference.com
- Gillette, Gary; Palmer, Pete, eds. (2006). "October Classics: Postseason Series and Playoffs". The 2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia. New York: Sterling Publishing. p. 1656.
- Sporting News (2012-03-02). "MLB expands playoff field to 10 teams with addition of two wild cards". Retrieved 2013-10-28.