The 2020 Major League Baseball season is unlike any other in the sport's long and storied history.
The Coronavirus pandemic impacted life across the globe, and professional sports in America was not exempt. MLB delayed the start of its season three months before finally agreeing with the MLBPA to pay a condensed 60-game schedule.
COVID continues to impact the schedule as there are teams heading into their 11th contest of the season on Wednesday, while others (the Miami Marlins) have only played three games.
Yet, despite the relatively small sample size league-wide, a number of early trends are starting to emerge.
This truncated season featured a short ramp up in what was called Spring Training 2.0 or "summer camp." This sudden resumption of physical activities led many to believe injuries would be a significant factor.
Los Angeles Dodgers ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw headlines this list, though he recently returned from back stiffness.
However, Corey Kluber (Texas), Justin Verlander (Houston), Cole Hamels (Atlanta), as well as Dario Agrazal (Detroit), Homer Bailey (Minnesota), Michael Feliz (Pittsburgh), Ken Giles (Toronto), Foster Griffin (Kansas City), Clay Holmes (Pittsburgh) and Jimmy Lambert (Chicago White Sox) have all suffered injuries. That's a lot of big names, so early in a baseball season.
And that’s not counting the COVID-19 outbreak that has ripped through the Miami Marlins pitching staff. Consider that 11 of the team’s 17 pitchers have tested positive, including at least two starting pitchers (Sandy Alcantara and Jose Urena).
There have been some moonshots in 2020. New York Yankee superstar Aaron Judge has connected on some tape-measure home run bombs thus far and leads the majors with six homers in his last five games. Nick Castellanos of Cincinnati and Colin Moran of Pittsburgh trail the Yankee slugger by one.
Though there have been some big-time blasts in 2020, teams – as an overall unit – aren’t hitting homers at quite the same rate as last season, a record. The current rate isn’t too shabby, however, as clubs are connecting on 1.2 homers per game. That’d be the third-highest rate in history at the current pace, trailing last season and 2017.
But while there are plenty of homers, hitters aren’t fairing all that well, otherwise. The league's collective batting average is currently just .233, which, if it holds, would be the lowest single-season average in the sport’s long history. The strikeout rate is going up, too.
These are just some early trends, for fans and bettors to consider. There's still a long season ahead – we hope.
-- D.L. Ferno
Photo Credit: MLB.com