Home Featured MLB Postseason Picture: Five things to know about MLB’s playoff plans, current seeding with less than two weeks remaining

MLB Postseason Picture: Five things to know about MLB’s playoff plans, current seeding with less than two weeks remaining

by Chris Brown

It’s only fitting that an MLB season unlike any other will have a truly unique finish. With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, Major League Baseball announced on Sept. 15 its plans for the postseason, which includes neutral-site bubbles for the final three rounds and an interesting twist.

We’ll take a look at the current playoff seeding as things stand right now in a minute, but first let’s go through five things to know about the league’s plan for the postseason:

1) The top four seeds in each league will host all games of the best-of-three Wild Card Series, with the winners advancing to their league’s neutral-site bubble.

The National League’s bubble will be in Texas while the American League bubble is slate to take place in Southern California. Here’s a breakdown of the locations involved:

  • NLDS: Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas and Minute Maid Park in Houston
  • NLCS: Globe Life Field
  • ALDS: Petco Park in San Diego and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles
  • ALCS: Petco Park
  • World Series: Globe Life Field

MLB’s system of having most — but not all — of the postseason take place at neutral sites is an interesting one. The Athletic’s Jayson Stark wrote Tuesday that “the logical challenges, combined with player desires to minimize their time in isolation, led [MLB and the MLBPA] to delay the move into a bubble until the start of the Division Series.”

The 2020 World Series will be the first Fall Classic held at a neutral site in modern MLB history.

2) The Wild Card round will begin on Sept. 29 and the World Series will end on Oct. 28 at the latest.

Here’s a breakdown of the key playoff dates:

  • Sept. 29: AL Wild Card Series begin
  • Sept. 30: NL Wild Card Series begin
  • Oct. 5: AL Division Series begin
  • Oct. 6: NL Division Series begin
  • Oct. 11: AL Championship Series begins
  • Oct. 12: NL Championship Series begins
  • Oct. 20: World Series begins

There will be eight postseason games on Sept. 30 with the possibility of up to eight on Oct. 1 as well. It’s going to be a lot of baseball in a short period. 

3) There will be zero off-days throughout the first three rounds of the postseason.

This is the surprise twist that was alluded to, and it’s one that figures to have a substantial impact for some teams. The lack of off-days during the Wild Card Series was not a surprise, but the continuation of that aspect through the Division Series and League Championship Series was not long-expected. Yankees manager Aaron Boone told reporters, including The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler, that his team just learned this week of that aspect, indicating that clubs didn’t know this information before the trade deadline.

The big impact here is that the lack of off-days limits the amount of times a team can start its top pitchers. In the best-of-five Division Series, for example, an ace who starts in Game 1 wouldn’t be able to appear again in the series unless he pitches on short rest. As a result, pitching depth figures to take on greater importance, while aces figure to factor into the equation a bit less, something that could greatly impact how things play out. In 2012, the Giants won 12 postseason games to capture the World Series title. Madison Bumgarner pitched in six of those games. Last year’s Nationals team based its postseason approach on getting as much as possible out of its frontline starters. A similar situation for a team seems essentially impossible for this postseason.

To be clear, there will still be off-days between series, just not during the first three rounds. Simply put, the playoff structure for this season means that teams will likely have to stick with five-man rotations or else pitch a number of starters on short rest.

4) Players on contending teams will be required to quarantine at hotels during the final week of the regular season, according to the New York Post.

This was reportedly one of the trickiest details being worked out between the league and its players prior to this postseason agreement being reached. Some players fought against the concept, according to Joel Sherman of the Post, but the league expressed a fear of coming this far and not completing the playoffs and thus pushed for the protocols.

As a result, all contending clubs, even those at home for the final week of the season, will be required to move into a hotel. “All players on the 40-man roster and IL will be asked to join that quarantine because once it begins, clubs can no longer summon a player from the alternate site to join the 28-man roster — it will only be those who are in the quarantine,” Sherman wrote. Players on teams who get eliminated from the playoff race may elect to leave the hotel at that point.

As for another factor, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Tuesday that families of players will be allowed to quarantine with the players on contending teams for the seven days leading into the postseason and then remain with them for the entirety of their playoff run. Families of players will also have the option to enter the bubble prior to later series, per Rosenthal, who added that everyone within the bubbles will be tested for COVID-19 daily.

One final note about the days leading up to the postseason: Sherman reported Tuesday that each MLB team must submit to the league its list of postseason-eligible players, which can be up to 40. Twenty eight players will be on active playoff rosters with up to 12 on taxi squads.

5) It’s possible there could be fans in ballparks at some point in the postseason.

Fans have been unable to attend MLB games all season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s possible that could change in October. Speaking during an online event on Monday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said he’s hopeful the League Championship Series and World Series will be able to have a limited number of fans in attendance.

