news 1 hour ago

MLB's expanded playoffs, explained: Everything to know about the 2020 bracket, format & more

Sporting News — (Ryan Fagan)

We are rapidly approaching the arrival of the 2020 MLB playoffs.

And like everything else in this bizarre calendar year, the MLB playoffs will be different in 2020. How much different? Let’s put it this way: The first year Babe Ruth’s Yankees won the World Series (1923), there were only 16 MLB teams, total. In 2020, 16 MLB teams will make the postseason. 

So, yeah. It’s a big damn party and pretty much everyone’s on the guest list. So it’ll be different, but it promises to be as exciting as ever. 

Here’s what you need to know.

MORE: SN's predictions for pennant winners, World Series champ

When do the 2020 MLB playoffs start?

The final day of the regular season is Sept. 27, with all games set to begin at 3 p.m. ET. It’s the sixth year in a row all teams will play their final game at the final start time. 

The opening game of the postseason is Sept. 29. The opening-round best-of-three series are set to end Oct. 2. MLB hasn’t officially announced the start dates for remaining rounds but that’s expected soon.

How many teams make the 2020 MLB playoffs? 

An unprecedented 16 teams — eight in each league — will make the 2020 MLB playoffs. Yes, that’s of 30 total teams, so more than half of the squads reach October. Under the previous set-up — and the setup again in 2021 and beyond (at least, that’s the plan) — only 10 teams made the postseason. 

The playoff teams in each league will be … 

  • Three division winners
  • Three division runners-up
  • Two wild-card teams (remaining two teams with the best records)

How will the MLB playoff bracket work? 

It’s the same in both leagues, obviously. Home team is the higher seed in the first three rounds; World Series home-field advantage goes to the team with the best regular-season record. If the playoffs are played in neutral-site locations — no official word, but that’s rumored to be a possibility — the higher seed bats last. 

For the Wild-Card Series (best-of-three, all played in higher seed’s park)

  • No. 1 vs. No. 8 
  • No. 2 vs. No. 7
  • No. 3 vs. No. 6
  • No. 4 vs. No. 5

Key point: There are no playoff byes in 2020, for any team.

For the Division Series (best of five, 2-2-1 format)

  • Winner of 1-8 vs. Winner of 4-5
  • Winner of 2-7 vs. Winner of 3-6

Key point: The playoffs aren’t reset for this round, meaning the highest remaining seed does not get to play the lowest remaining seed. For example, let’s say the No. 7 seed beats the No. 2 seed in the Wild-Card Series. Under this setup, the No. 1 seed (assuming it advances) still has to play the winner of the series between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds, not the No. 7 seed. It’s entirely possible the No. 1 seed could face the highest remaining seed, in fact, if the No. 6 and No. 7 seeds advance through the first round.   

For the League Championship Series (best of seven, 2-3-2 format)

  • The only two teams remaining in the league face off.

For the World Series (best of seven, 2-3-2)

  • NL champ vs. AL champ 

How are the playoff teams seeded?

Brace yourselves for controversies, folks. Teams and fan bases are not going to like their first-round matchups. That’s pretty much a guarantee. Instead of seeding teams based purely on records, seeding is primarily dependent on how a team finishes in its division. 

The first three seeds (1-3) in each league will go to division winners, ordered by record. The second trio of seeds (4-6) go to the second-place finishers in each division, ordered by record. The final two seeds (7-8) go to the two wild-card teams.

Here’s a snapshot of why that could/will be a problem. Heading into play on Sept. 9, the Twins were nine games over .500 (27-18, .600) but in third place in the AL Central. The Astros were one game over .500 (22-21, .512) but in second place in a weaker division, the AL West. The way the seeding is set up, the Astros (division runner-up) would get the No. 6 seed and the Twins (wild card) would be the No. 7 seed, despite that the Twins are four games ahead of the Astros in the overall AL standings.

What are the seeding tiebreakers?

There will be no tiebreaker games of any sort. First tie-breaker is head-to-head record. Next up: intradivision record. Then: record in final 20 games. If still tied: record in final 21 games, then final 22 games, then final 23 games and so on and so forth until there’s a winner.