It seems that there will be baseball season after all, one of 60 matches, after a month of poor public negotiations between players and owners about how to navigate through money from a shortened season. In the words of the Reds jug Trevor Bauer, “COVID-19 have presented a lose-lose-lose situation and somehow we’ve found a way to make it worse. “
However, at least we can turn our attention once more to the coming season and pretend to return in mid-March, talking about baseball and baseball players and the wonders and excitement of the best sports on the planet. Season 60 match? Okay, here are 60 story lines to watch as the first pitch is thrown:
1 Mookie Betts in the Dodgers uniform
February trade that sent Betts and David Price to the Dodgers for Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong may have been done to trigger the rebuilding of various kinds in Boston, but that did not make it less popular. Now we will see Betts in the Dodgers uniform – and you have to admit, it looks very suitable in spring training. Of course, Betts would look great in a horrible White Sox uniform from the 1970s with shorts and a collar.
Betts is arguably the second best player in the department, only lagging Mike Trout in WAR for the past four seasons. Then again, he might just be the second best player at the Dodgers to remember that Cody Bellinger was the National League MVP in 2019. Betts made the Dodgers a better defensive team – and they might already be the best in the majors, having finished second from last year’s Astros in average allowed shots on the ball in the game and the first major running defensive saved. The bottom line: Whether it’s 60 matches or 162 matches, the Dodgers are still a favorite of the World Series.
2 Gerrit Cole with the Yankees
You might not remember all the offseason signing, but you remember this one: nine years, $ 324 million. Cole will enter our new season with a regular season winning streak from 16 matches after 16-0 with 1.78 ERA for the last 22 matches starting with Astros. The stretch featured 16 double-digit strikeout matches, including the last nine in a row. He did indeed lose one game in the postseason but went 4-1 with 1.72 ERA in five starts, holding batters to an average of 1.65. Signing it makes the Yankees the American League’s favorite consensus, so maybe we’ll head to our first Dodgers-Yankees World Series since 1981.
3. Mike Trout has protection!
The signing of the second largest free agent offseason is Anthony Rendon headed to Angels on a seven-year contract. Trout won his third MVP Award in 2019, and now Angel fans can salivate on the third hit Rendon and follow Trout in the lineup. Angel No. 3 bats battled in .265 / .323 / .464 in 2019, ranking 21st in the majors at WOBA. National Beater No. 3 – mostly Rendon – ranked first.
4. Mike Trout!
He is now in what is considered his 28th season and will be 29 in August. So he theoretically entered a phase of decline in his career. I hope not.
5. The Nationals try to repeat as World Series champions
Remember, the Braves and not the Nationals won NL East, and now the Nationals minus Rendon. The Nationals are clearly unable to start as slowly as last season, when they played 19-31 in their first 50 matches. You will hear what is often cited as evidence of wild results that can occur in a short season, but note that 19-31 is an extreme result for a playoff team. In fact, over the past three years, that’s the worst 50-game range for anything – That’s stretching 50 matches at each point this season. So, yes, bad stretches can happen to a good team, but it might not be what you think it is.
6. How many people will hate Astros?
Before the closure of the coronavirus, this will definitely be a continuing story throughout the season. Now, not much. Maybe the team will broadcast loudly over the stadium’s sound system when the Astros are the visitors.
7. How will Astros crash?
Astros led the department with an average of .274 years ago. They have the highest level of walking. They lead in percentage of slugging. They will be fine. Replacing Cole and Wade Miley is of even greater concern because they aim to equal the fourth consecutive 100-win season – which, by the way, has never been done before.
You might remember that there were a lot of home run hits in 2019 – a total record of 6,776, or 1.39 per team match. Fifty-eight players reached at least 30 home runs, destroying the previous 47 high in 2000. In 1998, the year Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa broke the 61 homer Roger Maris record, only 33 players reached 30. So, we will get the same live ball in 2020? 60-game equivalent to 30 home runs will be 11.
9. DH universal
Forget it. It is time. Pitchers reached 0.128 last year. They account for 43.5% of their plate appearance. Then again, they reached 0.115 in 2018, so maybe they got better.
10. New strategy!
No, we won’t suddenly see more pregnancy, but we can see a little more creativity in the way the pitcher is deployed – not just an opening, but maybe something like an initial tag-team starter, with two starters each throwing three innings or so before submitting the game to the bullpen.
