Thinking through what just might be the most interesting MLB season ever
MLB is … back? Need to be tentative about saying it out loud, given how the past few weeks have gone in the back and forth.
But, yes, finally, it looks to be a done deal.
Sixty games, starting July 24, no expanded playoffs.
It will be unlike any season ever.
MLB, of the major sports, is the marathon, not a sprint.
The NFL is 16 games. You start 0-2, and you’re pretty much done.
The NBA regular season, at 82 games, feeding into a 16-team playoff, has been meaningless forever.
MLB’s 162-game schedule is a test of wills as much as anything.
At 60 games, you’re getting a little more than a third of what you normally get.
In a 162-game season, you can be the Washington Nationals and start 19-31 and still win the World Series.
You do what the Nats did in 2019: you get healthy, you get hot, you add some pieces at the trade deadline, you get yourself into contention in September, anything can happen.
A team that is 19-31 in 2020 is 10 games from being done.
That’s the reality of the upcoming season.
It’s more like the NFL. You simply can’t afford to get out to a bad first couple of weeks.
If you’re 5-10 two weeks into this, it’s the second week of August, it’s hot as Hades, and you’re done.
The advantage should sit with veteran teams like the Nats, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees and Houston Astros, who are loaded with talent, especially in starting pitching.
Those teams seem to me more likely to get out to a good start and be able to sustain it.
They’re already used, from the past couple of seasons, to shifting into playoff mode in late July anyway.
It won’t seem that unusual to them to be in a pennant race in the summer.
Because that’s where we’re starting. As with the minor-league rule that will be used in extra innings, putting a runner on second to start the inning, everybody starts on July 24 in a pennant race.
There isn’t an April and May to round into shape, figure out the batting order, work out platoons, the alchemy of who gets outs in the bullpen.
That all needs to be in place on Opening Day.
Then there are issues with the expanded roster, how you use the extra players. Almost certainly, you add more arms in the pen, but do you also add utility guys to give your regulars more rest, given the oddities of the season to come?
Given the shorter season, do you stagger your starting rotation to get more starts out of your 1 and 2 starters, skipping the fifth guy every so often to try to get your Scherzers, Strasburgs, your Coles, 14 or 15 starts instead of 12 or 13?
Lots of questions, a couple of weeks to come to answers.
Should be interesting.
Story by Chris Graham
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