Prediction: Blue Jays' Prospects for Post-Season Likely Boosted by Fewer Games
When it comes to baseball, could less me more?
When the 2020 regular season finally begins in late July, after a four month delay, each game will mean more than 2.5 times the normal significance, based on a traditional 162-game schedule. Sixty games means every win and loss will be critical in division races expected to be tight, perhaps determined by just a game or two.
Consider the often-reported prospect that all teams will win at least a third of their games, and lose a third of their games. It's the remaining third that determines who finishes first to last. Applied to a shortened 60-game schedule, this could mean the team with the best record in baseball will post only about 20 more wins than the worst team.
A strong case can even be made that an abbreviated season may increase fan interest. The NFL is "much see" product because every week of a 16-game schedule matters. MLB, typically with 162 games, has a hard time creating suspense in any regular season game, since each outcome affects only a small fraction of the final overall standings.
Prospects for the Toronto Blue Jays should improve. The Blue Jays were expected to be a .500 team stuck in the middle of the American League East -- one of the toughest divisions in the majors for many years with perennial World Series contenders. However, this young Canadian team could get hot at some point based on its youthful exuberance and pose a serious threat to the heavily-favored Yankees, along with the Rays, also expected to fare well in preseason forecasts.
According to once forecast posted at ESPN.com:
The sorts of clubs that will benefit most are (1) stable veteran contenders with a deep pitching staff and (2) young, high-variance fringe contenders. In the first group, we have the Dodgers, Yankees and Rays. In group two, there are many more options, but I'll narrow it down to the Padres, Braves and Blue Jays.
"Young, high-variance fringe contenders" is a perfect description for the '20 Blue Jays. On the other hand, many teams probably fit this description.
Aside from who teams look on paper, the real wild card here is COVID and the unpredictable course of the virus. No one can forecast which players and teams will remain healthy and which clubs may be impacted and even threatened with infection. Indeed, we don't even know if the virus will return for what's been called a "second wave."
It's macabre to think of a global pandemic in North American-centric handicapping terms, but those who gamble on outcomes must consider all the factors that could influence games. Whether we like it or not, COVID factor into handicapping.
Here's another poignant comment from ESPN:
In a 60-game season, a COVID outbreak in a clubhouse could be crushing. The players who test positive will miss at least a week of action -- and all those exposed to them will need to quarantine too. When there are only nine weeks in a season, playing extremely shorthanded for one of them could be crushing.
The bottom line is – if baseball was unpredictable before the pandemic, it will be outright chaotic in a shortened 60-game season. Almost anything is possible.
At least, we can bet on that.
Photo Credit: sportsnet.ca
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