What Is A Pennant In Baseball: Everything You Need To Know

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Ever wonder “What is a pennant in baseball”? Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re breaking down all things pennant – what it is, why it’s important, and the role it plays in the game. Whether you’re a seasoned baseball fan or someone who is just learning the ins and outs of the sport, this comprehensive guide will bring you up to speed on why a pennant is so much more than just a banner.



  • A pennant in baseball symbolizes an American and National League championship series victory.
  • Pennant races add thrill and suspense to the baseball season.
  • Winning a pennant carries deep significance for the team and its city.
  • Pennant wins often set the stage for iconic moments in sports history.

What Is A Pennant In Baseball?

In Major League Baseball (MLB), pennants are awarded to the winners of both the American and National Leagues each season. These “pennant winners” then advance to face each other in the World Series for the championship.

The pennant race is a huge part of the MLB season. It usually takes place in the final stretch of the regular season where multiple teams are competing for a divisional title and the opportunity to advance to the postseason. The road to the pennant is always intense and exciting for the fans, with each game taking on added importance as the season draws to a close.

Overall, the pennant has always been a big part of baseball tradition. It also represents the ultimate goal for teams during the regular season. It’s the reason why players put in all the hard work in the offseason, spring training, and the regular season. Winning a pennant is a massive accomplishment for any team, and it is a testament to their talent and dedication.

The Pennant Race

During the regular season, teams compete against each other to try to win as many games as possible. Those with the best win-loss records advance to the postseason. In the postseason, a total of 12 teams, split evenly between both leagues, get to play for their chance at the world series.

The old playoff format was only 10 teams. I can imagine it had to have been deflating for a 95-win team to not qualify for the playoffs. It’s since been increased to twelve teams which include the top three from each league’s divisions. It also includes three extra ‘Wild Card‘ teams from each league.

The winners of each series of games advance to the next round until only two teams remain. These two teams then compete in the World Series.


Wildcard, Division, And League Championship Series

The teams seeded 1 and 2 enjoy a free pass to the Division Series, skipping the initial round of play. Meanwhile, in the Wild Card Series, the 3rd seed squares off against the 6th seed. The 4th seed also goes up against the 5th seed. The two wild card teams in each league compete in a three-game playoff to determine who advances to the next round.

The winners of the wild card game then face the top seed in their respective league in the division series. The Division Series is a best-of-five series, and the winners advance to the best-of-seven LCS. The ALCS and NLCS winners advance to the World Series to compete for the championship.

MLB Playoff Seeding

  • Division Winners (Seeds #1-3): The three division winners from each league (American and National) are automatically seeded as the top three teams. The seeding among these three is based on their regular-season records. The team with the best record gets the #1 seed, the team with the second-best record gets the #2 seed, and the team with the third-best record gets the #3 seed.
  • Wild Card Teams (Seeds #4-6): After the division winners, the next three seeds in each league are given to the ‘Wild Card’ teams. These are the three teams with the best records among those that didn’t win their division. The team with the best record among these gets the #4 seed, the second-best gets the #5 seed, and the team with the third-best record gets the #6 seed.

Pennant Race Dynamics

The pennant race is when baseball really shines. So many people are talking about how the sport is dying but they haven’t watched playoff baseball In October. It’s really intense. I’m talking edge-of-your-seat on every pitch.

As the regular season winds down, teams are fighting for position in the standings, trying to secure a spot or a good seeding in the playoffs. The dynamics of the pennant race can vary depending on the standings, with teams either trying to hold onto a lead, make up ground on the teams ahead of them, or rest starters if the lead is big enough.

Those who are out of contention for the playoffs often play the role of spoiler. Wouldn’t you want to try to prevent other teams from winning the pennant (especially division rivals)? This can create some interesting matchups, as teams with nothing to lose try to play spoiler against teams that are fighting for a spot.

World Series

The World Series is the final round of the postseason and pits the AL champion against the NL champion in a best-of-seven series. The winner of the World Series is crowned the champion of MLB and is awarded the Commissioner’s Trophy.

Historical Context Of The Pennant

Early History

The pennant in baseball has a long and storied history. The first pennant was awarded in 1869 to the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who were the first professional baseball team. Early on, the pennant was awarded to the team with the best record in the league, and it was seen as a symbol of dominance.

In the early years of baseball, the pennant race was a major event, and fans followed it closely. The Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers were two of the most dominant teams in the early years of the pennant race. They had a fierce rivalry that lasted for many years.

