We finally have a semblance of an MLB season for 2020. The commissioner was forced to mandate a schedule as there was no agreement with the MLBPA. The season will consist of 60 games which are the shortest number of games played since 1878. There were 6 teams then. The Boston Red Stockings won the most games 41-19 (60 Games). In the 2020 season, the teams will play a schedule balanced for travel. They will play 40 games in their division and 20 games against eh NL version of their division. So, if you are in the AL EAST you will play 40 against your division and 20 against the NL EAST. The season will start July 23rd or 24th and end on Sept 27th. There are 60 games scheduled in 66 days with 0 doubleheaders.
The season will have a few rules changes. The roster size will go from 25 to 30 for the first 2 weeks, then down to 28, and reduced again 2 weeks later to a total of 26 players for the remainder of the season. Teams will have the ability to access a player pool of 60 players. Their 40-man roster will make up the 1st 40 then have a “taxi squad” of players to cover injuries or poor performance. A team will be able to travel with 3 of their “taxi squad” players if one of them is a catcher. Players can opt-out of the season altogether. They must be deemed “high risk” regarding their health. The DH will serve in the NL and AL. Interesting to see which NL teams will have an edge based on this position. There is an IL (injured list) specifically for Covid19. The standard IL will remain at 10 days, but the Covid19 IL will not have a limit. Extra inning games will have a runner start on 2nd base. The idea is to prevent marathon games.
The odds have come out for the new season. The favorites are the LA Dodgers and NY Yankees to win the World Series at +325 each. The Houston Astros are +750. The season win totals are also out. Again, the Dodgers and Yankees are atop this list with 38.5 wins as the highest totals. Baltimore and Detroit have the lowest at 21.5 wins. A nuance to a season of only 60 games is the BEST teams will not be able to differentiate themselves with large game leads over their GOOD competition. For example, The NY Yankees are projected (FanGraphs) to win 34 games. The TB Rays 32 games and the BOS Red Sox 30 games. The margin of wins is not large. In the NL WEST, the Dodgers project at 37 wins and SD at 32 wins. The two best teams in the game are NOT well advantaged in a shorter season. FanGraphs projections only have one team over .600 winning percentage (Dodgers .610). Four teams finished with above .600 last season (LA Dodgers, HOU Astros, NY Yankees, and MIN Twins).
There are other issues that come about here as well. Players like Mike Trout for example. Known as the best player in the game, he and his wife are having a child and she will give birth during the season. Trout will miss those games; thus, the Angels should be downgraded a couple of games (missing the best player should have a small game penalty). The Angels projection is 30 games, so maybe they will finish just under .500 instead of at .500. Some other areas to carefully watch are routine injuries. Guys that end up with strains and pulls are likely to miss most of a season. A hamstring issue can cause a player to miss 3 -4 weeks which in this case is half the season.
A starting pitcher who makes his routing start every 5th day will only get 10 starts for the entire season. He will project at like 60 innings. There will be NO 10-game winner in the MLB this season. How weird is that to say? Will we get anyone into 100 strikeouts? We will NOT have anyone with 20 Homeruns. I wonder if anyone will get 50 RBI? The separation of talent will be seen just not tallied in the stats by the end of the years. It will also be interesting to see how lesser-known players emerge and the roles they will play. In this short season, any player can become the “main” guy. I remember two years ago when a “throw in” Matt Kemp went back to the Dodgers in a trade from the Reds. He was not even supposed to make the team. Little did the Dodgers know how much they needed him at the time. It was a season that saw Justin Turner injured and miss the start of the season and Cory Seager get injured and miss the rest of the season. Matt Kemp had 60 RBI and 15 HRs in the 1st half of that season! The 2020 season could have several of those kinds of stories.
As the season is about to start, remember these players are by far the best in the world at what they do. Watching the KBO will give you plenty of reaffirmation if necessary. Even though the MLB owners and MLBPA are not seeing eye to eye, they will play. As a baseball die hard, I will cherish every moment and every big play. The “Boys of Summer” are returning. Even though we should no longer romanticize the sport, we can certainly cheer for quality at-bats! Let the season unfold and allow yourself to engage in the sport. We can only hope that the two sides will eventually work things out so baseball remains a mainstay to our summers!