Take “normal” and then subtract 102 games. Welcome to 2020, folks.
After finally “agreeing” to play the 2020 season, Major League Baseball announced this year would consist of just 60 games — a mere 37% of a normal campaign. Yes, it’s baseball -— but it’s definitely different. And there may be some reason to be worried.
Yes, of course about a second wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but even strictly talking about baseball, a 60-game season could be trouble for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Is this good news? In some ways, yes. But there’s also some bad news here as well, so let’s break it down.
Positives for Dodgers in 60-game season
The Dodgers are the best team in the National League (and it might not be that close). As long as there’s a 2020 season, the Dodgers will be the NL favorites (they are +150 to win the NL, with the next closest team at +650).
In fact, they’re currently the World Series favorites as well (+325, with the New York Yankees second at +375).
Part of the reason for this is because of the Dodgers’ division. Yes, 60 games will reduce the margin for error, but all the Dodgers need to worry about is winning the NL West for an eighth consecutive year.
And, well, that’s a group that still includes the San Francisco Giants (over/under win total: 25.5), Colorado Rockies (27.5), Arizona Diamondbacks (31) and San Diego Padres (31).
So yes, having a shortened 2020 is better than having no season because this is yet another year in which the Dodgers have a real chance at winning a World Series. Say what you will, but any team who gets through the gauntlet of the postseason will be honored as a “normal” champion — Dodgers or otherwise.
There’s also that Mookie Betts guy. Seeing him play 60 games as a Dodger after giving up Alex Verdugo and others is better than not seeing him at all.
One other thing that’s worth mentioning: injuries will affect teams more greatly this year than ever before. Missing one game will be equivalent to missing three, and so if you have a guy miss a few weeks it could be catastrophic.
So, while missing Cody Bellinger or Betts would be devastating for the Dodgers, they’re also more prepared to weather injury storms given their insane depth. This one is a double-edged sword, but it’s ultimately a plus.
Unfortunately, though, it’s not all good…
Dangers for Dodgers in short season
The shortened season genuinely can inspire fear. The more games in a season, the better odds of the best teams separating themselves. Every game fewer than 162 is bad news for the Dodgers, and this year they’ve got 102 pieces of bad news.
Furthermore, the Dodgers have been winning the NL West exactly once in the past four seasons at the 60-game mark (obviously won the division by season’s end each time). They were over .500 just twice, and once they were actually six games under.
Dodgers have been winning the division exactly ONCE in the past four seasons at the 60-game mark (obviously won the division by season's end each time).
They were over .500 just twice, and once they were actually six games under.
So, uhh…..GULP. https://t.co/8OMvPw3fuG
— Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel) June 23, 2020
Of course, a natural response is something along these lines: “Yeah, but if they knew the season was just 60-games long, things would have been different.” That is understandable and easy to agree with.
There will definitely be more urgency this season, but also it would be shortsighted to believe things are that simple.
Who’s to say if players “care less” at the beginning of the season than the end. The middle? Perhaps. But it feels like the first few weeks of the season would be pretty high-level stuff most of the time.
Also, if players struggle out of the gates traditionally, that will still be a problem. It’s not like hitters care less about their average or home run totals in May than in October. In some ways this season will be a weird experiment to see which of these theories is real.
Is there something to guys “turning it on” for the stretch run? Or do some players just come out of Spring (Summer) Training slowly?
In the end, the headline is clear: baseball is back, and that’s a good thing.
But it’s not all good for the Dodgers. Making the postseason this year will be a greater challenge in some ways than it has been in a long time. And yet, if they can just get there, they might end up with their best chance of winning it all.
Alright 2020, let’s get it.
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