Notable Pennant Races In Baseball

Over the years, there have been many memorable pennant races. In 1967, the Red Sox and the Tigers were tied for first place in the American League with just one game left in the season. The Red Sox lost their game, while the Tigers won, giving them the pennant.

In 1978, the Yankees and the Red Sox were tied for first place in the American League East. Both teams then played in a one-game tiebreaker to win the division. This was after the Red Sox choked away a 10-game lead at the end of the season. The Yankees won their game thanks to Bucky Effin Dent, giving them the opportunity to advance.

Divisional Structure In Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball (MLB) is divided into two leagues: the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). Each league is further divided into three divisions: East, Central, and West. In 1969, the league introduced the divisional structure to accommodate its expansion.

East and West Divisions

The Eastern and Western Divisions in both the AL and NL consist of five teams each. The teams are geographically located in the eastern, central, and western regions of the United States.

The East Division teams in the AL are Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays. The West Division teams in the AL are Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners, and Texas Rangers.

The East Division teams in the NL are Atlanta Braves, Miami Marlins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and Washington Nationals. The West Division teams in the NL are Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants.

Central Division

The Central Division in both the AL and NL consists of five teams each. The teams are geographically located in the central region of the United States. The Central Division teams in the AL are Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Minnesota Twins. The Central Division teams in the NL are Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals.

The divisional structure in MLB ensures that each team plays a balanced schedule against divisional opponents and a rotating schedule against teams from the other divisions in their league. The top team in each division at the end of the regular season qualifies for the postseason, along with two Wild Card teams from each league with the best records.

Overall, the divisional structure in MLB provides a fair and balanced system for teams to compete against each other and qualify for the postseason.

Significance Of The Pennant In Baseball

In this section, we will explore the significance of the pennant in baseball.

Impact on the city

Winning a pennant in baseball goes beyond just the triumph of a team; The pennant is a symbol of local pride and it can uplift a city’s spirit.

Consider the crazy journey of the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Down 3-0 in the American League Championship Series (ALCS), they faced seemingly insurmountable odds. Yet, they pulled off an insane comeback, winning the next four games to clinch the pennant – the first step to breaking a decades-long World Series drought.

When they advanced to the World Series and ultimately won it, ending an agonizing 86-year wait, the impact was seismic. The city of Boston erupted. I should know because I was down there on Landsdowne Street celebrating with thousands of others. The streets flooded with fans, strangers hugging, and tears flowing – a testament to the power of the team’s accomplishment.

The victory was not just for the players on the field but for every Bostonian who had hoped, waited, and believed this would someday happen. And to do it against our arch-enemies was even more satisfying. This pennant, and the World Series title that followed, marked an unforgettable chapter in our city’s history, uniting the city in a way only sports can.

What Is A Pennant In Baseball – Final Thoughts

So, there you have it, folks! To wrap things up, a pennant in baseball isn’t just a fancy flag. It’s a symbol of championship glory that every team is striving for throughout the season. From the thrill of pennant races to the excitement of playoffs, the journey to win the pennant is an adventure filled with twists, turns, and memorable moments.

When a team does snag that pennant, it’s not just a win for the players, but a cause for celebration for the entire city they represent. Here’s to many more exciting pennant races in the seasons to come!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a pennant in baseball?

In baseball, the team that wins the regular season or playoff series in their respective league receives a championship flag, known as a pennant. There are two separate leagues in the MLB: the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). With this being said, there are two pennants.

How does a team win a pennant in baseball?

To win a pennant, a baseball team must advance deep into the playoffs. The playoffs consist of a series of games between the top teams in each league. The teams with the best records in each league at the end of the regular season receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

The other teams compete in a wild-card game. The winners of the wild card games advance to the division series, where they play a best-of-five series against the top-seeded team in their league. The winners of the division series move on to the league championship series, where they play a best-of-seven series against the other division winner in their league. The league awards the pennant to the championship series winner, who then advances to the World Series.

What does it mean to win the pennant MLB?

Winning the pennant in MLB means that a team has won their respective league championship. It is a prestigious achievement and a source of pride for the players and fans. The team that wins the pennant advances to the World Series, where they compete against the team that won the pennant in the other league.

Why do they call it a pennant in baseball?

The term “pennant” comes from the nautical tradition of flying a flag from a ship’s mast to signify a ship’s nationality or affiliation. In baseball, the winning team flies the pennant, which represents the league championship.

Who are the current AL pennant winners?

The AL pennant winners for the 2022 season were the Houston Astros.

Who are the current NL pennant winners?

The NL pennant winners for the 2022 season were the Philadelphia Phillies.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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