The most obvious strategic change during the short season is the aggressive use of the team’s best removers and longer events to cover. Managers don’t need to worry about keeping busting stronger than 162 matches; and with each game having a greater impact on the standings, they will want to concentrate as much innings as possible on the best bullpen arms. For example, there were 1,180 rescues in all majors last year, with 195 of them (16.5%) more than three failing. That percentage has increased (13.8% in 2018), but I think we will see more savings of four and five.
11 Juan SotoNext level
He was 21 years old in the middle of last year’s World Series – a series where he pressed 0.333 / .438 / .741 with three home runs and seven RBI and introduced himself to a wider audience. Unfortunately, a short season will rob him of his chance to become the third player to score 40 home runs at the age of 21. Your 21-year-old leaderboard:
Soto’s 34 home runs in 2019 placed him fourth on the age-20 list, behind Mel Ott, Frank Robinson and Alex Rodriguez. After reaching .282 / .401 / .548 with 108 steps, Soto has proven to be a base-based engine. Only 11 players reached 40 home runs with OBP 0,400 before reaching the age of 24. He will not do it in 2020, but he will not be 24 years old until after the regular season of 2022.
12. Encore Ronald Acuna Jr.
It was a perfect transition for Acuna, who not only reached 41 home runs last year but led the NL with 37 steals and 127 runs and finished fifth in the MVP vote. He is perhaps the most interesting player in the game, and at the age of 22, he can become an MVP candidate. (Reduce the attacks!) However, instead of aiming for the 40/40 season, maybe he can direct his attention on 20/20. The only player to do that in the first 60 matches of the season? Men, myths, legends: Eric Davis, in 1987. The last one going 15/15 was Bobby Abreu in 2005.
If Soto and Acuna became the super slackers last year, this year will be Alonso, out of his rookie-53 home run record, and Alvarez, who hit 27 in 87 matches. Alonso has the charisma to be a star beyond whatever number he enters. Alvarez has the talent – he also scored .313 – to be one of the best batsmen in the game. Listen to my friends.
For the third season in a row, we will not get a full demonstration of what smash brothers can do for more than 162 matches. In 2018, Judges miss 50 matches. Last year, Judge played 102 and Stanton was only 18 – and the Yankees still scored 306 home runs. And maybe we won’t see the two of them healthy together this year, because the Judge is reportedly still struggling against fractures due to stress on his ribs suffered in September.
15 Bryce HarperSecond year in Philly
Contrary to the opinion of a national expert, Harper did not “smell” in his first year with the Phillies. It’s also true that Harper will forever play in the shadows of other world MVP seasons in 2015. However, Phillies has greater concerns than Harper.
16. White Sox and Reds “win” winter. Is it important?
White Sox signed Grand Yasmani, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Steve Cishek and Gio Gonzalez as a free agent, while also re-signing Jose Abreu. Throw a beginner outside player Luis Robert and rookie baseman Nick Madrigal and White Sox have one of the most interesting lineups in the game:
The Reds, meanwhile, sign Mike Moustakas, Nicholas Castellanos, Wade Miley and Japanese outside players Shogo Akiyama. They will have Trevor Bauer all season long. I like what the White Sox does more than the Reds, but Cincinnati can be relevant for the first time since 2013.
17. Speaking of Luis Robert, he can be one of the beginners
The 22-year-old Cuban fielder center is a strength / speed threat that is ranked 5th in Kiley McDaniel’s top 100 prospects. Robert hit 0.328 with 32 home runs and 36 steals between Double-A and Triple-A and must be a star, especially if you can improve his approach on a plate (28 walks, 129 strikeouts). My prospective rookie this year:
The key to the White Sox, however, is probably the production of Rodon and Kopech. Rodon underwent surgery in May 2019, but White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper recently said he must be ready after the match resumes. However, there is speculation that Rodon will be issued from the bullpen. The agile Kopech underwent four operations in his major league career in 2018, and he has a positive side to be part of the 1-2 dynamite duo with the 2019 All-Star runaway Lucas Giolito.
19. What about other teams in Chicago?
It was a quiet season for the Cubs, who did not spend more than $ 1 million on free agents. Their biggest story now is that Anthony Rizzo has lost 25 pounds during quarantine. Maybe the Cubs just need a healthier fee in the postgame spread to return to the playoffs.
20. David Ross replaces Joe Maddon; Maddon goes to the Angels
The former Cubs catcher took over for the iconic Cubs captain, who moved to an organization where he was a longtime coach before starting a successful managerial career. In a normal season, the two managers will be under great pressure to improve last year’s results. Does it decrease in the short season? I think so.
