March 26th, 2020. The day Major League Baseball originally planned to have Opening Day. Little did we know at the start of the year that the global COVID-19 pandemic would hit so hard and disrupt so much of our day to day lives, sports included. It’s been over three months since the scheduled Opening Day and after plenty of tense back and forth proposals between Major League Baseball and the Players Association, a plan was finally put into place and we’ll have our first pitch of the 2020 season tonight. July 23rd. (the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals both start on Friday, July 24th.)
So, what’s new?
Due to the season starting late, Major League Baseball has ditched their usual 162 game season in favor of only 60 games this year which will be played in only 66 days. Baseball has the longest season of any major North American sport and is normally a marathon so this new format will create an unprecedented level of importance for every game.
Fun Fact: It is the shortest baseball season since 1878.
Trivia Question: Who had the best record in that famous 1878 season? (Answer at the bottom of this post.)
Who plays who?
With the pandemic still complicating things in the country, the MLB schedule for each team was made to limit travel as much as possible. Each team will only play their own division and the interleague teams with the same geography (for example, the St. Louis Cardinals will play the NL & AL Central Division teams).
Will there be a trade deadline?
There sure will be. All indications point to this being set for August 31st.
While the shortened season was sure to upset some of the more hardcore traditionalist fans, the new rules might make their heads spin. MLB will introduce a Universal DH across both the American League (which has had this in place since 1973) and the National League for the first time. What does that mean to you if you’re not familiar with the rules? Simply, pitchers will not be batting this year. It was widely expected that this rule would be coming at some point anyway, but this schedule gives Major League Baseball a perfect opportunity to test the waters. The other major change is that if a game goes into extra innings, the batting team will start with a runner on second. Due to playing so many games in a short period of time, this is designed to speed the game along in these later innings.
What do our sports staff experts have to say?
What is your excitement level for the 2020 MLB season?
Sean Jeffries – It usually takes me a while to get into the baseball season, and while in theory, I think it would be therapeutic to finally see baseball being played, I’m not excited, I think it’s dangerous right now. I will watch the games initially, for sure. If it is entertaining, I’ll keep watching as often as I’m able. There is something very satisfying about finishing up some chores and then plopping down on the couch to watch a baseball game in the summer.
Greg Bussmann – Very low. I am in the camp that feels like the season will not actually happen. [Editor’s note: Looks like this opinion was wrong, and Greg now resolves to try to enjoy watching the season.]
Dan Suchanek – Zero. I will not go out of my way to watch games but will probably follow the standings.
Andrew Corns – It’s funny, Sean and Dan are both bigger baseball fans than I am and neither has much interest. I am a casual fan and more excited about this baseball season than I have been this century. And isn’t that kind of what is ultimately good for baseball? Get new fans like me who only casually watch while people like Dan and Sean will inevitably still watch even with minimal interest.
Do you think the 60-game season is too short or too long?
Sean Jeffries – I don’t think they will even play all 60 games before Covid-19 decimates their ranks.
Greg Bussmann – It’s obviously too short by any realistic measure, but 2020 is not a year for realistic measures. So, I think it’s about the best they can do given the circumstances.
Dan Suchanek – Too short. I see it as a failed opportunity. Why they couldn’t expand the roster to 40 players, run doubleheaders and showcase the minor leaguers is beyond me.
Andrew Corns – It is shorter than my idea of ideal (around 100 games), but I’ll take a 60-game season over 162 any day of the week. It puts maximum importance on every single game, every inning and every at bat. It will be can’t miss day in and day out which is something baseball has never been able to say. No dog days of summer this year and thank goodness for that!
What is your reaction to the Universal DH rule and Runner on 2nd in Extra Innings rule?
Sean Jeffries – I don’t have a problem with it in the spirit of making the extras shorter.
Greg Bussmann – The universal DH is an idea whose time has come for the NL. The pandemic provides a convenient reason to usher it in. The runner on 2nd in extra innings I am not as big a fan of. The idea is to expedite games given the tight schedule this year, but I am not sure I buy that. MLB’s schedule is always tight and long games are never convenient. That said, I don’t think long games are a big enough problem to warrant such a gimmick-y work-around. And it seems statistics would bear me out:
Since 2012, there have been 1,200 extra-inning games. How many of these games went 10 innings, you ask? Just 524, or 43.7 percent. But, 981 of the 1,200 games — or 81.8 percent — end by the 12th. It’s very rare that you see a game go 15 innings or longer, as there have only been 58 such games in the last 5 ½ years or about 4.8 percent of total extra-inning affairs. Here’s the entire breakdown. – BeyondTheBoxScore.com
Dan Suchanek – So stupid! I hate the DH. Pitchers are players and all players should bat. Because of how baseball has evolved, most pitchers are on a level playing field at the plate so what are you losing in the game? It also takes strategy from the managers to utilize their bench better when your relief pitchers must bat. I know there are arguments out there that people would rather see a big hitter coming to the plate instead of a pitcher, but that is what pinch hitters are for. And why put a runner on 2nd? And how do they choose this runner? Although, if they can choose anyone from the bench in or out of the game, that might be interesting.
Andrew Corns – Universal DH? It’s about darn time! I’m speaking as a casual fan here, but I don’t see how it’s anything but great that we’ll have DH hitters at the plate who can actually hit the ball and keep my attention over a pitcher who simply means an almost automatic out and usually a bathroom break or chance to look at my phone. Putting a runner on 2nd in extra innings? Fantastic idea. Who cares if they play around with the regular season format, much in the same way the NHL does with a shootout to speed up the end of regular-season games? Let the playoffs play out as normal and all will be fine. Well done, MLB! Welcome to the new school way of thinking.
