A look at the MLB 16-team playoffs that start today

The truncated 2020 regular season is over, and it was used this year to eliminate just 14 teams. Now 16 play on in search of the World Series championship. Bracket playoff baseball is about to begin later today with four American League playoff games. The National League series begin tomorrow.

So on Wednesday, there will be eight playoff games. Yep, eight. They'll start at Noon, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 10 p.m. Should be a wild day and night of baseball.

There will be at least four more games on Thursday and more if any of the AL series need a third and deciding game. This year there are no one-and-done wild card games in baseball, and two teams that have losing records will have a chance to win the World Series. The 29-31 Houston Astros finished second in their division, allowing them to get a No. 6 seed in the AL. The 29-31 Milwaukee Brewers got the No. 8 NL seed and now will try to pull off a huge upset of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who posted the best record in Major League Baseball at 43-17.

We don't know if this 16-team format will be used beyond this year. And many fans and reporters alike don't seem to like it. But for this year, I think it's going to be fun. There are some real interesting and intriguing matchups in the wild card round.

Three teams have a chance to win the World Series for the first time ever: Tampa Bay, San Diego and Milwaukee. The expanded field helped some teams end long playoff droughts as well. In the AL, the Chicago White Sox are in for the first time since 2005. In the NL, the Miami Marlins last played in the postseason in 2003, when they beat the New York Yankees 4-2 to win the World Series. Cincinnati has not been in the postseason since 2013 and San Diego since 2006.

Miami went 31-29 for its first winning season since 2009. San Diego ended a run of nine straight losing seasons this year, and in going 37-23 posted the third-best record in the majors. Cincinnati had finished in last place in four of the five previous seasons.

Not only are two of the three teams with the best records - Tampa Bay and San Diego - looking for that first World Series win, but the Los Angeles Dodgers, who hold the best record, have not won the Fall Classic since 1988. Will this finally be their year? The Dodgers have won eight straight NL West championships but lost in the World Series in 2017 and 2018.

toronto-ball-on-field.jpgFor those who follow the Orioles and the other teams of the AL East, the Tampa Bay (No. 1) versus Toronto (No. 8) best-of-three could be fun to watch. During the regular season the Rays went 6-4 against the Blue Jays but were outscored 48-44 by Toronto. They played eight games decided by two runs or fewer, and Tampa Bay went 5-3 in those games. The Rays just seem to pull out games, all kinds of games. They are a team lacking in big-name stars but not in victories. Brandon Lowe led that club in OPS. Can anyone name several Rays bullpen pitchers? Hard to do, but their 'pen is deep and talented and ready for a playoff run. The Rays won the AL East for the third time this year. They also did that in 2008 and 2010.

Toronto was playing well late in the year and they could be a dangerous team, but I still see Tampa Bay pulling this series out. The Rays were also strong all year, but especially late, winning nine of 11 and 12 of their last 16. They went 21-9 in the last 30.

The series between Cleveland (No. 4) and the New York Yankees (No. 5) features the marquee Game 1 pitching matchup. It's the expected AL Cy Young winner in right-hander Shane Bieber (8-1, 1.63 ERA) against right-hander Gerrit Cole (7-3, 2.84 ERA). The Indians went 10-2 in Bieber's starts, and in seven of the 12 he did not give up more than one earned run. But Cole finished strong. He had a 3.91 ERA entering September and then went 3-1 with a 1.00 ERA in four starts in the month - two each against the Orioles and Blue Jays.

By the way, had Toronto beaten the Orioles in that final game, the Yankees and not Toronto would be the No. 8 seed and playing Tampa Bay. And New York went just 2-8 versus the Rays.

The biggest wagering favorites to win first-round series per betonline.ag are the Dodgers (-350) over the Brewers, the Cubs and Padres (-240) against, respectively, the Marlins and Cardinals. And Tampa Bay (-225) over Toronto.

And their odds to win the 2020 World Series:

Los Angeles Dodgers - 3/1
New York Yankees - 13/2
Tampa Bay Rays - 13/2
San Diego Padres - 10/1
Atlanta Braves - 12/1
Chicago White Sox - 14/1
Cleveland Indians - 14/1
Minnesota Twins - 14/1
Oakland Athletics - 14/1
Chicago Cubs - 16/1
Cincinnati Reds - 20/1
Houston Astros - 25/1
Miami Marlins - 33/1
Toronto Blue Jays - 33/1
Milwaukee Brewers - 35/1
St. Louis Cardinals - 40/1

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