21 Shohei Ohtani back to the mound
The angels originally planned to limit Ohtani’s innings, and if the season had begun on time, we might not see it waltzing until at least May. Maintaining innings won’t be a problem now, but let’s see how often angels start. Will they stick to the plan once a week, as he did in Japan and in 10 starts in 2018, or will they try to make it start more in a short season?
22. Jacob deGrom valid for the third successive Cy Young Award
That has been done before – Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux each won four in a row – but deGrom is also eyeing a third consecutive season with a sub-2.50 ERA. To put that in perspective, only 27 starting pitchers since 1920 have had three seasons in their careers with ERA under 2.50 (Maddux and Juan Marichal have the most, with six each).
23. Mets … LOL or Yes Must Believe?
Mets fans always expect Doomsday Scenarios, and that doesn’t help Noah Syndergaard dropped out after Tommy John’s operation, but the team added Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha to go with deGrom, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz. The Mets also have a new manager at Luis Rojas, who replaced Carlos Beltran before Beltran managed the game. The Mets went 46-26 in the second round last year, which is often an indicator for the following season. I’m leaning towards Yes Gotta Believe.
It’s not that they want extra time off, but the two pitchers should benefit, given Strasburg’s workload in the 2019 playoffs and Scherzer’s health problems at the end of the World Series. Strasburg opted out of his contract with the Nationals, signing back with a large, seven-year, $ 245 million agreement. I’ve shown this before, but Strasburg and Scherzer through the age of 30:
Strasburg: 112-58, 3.17 ERA, 32.3 WAR
Scherzer: 105-62, 3.46 ERA, 30.8 WAR
Strasburg probably entered the best four or five years of his career.
25 Madison Bumgarner in red, black and blue Sedona
Diamondbacks will have a new uniform for 2020 – missing is the controversial diamond pattern gradient and charcoal gray street jerseys – but who will wear the uniform is the most attractive. Three-time World Series champion Bumgarner left the Giants to sign a $ 85 million five-year contract with Arizona, joining an exciting rotation that included Robbie Ray, Zac Gallen, Luke Weaver and Merrill Kelly. Will Bumgarner succeed far from pitcher-friendly Oracle Park? He has 5.16 ERA on the road for the past two seasons.
26. Are these people real?
27. It must be real: Rafael Devers
The most extra-base hits in a season by a Boston Red Sox player:
Devers, 2019: 90
Ted Williams, 1939: 86
Nomar Garciaparra, 1997: 85
Williams, 1940: 80
Mookie Betts, 2016: 78
28. Dusty Baker takes over Astros
Baker is only 71 years old, having recently managed the Nationals in 2017. That makes him the oldest manager in a job that has gotten younger over the past decade. He was in a one-year contract with a team option for 2021 and was brought in as a stable hand after the dismissal of AJ Hinch due to the stealing-sign scandal. On the one hand, Baker may be more at stake than any other character in the game in 2020. He has 10 90-win seasons and nine playoff appearances, and he is 15th on the all-time winning list. What he doesn’t have is a World Series title. If he gets that, he might have a place in Cooperstown.
29 Josh Donaldson for the twins
The Twins set a major league record with 307 home runs last season, featuring five players who scored at least 31 home runs, and then they added former MVP Donaldson, who scored 37 for Braves in 2019. I would love to see this game come out in more than 162 matches and see if the Twins can challenge 101 wins last year (second in franchise history).
30. By the way, can the Twins, A, and Sinar do it again?
The Twins and A have made back-to-back playoff appearances. The Rays defeated A in the wild-card game last year before pushing Astros into five games in the division series. Yes, all three can do it again – and don’t be surprised if one of them reaches the World Series. My bet is on Sinar, which combines exceptional depth of throw and great defense with what might be an improved offense after they add Japanese slugger Yoshimoto Tsutsugo, a former Cardinals player Jose Martinez and former Padres outfield Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot. That’s a lot of mixing and matching, but it will be fun to see how the Rays maximize their ranks every day.
31. In fact, will we see Wander Franco?
The game’s main prospects are only 19 and haven’t played above Class A, and there is no clear opening at Tampa Infield, but Juan Soto shouldn’t have arrived a few years ago at 19. As is the case with Soto, a prospect like this makes his timeline himself, and the Rays might have thought it advantageous to give him some major leagues, rather than having him spend an important development year not playing.
