BASEBALL IN 2020
News that baseball will be starting in July is welcome to fans clamoring for sports during these difficult times. Hear me when I say that I think the plight of sports pale when compared to what has been happening in this country this year, but this will hopefully be a small step towards normalcy and a temporary respite from the heavy issues we’re dealing with as a nation.
If you need to get up to speed, here’s a link to the basics about the 2020 Major League Baseball season:
Much has been made of the reduced 60 game season, with some thoughts on giving the season an asterisk, with the chance of short sample outliers making it “not a real season”.
That’s not without merit, as here’s a real good article from mlb.com detailing some recent performances in the first sixty games of the season:
Will we see a .400 hitter in 2020? Maybe.
We could also see some interesting team numbers. The best 60-game team stretch in modern baseball history? That would be the Cubs’ 52-8 run in 1906, when they won 116 games. The Dodgers came pretty close to reaching this in 2017, with a 51-9 stretch. The Yankees best 60 game stint was in 1938 when they went 48-11 (with one tie) on their way to a World Series title.
Just for fun, I thought I’d take a look at the first 60 games (or so) of the 2019 season. On 6/5, the Yankees lost to Toronto 11-7, making their record 38-22, good enough for first place in the AL East. Here are the other division leaders on the same day:
AL Central : Minnesota AL West: Houston NL East: Philadelphia NL Central: Chicago NL West: Los Angeles
So, of the six division winners, four were in first place by early June. The major missing piece of the puzzle of course was World Champion Washington, who was 28-33 and in fourth place in the NL East.
Now, there are a number of variables to this season that weren’t present in 2019, or any other season for that matter. The schedule setup, with the games only within the division and matching division geographically in the other league. The Universal DH. The uncertain status of fans in the stands. The extra inning baserunner on second rule. Larger rosters for the beginning of the season. Finally, of course, the threat of illness that continues to rage through the country, which has the potential to shut major parts if not all, of a team.
So, what is the recipe for success in 2020? Here are a couple of thoughts I have and how they may impact the Yankees:
Preparedness/conditioning: With players reporting to clubs 7/1 for training camp and the season starting 7/23, that gives just over three weeks to get into game shape. Is that enough? Certainly those players who kept in shape during the layoff due the pandemic would seem to have a leg up on those who may not have. I’ve heard and read anecdotal reports of numerous Yankees continuing to work out while off, and hopefully they will be ready to go after a training camp “tuneup”. A fast start is crucual with a short season, and a team that is “in shape” from the beginning may have a significant advantage.
Depth: There are two ways I see depth helping a team out. First, the need to ease players back into playing shape that will likely go into the season. The Yankees look to be relatively healthy at this point, though I suspect Aaron Judge may not be 100% ready by Opening Day. That being said, they look to have plenty of pieces to handle the early season strain.
Second, the event of COVID diagnoses within a team. Again, the Yankees’ depth they demonstrated in last year’s “Next Man Up” season looks to be largely intact, and there should be players ready to step in should some players go down. That being said, a pandemic is whole new ballgame, and even the best of depth may be challenged.
I’m intrigued by what a 60 team “sprint” season looks like. One of Aaron Boone’s great attributes as a manager has been his patience and steady hand in guiding the Yankees though the ups and downs of a 162 game schedule. What might he do differently in 2020?
As it stands now, the Yankes’ Opening Day looks to be 7/23 in Washington. I’m assuming that Gerrit Cole would be taking the mound against Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg. I’ll be watching. Will you?