The weather's cooling down. The games are getting more intense. It must be time for the MLB playoffs. However, these are not the same playoffs that have existed over the past several years. Sadly the image above is not what it looked like in Petco Park today as the Padres and Cardinals faced off for game one. Instead, there are no fans in the stadium, more teams are taking part, there's no traditional home vs away game dynamics, and most rule changes that are new for 2020 will be in place.
Post Season Baseball Playoffs Format
One of the most significant changes is the addition of six teams to the playoff field. Since 2012, five clubs from each league had qualified for the postseason: the winners of the East, Central and West Divisions and two wild card teams. In 2020, the first- and second-place teams from each of those divisions plus the next two best squads will complete each league's eight-team field.
As a result, the Wild Card round of the playoffs has been significantly expanded. Over the past eight years, it involved just a single game in each league with the division winners receiving byes past that round into the Division Series. Conversely, in 2020, every club will compete in best-of-three Wild Card Series. Those series will also be the first in baseball history to be longer than one game and be played entirely in one ballpark. The division winners and the best second-place team in each league will host these games.
The format for the remaining rounds of the playoffs will be the same as has been the case since wild card teams were incorporated into the postseason in 1995: best-of-five Division Series followed by best-of-seven League Championship Series and best-of-seven World Series.
However, for the first time in baseball history, a playoff game will be played at a neutral site. In fact, all of these games will be played at neutral sites. The American League Division and Championship Series will take place in Los Angeles and San Diego while the National League Division and Championship Series will occur in Houston and Arlington, Texas.
The World Series will be played in Arlington as well, which also marks the first time that every World Series game will be played at the same stadium since 1944. That year, the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns, now the Baltimore Orioles, played in the Fall Classic. They shared Sportsman's Park from 1920-53.
As far as the seeds go, in each league, the three division winners will be awarded the 1-3 seeds, the three second-place teams would be the 4-6 seeds, and the remaining teams the 7-8 seeds. Note that there will be no reseeding in future rounds. So, the winner of the 1-8 series will play the 4-5 winner and so on.
Another interesting change is that there will be no off days within a series until the World Series.
When Will the Games Be Played?
In the American League, the four Wild Card Series will be played from Sept. 29-Oct. 1, the two Division Series from Oct. 5-9 and the Championship Series from Oct. 11-17. Their counterparts in the National League will play one day later: the Wild Card Series from Sept. 30-Oct. 2, the Division Series from Oct. 6-10 and the Championship Series from Oct. 12-18. The World Series, which will incorporate off days after games two and five, will be played from Oct. 20-28.
How Can I Watch the MLB Playoffs?
ESPN and TBS will broadcast Wild Card Series games, TBS will handle the American League playoffs beyond that round, and FOX, FS1 and MLB Network will share the duties on the National League side. FS1 and MLB Network will team up for the NLDS while FOX and FS1 are slated to handle the NLCS games. The World Series will be broadcast on FOX.
Those in the United States can stream playoff games on OTT providers such as AT&T TV Now, Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV.
MLB Post Season Rule Changes in 2020
If you haven't followed baseball this regular season and are jumping aboard for the playoffs, there will be a couple of significant new-to-you rule changes. National League teams will use the Designated Hitter. The DH was added to the American League in 1973, but the NL resisted its adoption until temporarily doing so in 2020. Also, relief pitchers cannot be replaced until they face at least three batters unless they get injured or the inning ends.
Note that during the 2020 regular season, a runner was placed on second base at the start of each extra inning. That will not be the case for any of the postseason games.