Major League Baseball will switch to a bubble solution for the final three rounds of its postseason under a plan the league announced on Tuesday.
Higher-seeded teams will host the best-of-three, first round of the 2020 playoffs, known as the Wild-Card Series.
Leagues Swapping Ballparks for Postseason
Eight teams in each league will qualify for the postseason. That number includes the first and second-place teams from each division, as well as two additional wild cards.
The Division Series will then move to a neutral site in both leagues. Arlington and Houston will host the two NLDS matchups, while San Diego and Los Angeles will host the ALDS. The Division Series will feature a best-of-five format.
Arlington (NL) and San Diego (AL) will host the two League Championship Series. MLB has also selected Arlington as the site of the 2020 World Series. The World Series will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 20, and will wrap up by Oct. 28.
The site selection ensures that all teams will play neutral site games until at least the World Series. Technically, the Los Angeles Angels could play very close to home in the ALDS at Dodger Stadium, while the Texas Rangers could enjoy home-field advantage for the World Series.
However, those teams are unlikely to appear in the postseason. The Angels are essentially out of the playoff race at 20-28, and the Rangers (17-30) are even further back. William Hill lists both teams at +75000 to win the World Series.
MLB: Playoff Bubbles Should Limit COVID-19 Exposure
MLB deputy commissioner told teams that the bubble plan would help minimize the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks during the playoffs.
“In the view of our infectious disease experts, the biggest risk of exposure for players and staff is contact with family members and friends who have been exposed to COVID-19 in their communities,” Halem said in a memo sent to teams on Monday. “Nearly all of the positive test results that have been reported for players and staff in the last month can be traced back to contact with an infected family member, domestic partner, or friend outside of club facilities.”
The MLB playoff bubble will begin taking shape on Sept. 22. That’s when American League teams in mathematical contention will start a transition period during which players and staff must stay at the team’s transitional hotel, and travel with the team while on the road. National League contenders will start taking those steps the next day.
Spouses, domestic partners, children, and child-care providers can join players during the transition period. Other family members cannot stay with them, but MLB will provide separate family hotels. Players who live by themselves, with a pregnant partner, or who have special medical needs can quarantine at home during the transition period, though the MLB will only allow a limited number of these requests.
While the bubble format means top teams won’t enjoy home-field advantage, the impact of that edge had already been blunted by the lack of fans at MLB stadiums during the abbreviated season. The Los Angeles Dodgers (33-15) stand as the +350 favorite to win the World Series, with the Tampa Bay Rays (+650), New York Yankees (+700), and the surging San Diego Padres (+900) among the top contenders.