MLB is implementing an expanded 16-team playoff format for the 2020 postseason. The top two teams in each division, plus the two remaining teams with the best records in each league, will make up the eight-team fields in the American and National Leagues. The division winners will be the top three seeds in each league, with the second-place teams slotted as seeds four through six, and the remaining two qualifiers seeded Nos. 7 and 8.
The first-round matchups will follow a 1-vs.-8, 2-vs.-7 format and will be best-of-three series, giving things a March Madness feel. The situation is ripe for some big upsets as a top team could run into a couple of hot pitchers and have its season end very abruptly. For instance, the Dodgers could run away with the NL West, but be forced to face the Cardinals' Jack Flaherty and Adam Wainwright in the first two games of the playoffs. Lose those two and L.A.'s season is over.
After that, things will look a lot more familiar, with the division series (best-of-five) followed by the league championship series and World Series. In the AL and NL Division Series, the winner of the 1-8 first-round matchup will face the winner of the 4-5 series, with the 2-7 winner meeting the 3-6 winner.
The first round, or wild-card series, is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 29, through Friday, Oct. 2, with seven of the eight series airing on ESPN.
The 2020 rule change that places a runner on second base to begin extra innings will not be in effect for the playoffs, but other 2020 rule changes (universal designated hitter, three-batter minimum) will be utilized. The expanded playoff format, as it stands, is for this season only.