32. Did the Red Sox really rebuild?
Just call it readjustment. Under new general manager Chaim Bloom, the team trades Mookie Betts to add some young talents and get future salaries under better control. Sox is also gone Chris Sale for Tommy John’s operation. Without Sale, Price, and Rick Porcello (who signed a contract with the Mets), the Red Sox has lost 49% of their start from 2019, so that would be the best patchwork rotation. Still, don’t count the lineup featuring Devers, Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez.
33. Will Cody Bellinger repeat as NL MVP?
He will probably do it if he starts like he did in 2019, when he hit 0.376 / 0.462 / 0.733 with 20 home runs in the Dodgers first 60 games. He also started hot as a rookie in 2017, when he reached 24 home runs in his first 60 matches. I’m not sure that’s enough evidence to give him a quick starter label, because he experienced a terrible May in 2018, when he pressed 0.180.
34. Will Christian Yelich challenge for the MVP award again?
Yelich won in 2018 and even better in 2019, hitting 0.329 / .429 /, 671 with 44 home runs and 30 steals and won his second consecutive title. So much for regression. At the start of the original spring training, Yelich recovered from a broken knee cap that ended the season several weeks early last year. So, yes, at the age of 28, he was at his peak, and he could be the first NL player to win three straight bats since Tony Gwynn won four in a row from 1994 to 1997. (Miguel Cabrera won three in a row in the Navy from 2011 to 2013).
35. Oh, yes, Miguel Cabrera
He is now 37 years old and not yet Miguel Cabrera since 2016, so even though he is in very good shape in March, age and injury mean that a big return is not possible. But you never know. Cabrera is 23 home runs out of 500, so milestones are now out of reach for 2020, but he will pass Adrian Beltre with the next home run to claim sole ownership of 30th place on the list of all time. (Fred McGriff and Lou Gehrig next, at 493).
36. Albert Pujols
He had four home runs from tying Willie Mays in 660 for the fifth of all time. He will also pass Alex Rodriguez with 12 RBI to move to third on the list, leaving only Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. It’s almost hard to believe, but he now goes seven seasons in a row without slugging 0.500 – after slugging 0.608 the first 12 seasons of his career.
37. Is this the year for Clayton Kershaw?
He is not really clean, friends. He went 16-5 with 3.03 ERA and held a batter of 0.222 batting averages. Yes, the trend is headed in the wrong direction – three years in a row with a higher ERA and a decreased strike-to-walk ratio – but he is still very, very good and aside from your own team, no one you want to see win the World Series ring more than Kershaw (unless you are a Giants fan).
38. Justin TurnerLast year in LA?
Turner is in the final year of his contract with the Dodgers and in their six seasons with them they have won six division titles. How good is he? Among players with at least 2,000 plate appearances since 2014 he was ranked tied for 11th in OPS + – tied with Donaldson and Yelich. In many ways, he has become the heart and soul of the Dodgers, a player who transformed himself from a utility infielder into an extraordinary player.
39. 2021 other free agents
Aside from Betts and Turner, this is a list of interesting players – a group that will struggle to get dollars that will almost certainly become a tight free agent market due to economic losses this season. Top names: J.T. Realmuto, George Springer, Marcus Semien, Andrelton Simmons, DJ LeMahieu, Yuli Gurriel, Michael Brantley, Nelson Cruz, Joc Pederson, Trevor Bauer, James Paxton, Robbie Ray, Marcus Stroman, Masahiro Tanaka.
Again, some economic uncertainty might make it less likely that these players will be traded – the team will be reluctant to take more money. On the other hand, especially in the case of Lindor, maybe Indian owners will be more desperate to save money and exchange him for 75 cents.
41. The Padres’ new uniform
Can uniforms be a story line? Yes, when Fernando Tatis Jr. wearing one.
42. Trio Blue Jays
Bo Bichette is a revelation, Cavan Biggio surprise and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. the chosen. The three sons of former major league players – two of whom are Hall of Famers – on one team are already a great story. It will get better when they build a better team around three young people.
43. You can Jack Flaherty continue to dominate?
The Cardinals’ cards during the 16 regular seasons start: 7-3, 0.93 ERA, 0.139 average strokes allowed, only six home runs in 106 ⅓ rounds. Umm, I’ll say this and you can only nod in agreement: That’s Gibson-esque.