Are the Cardinals built to succeed in this condensed format?
Sean Jeffries – I don’t think so, they’re not a super-fast starting team. This is based on previous seasons, though I’ve got no data to back that up. It could be a perception because I have been notoriously slow to be interested in watching baseball over the last 10 years or so.
Greg Bussmann – The Cardinals are a good team. Will they be able to ‘gel’ before the season ends and make a run into the playoffs? Hard to say. I think the division they are in helps. I wouldn’t call it weak, but I think of all of the divisions – East, Central, West- the Centrals are the ‘easiest’.
Dan Suchanek – Not with their rotation. We as Cardinals fans are spoiled. We tend to think more highly of players with the “Birds on the Bat Logo”. As a pitcher, my priority would be looking towards next year. Any type of ailment will shut these pitchers down for the season.
Andrew Corns – Not necessarily, but they do have a quality starting rotation, talent, and experience that could help them handle the wild ride it’s set to be. It is also worth noting they only play NL & AL Central teams so their strength of schedule is easy enough that they could make a solid push to a playoff spot.
Which Cardinals player is set to have the best season?
Sean Jeffries – Wild guess, but I don’t see how anyone is any better off than another player. Under normal circumstances, I would pick Goldschmidt because I think he was disappointed with his season last year.
Greg Bussmann – Paul Dejong keeps coming to mind. Not sure why. I think because the unusual calendar favors the young players who are not as accustomed to baseball’s circadian rhythms, yet old enough to have figured out some holes in his swing. I think this year being so unique, that could be a good combination.
Dan Suchanek – Paul Goldschmidt.
Andrew Corns – Everyone is going to throw Goldschmidt’s name out there and rightfully so, but I will put my money down on Jack Flaherty. This is his chance to prove he is among the elite pitchers in all Major League Baseball.
What team outside of the Cardinals are you most interested in watching?
Sean Jeffries – The Angels. I doubt we will get many Angels games on TV in St. Louis, but I’d love to watch Mike Trout play. He is probably one of the top 3 if not the single most talented ballplayer in the game today. It’s also always fun to see Albert Pujols play, though I’ve no idea what his injury status is. They’ve also got Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, a guy who can pitch lights out and hit mammoth home runs.
Greg Bussmann – I’m interested to see if there is any fallout from the Astros scandal. Anyone remember that?
Dan Suchanek – The Houston (Cheaters) Astros. I want to see them put up or shut up. If they can repeat the quality at bats, then the cheating scandal talks will get quiet, but if they can’t, we’ll know why they were so successful.
Andrew Corns – Los Angeles Dodgers. This is an easy one for me. They have a fantastic rotation with an ace pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, and added the best piece of anyone during the offseason in Mookie Betts. This team is built to win now and should be a heavy contender in the shortened season.
What team is built best to handle the sprint season the way it’s set up?
Sean Jeffries – Not sure which it is, but I think teams who are historically fast starters will have an advantage.
Greg Bussmann – I would argue that no team is built for this kind of sprint, but I will go with the Yankees. Any team that would be likely to win 100 games in a normal season, should by default fare pretty well in a shortened one. But by the same token, any team that gets off to a slow start will likely be buried without the time to catch up.
Dan Suchanek – Los Angeles Dodgers. It is nothing more than a feeling really. They have the players in the field that want it the most.
Andrew Corns – I’ll turn to some MLB experts who I saw on ESPN claim that the Rays are built to succeed under this format with their incredibly strong bullpen which will be as important as ever with so many games in a short period of time.
How far can the Cardinals realistically go this season?
Sean Jeffries – Doesn’t every team make the playoffs? LoL. If they’re in the playoffs they’ll have as much chance as anyone.
Greg Bussmann – My prediction is the division series, where they will lose to the Braves.
Dan Suchanek – They will miss the playoffs.
Andrew Corns – I’ve got them slotted as either 2nd or 3rd best in the division so they have a decent shot to land one of the wild card spots and possibly surprise a team in the playoffs. I would say the best-case scenario is they win one round of the playoffs before getting swept by the Dodgers or Nationals. Worst case scenario? Mediocrity and a .500 record
Who makes the 2020 World Series and who wins the title?
Sean Jeffries – Giants & Royals (I used a random generator to pick those). I’ll go with the Giants to win because I think their starting rotation is better. I’m sure this matchup is a long shot at best with new managers on both sides. It would be wickedly fun to watch St. Louis social media burn if Mike Matheny, who I wasn’t a fan of when he managed the Cardinals, won the World Series in his 1st year in Kansas City.
Greg Bussmann – I think the Dodgers will defeat the Yankees.
Dan Suchanek – Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Minnesota Twins.
Andrew Corns – This is probably in part wishful thinking because I love stars and power franchises, but I am taking the Yankees and Dodgers to make the World Series. That’s right. The two largest markets in the country and two star-powered teams to battle it out for the title. Did you know they have not met in a World Series since 1981? Both have an ace pitcher, Kershaw, and Cole. Each has star everyday players, Betts/Bellinger and Stanton/Judge. This would be the perfect matchup to help deliver an epic ending to a unique and memorable year and help revitalize baseball as this new decade begins. Yankees win in six.
Trivia Answer: The Boston Red Caps (now the Atlanta Braves) with a record of 41 – 19