Sep 16, 2020 - Sports

MLB's double-bubble postseason

Texas' Globe Life Field, the home of the World Series this year. Photo: Cooper Neill/MLB via Getty Images

The MLB playoffs are less than two weeks away, and the league announced on Tuesday that the later rounds will be played at bubble sites.

The state of play: Eight teams are set per league, seeded as follows: division winners by record (1-3), division runners-up by record (4-6) and the two best remaining teams (7-8).

  • The first round will be best-of-three, with the higher seed hosting. Remaining rounds are their usual format but will be held at neutral sites.

How it works: Hoping to avoid the nightmare scenario of an outbreak during the playoffs, the four-city postseason bubble will include daily player testing and a limited number of family members, pending a supervised quarantine.

  • Transitional period: To limit external interactions, teams still mathematically alive in the playoff race will spend the season's final week in "transitional hotels" ahead of their potential first-round series.
  • The bubble: Once the field is narrowed to eight, Texas (Houston and Arlington) will host the National League, while California (San Diego and L.A.) will host the American League.
  • World Series: For the first time since 1944, the Fall Classic will be played at one site — Globe Life Field, the brand new home of the Rangers.

Between the lines: There will be no travel days in the first three rounds, which will change how managers use pitchers and favor teams with deeper staffs.

  • Aces who would normally pitch Games 1 and 5 in a five- or seven-game series on full rest must now either pitch on short rest or be saved for later.
  • The Nationals famously won last year's World Series in part by deploying their three best pitchers out of the bullpen between starts throughout October. That won't be an option this year.

Playoff picture: The AL's eight-team field is basically set, while the NL is more chaotic.

  • AL virtual locks: White Sox (100% odds), Rays (100%), Twins (100%), Athletics (100%), Yankees (99.9%), Indians (98.3%), Blue Jays (97.6%), Astros (97%).
  • NL virtual locks: Dodgers (100%), Padres (100%), Braves (100%), Cubs (100%).
  • NL still alive: Phillies (76.7%), Marlins (72.2%), Cardinals (69.8%), Giants (51.6%), Brewers (47.1%), Reds (45.4%), Rockies (19.9%), Mets (16.8%).
  • Better luck next year: Mariners (3.8%), Tigers (1.5%), Angels (1%), Orioles (0.7%), Nationals (0.5%), Royals (0.1%), Diamondbacks (0%), Pirates (0%).

The big picture: Commissioner Rob Manfred said the 16-team postseason is likely to remain beyond this season, adding that "an overwhelming majority" of owners had already endorsed the concept before the pandemic.

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