After what felt like an eternity of arguing and negotiating, Major League Baseball is coming back! Players report to camps on July 1st and each team will play a 60 game regular season starting on July 23rd or 24th. Although I’m beyond thankful for a return to baseball, a 60 game season is much different and more complicated than a normal 162 game season. Here are my full thoughts on this abnormal year for Major League Baseball.
Let’s Rewind the Clock:
Look back to MLB’s standings on June 2, 2019, when every team had approximately 60 games played. The NL East had the Phillies in first place with the Nationals 7 games behind them in 4th. Milwaukee and Chicago are fighting for the top of the NL Central. Josh Bell and Charlie Blackmon would’ve been in the NL MVP race. Luis Castillo and Mike Soroka are in the NL CY Young conversation and Jacob DeGrom isn’t. Jose Berrios and Gerrit Cole are having a very similar season.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is NOT what the season ended like. The Nats went on to win the World Series while the Phillies finished 4th in the NL East and didn’t make the playoffs. Both Milwaukee and Chicago didn’t win their division, and only the Brewers were lucky enough for a Wild Card spot (which they lost). DeGrom and Cole finished 1st and 2nd in their respective Cy Young awards, and both Josh Bell and Chuck Nasty received no MVP votes. This all leads to my next point:
Hotstreaks Will Dominate:
Teams light up sometimes and there’s rarely a logical explanation behind it. For whatever reason, the Mets always have a strong start to their season (and they usually fall apart in June), but this year, that might be enough to get them into a competitive playoff spot. It’s not uncommon for teams and players to have a month of video-game numbers. Hotstreaks are now a much bigger deal with only 60 games. 60 games is just over two months of play, and if a team lights up for a month then they might’ve secured a playoff spot or even a bye from the wild card game. 162 games allow for hotstreaks to be ‘countered’ and for teams to average out over the course of the season, that won’t happen with only 60 games. If you ask me, maintaining consistency will be the biggest challenge this season, which brings me to my next point:
Pitching Will be Fragile Yet More Important:
Although I’m not going to make my usual predictions for this season because of its chaos, I will talk about why pitching will be difficult and different. In 2018 we say the Rays develop the ‘opener’ role, in which a normal relief pitcher will start a game and be pulled after the required 5 batters faced. This strategy has since been used rather successfully among a few teams because the lead batters have fewer at-bats against the same pitcher, thus creating more defensive variability. Expect many more teams to adopt this strategy, and keep an eye out for more unique management strategies.
Teams can’t afford to lose games and save arms like they’re used to. Normally managers want their starting pitchers to fight through the first 5 innings and go as long as they can without relying on the bullpen, I think that sentiment will change. There’s now more to lose by letting a starter stay in when having a rough first few innings, so they’re more likely to pull em with less hesitation. Why risk putting a guy back in who might not have his stuff today when I could choose among my other pitchers? One bad outing could be the difference between October or not, so why give a guy a full 5-inning start when he’s already had a rocky game?
Lastly, This Will Have Impacts On the Future.
Firstly, there’s just less time to do everything, like:
Players who have a contract expiring have less time to prove their worth
Teams have less time to make money which they can then offer in contracts
Front offices have less time to plan for trades and future (trade deadline is August 31st)
There’s likely no minor league games, so there’s less time to build a farm system
AND, these negotiations are a huge foreshadow:
The back and forth negotiations between the Players Association and the Owners was a mess. Regardless of which side of the argument you stood with (*cough cough* the players), the whole situation was almost childish and very bitter. It was clear that neither side got along well with the other, and the big CBA expires next year. CBAs in sports are no joke, and baseball went on strike before, there’s no telling what will happen next time.
Find Jake on Instagram @jake_richards19 and on Twitter @jake_richards00!