“I think it’s important for us to start back down the road,” Manfred said. “Obviously it’ll be limited numbers, socially distanced, protection provided for the fans in terms of temperature checks and the like.”

Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweeted Tuesday that he’s heard that 25% of capacity for ballparks might be a good estimate, and added that Texas is likely to allow fans while California may not. 

A look at the current postseason picture

With all the postseason basics covered, let’s take a look at what the field would look like if the season ended today, starting with the American League:

*All stats and standings accurate through the completion of MLB games on Sept. 15.

American League

Playoff seeding if the season ended today:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
1. Chicago White Sox (Central-1) 32-16 (.667) 100%
2. Tampa Bay Rays (East-1) 31-17 (.646) 100%
3. Oakland Athletics (West-1) 30-19 (.612) 100%
4. Minnesota Twins (Central-2) 30-20 (.600) 100%
5. New York Yankees (East-1) 27-21 (.563) 99.9%
6. Houston Astros (West-2) 24-24 (.500) 97.0%
7. Toronto Blue Jays (WC-1) 26-21 (.553) 97.6%
8. Cleveland Indians (WC-2) 26-22 (.542) 98.3%

Still in the hunt:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
Seattle Mariners 22-26 (.458) 3.8%
Detroit Tigers 21-26 (.447) 1.5%
Baltimore Orioles 21-27 (.438) 0.7%
Los Angeles Angels 20-29 (.408) 1.0%

Every team in the current AL playoff field has at least a 97% chance of being there at the end of the regular season. Barring a miracle from one of the four teams listed above, we’ve got our eight teams. 

So that leaves the seeding, which has changed substantially from our check-in one week ago. As of last Wednesday, the Yankees had lost five consecutive games and fallen to .500 on the season and into the final wild card spot. Since then the team has won six straight (including a four-game sweep of Baltimore) to move up to the five-seed and bump their playoff odds up from 83% to essentially 100%. Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela are back and Aaron Judge isn’t far behind. Aaron Boone’s team has quickly righted the ship.

Also of note are the Chicago White Sox, who are now guaranteed to finish above .500 for the first time since 2012 and currently hold the No. 1 seed in the AL — up from No. 4 one week ago. Few teams in baseball are hotter than the White Sox, who’ve tallied wins in 10 of their last 11 contests.

The Indians have dropped from the No. 3 seed in the American League this time last week down to the final wild card spot thanks to seven straight losses, five of which have come by three or fewer runs. The team’s MO all season has been scoring just a few runs and leaving the rest to the team’s stellar pitching staff. In their current skid, though, the offense has made a few strides while Cleveland’s starters have posted a 5.10 ERA and their relievers a really troubling 10.06 mark. Fangraphs’ formula is still pretty certain the team will be playing in the postseason.

One final thing to note on the AL side: the Astros have dropped nine of their last 12 games and hold just a two-game lead over Seattle for the second spot in the west division standings. Fangraphs still gives Dusty Baker’s club a 97% chance of making the playoffs, though.

National League

Playoff seeding if the season ended today:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (West-1) 34-15 (.694) 100%
2. Chicago Cubs (Central-1) 29-20 (.592) 100%
3. Atlanta Braves (East-1) 29-20 (.592) 100%
4. San Diego Padres (West-2) 32-18 (.640) 100%
5. Miami Marlins (East-2) 24-22 (.522) 72.2%
6. St. Louis Cardinals (Central-2) 21-22 (.488) 69.8%
7. Philadelphia Phillies (WC-1) 24-23 (.511) 76.7%
8. San Francisco Giants (WC-2) 23-24 (.489) 51.6%

Still in the hunt:

Team Record Fangraphs Playoff Odds
Cincinnati Reds 24-26 (.480) 45.4%
Colorado Rockies 22-25 (.468) 19.9%
Milwaukee Brewers 22-25 (.468) 47.1%
New York Mets 21-27 (.438) 16.8%

While there’s been no movement amongst the top four seeds, the rest of the NL playoff field is even more open than one week ago. Entering play last Wednesday, Sept. 9, six National League teams had a roughly 80% chance or better of making the postseason. As of the completion of Sept. 15’s games, that number is down to just four. 

The Marlins won five of seven games against the Phillies (who’ve dropped six of their last nine games) last week to leapfrog them for the second spot in the NL East standings. The Cardinals and Giants, meanwhile, continue to hover around .500. 

What’s perhaps most notable here is the recent success of the Reds, who’ve won four games in a row to bring their playoff odds up to near 50%. The Brewers have gone 4-3 in the last week while the Rockies (five losses in last seven games) and Mets (three straight losses) are showing no real signs of making a run. The AL field is essentially locked up, but the same can certainly not be said of the National League side. The final week and half of the regular season will certainly feature plenty to monitor.

Photo courtesy of Major League Baseball / Twitter

You may also like

Leave a Comment