44. Beginner young Dodgers
45. Comeback player
This list may be included Joey Votto, Craig Kimbrel and Edwin Diaz, among others, but the number one man to watch is the Cy Young winner twice Corey Kluber, now with Rangers after offseason trading. He was hit hard at the beginning of the seven season starts before spending the rest of the season with a broken arm after being hit by a drive line and then tilted. He joined Mike Minor and Lance Lynn to potentially give Rangers one of the best starting trios in the department.
46. Hard shortcuts
Garry Templeton won the Silver Slugger for Padres in 1984 – hitting .258 with two home runs. Only one NL shortstop reached more than six home runs that year. Only Cal Ripken Jr. has reached more than 16. Let’s just say it’s a different era and it’s not just because the balls are blended. This game is full of athletic, strong, strong shortstop. Six of them reached at least 30 home runs by 2019 – Gleyber Torres, The Story of Trevor, Marcus Semien, Xander Bogaerts, and Francisco Lindor Paul DeJong. Javier Baez press 29. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Carlos Correa can certainly get there in the regular season. The Anderson team just won the batting title. Corey Seager, Trea Turner, Jorge Polanco, Willy Adames, Dansby Swanson, Nick Ahmed – This is truly a golden age.
47. Oakland Rotation
A won 97 matches and may have 3.5 new starters for 2020. Rookies and Jesus Luzardo A.J. Puk Follow Frankie Montas, which has 2.63 ERA in 16 starts before the PED suspension. And Sean Manaea back at the end of the season and look great. Mike Fiers and Chris Bassitt is a relic. Don’t give Houston the title of Western Navy division first.
48. Will someone hit .400?
Yeah, that’s possible! But, impossible! Only one player since 2000 has reached .400 in his team’s first 60 matches, Chipper Jones, who scored 0.409 for Braves in 2008. In the past 10 years, the highest average through 60 matches is actually the Bellinger 0.376 mark last season.
49 Luis Arraez
Who is Luis Arraez? Your AL 2020 batting champ.
50. Matt Manning, Casey Mize and Skubal Pull
No team has three top-level pitching prospects that can match the three for the Tiger. Manning is the No. prospect 13 Kiley, Mize are ranked 14th and Skubal 79th – and Skubal outperformed them both in Double-A. Tigers haven’t gone anywhere this season, but it will be interesting to see if they give them major league innings – a good experience for 2021.
51. MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino
Actually, the Padres was there with the Tigers, with Gore (overall prospect No. 8 Kiley) and Patino (No. 11). They are not as advanced as the Detroit pitchers – Gore made five starts in Double-A and Patino two – but without a minor league to throw and an expanded roster, Padres must at least be tempted to use the second minimum in a bullpen and it wouldn’t be surprising to see them get some starters .
Snell is the winner of Cy Young 2018, Morton finished third last year and Glasnow may be better than them. Have I mentioned that I really like Sinar?
53. Which ‘redevelopment’ team can surprise you?
I don’t know, but in the 60 season game, something strange will happen. Hey, Mariners are in first place in the Baseball-Reference simulation season.
54. Which favorite will disappoint?
Cubs is 20 games under 0.500 in a B-R simulation. I am not that bad, despite legitimate concerns about the age / overall health of the initial rotation (combined with the scarcity of the prospect of underage-ready MLB pitching).
55. Who will win the MVP Awards?
I went with Mike Trout (duh) and Juan Soto.
56. Who will win the Cy Young Awards?
I’m going to go out on a limb and go with Gerrit Cole and Jacob deGrom. But don’t rule out wild cards. As ESPN Stats & Info notes, one group of players who can take advantage of the short season is a pitcher who starts a hot start. Guess who holds the lowest ERA record through 60 team matches in the Live Ball Era (since 1920)? Ubaldo Jimenez, at 11-1 with 0.93 ERA through 60 team matches in 2010.
57. Wait, has the rule changed about starting an extra round with runners in second base really going to happen?
It seems so. Hey, now DH is gone (at least for 2020 and maybe forever), we need a new problem to divide the baseball nation.
58. Empty baseball stadium
Yes, that would be strange. It will calm down. You might be able to hear players spitting sunflower seeds, except spitting sunflower seeds will be banned (can’t wait to see the first player expelled for spitting seeds). On the other hand, it will reduce the garbage that can slam. (I’m kid, Astros fan, I’m kid.)
59. TV rating
Do poor public negotiations alienate fans? There is no good way to find out, but I suspect a lot of attention will be given to local TV ratings.
60. And perhaps the biggest question of all …
As a brewer Brett Anderson tweeted Monday night, “What happens when we all get it?”