And The Winner Is
Somehow, despite all the odds stacked against them, MLB managed to get their entire season in with only minimal distractions. I applaud them and admit I was wrong when I said it would never happen.
It was actually a pretty exciting season, going down to the last out, on the last day, before the final sixteen were decided. As a fan, you can't ask for anything more, and baseball delivered.
This season introduced many new rules and changes to baseball. The hope was that by doing some things it would help keep the interest of the fans, and keep the players safer, as the world is battling this killer virus. Here are my thoughts on how some of them turned out.
Universal DH - by the second inning of the first game I had already forgotten about it. I am not a fan of the DH, but I have always felt the rules should be the same in both leagues, so whatever way it went I wanted consistency. Turns out the DH didn't kill me or baseball.
Pitchers must face three batters in relief - I can't remember one instance this season where this new rule hurt any team. Apparently pitchers can get hitters out, from either side of the plate.
7 inning double headers - turns out playing less innings for a double header makes sense and I hope this one goes forward. The games were quicker, and players weren't as tired, by the end of game two. Look for MLB to schedule more of these in 2021.
Sixteen team playoffs - even though there are two teams under .500 this year in the playoffs, I think MLB got it right. The excitement that lasted until the very end of the season was good for fans, and baseball, and with some small tweaking I would like to see it go forward.
Regional and Reduced Scheduling - while it made sense for this season to reduce travel and limit the road trips, this will not work going forward. There is no reason, however, that baseball can't take their cue from this and come up with a shorter schedule that allows for parity in teams faced. I created one for them earlier this spring that ended up being, if I recall, around 150 games. It gave every team the chance to play each other for one home and home series against the other league, one home and home against the other two divisions in their league, and the balance of the games within the division. Makes a ton of sense so baseball will never consider it.
Extra innings start with a player on second base - if teams would actually bunt the guy to third, and hit a sac fly to drive him in, I would be in favor of keeping this, but they still want to hit a two run homer instead so it makes no sense. It will not be in the world series so bye-bye to this goofy rule.
Overall I thought the season went well for baseball, and I hope we can find a vaccine soon so that 2021 allows for the fans to come back.
Now here are my picks for the playoffs.
I know you think I've lost my mind picking the Cubs to beat the Indians, again, but because of the new rules they will be playing by it makes sense. The first round is best of three and then they revert back to best of five in the division series, and best of seven for the remaining series. The big thing is that there will not be any days off until after game two of the world series, so pitching is really going to be huge this year.
For me, the three best staffs in baseball, right now are, the Indians, the Reds, and the Cubs. Their starters are deep, their bullpens are solid, and they have multiple options to close. All really important this year, more than any other year.
With no days off you can't do what many teams have done in the past, roll out their top two starters and hold on for game four and five. All three teams above have three quality starters and at least two additional options for game four. This puts them in a solid place if each series go full lengths, or even to six games.
As for the Cubs, they won their division, and none of their core could hit their weight all season, imagine if they start to hit. Bryant, Baez, Schwarber, and Rizzo look like they've discovered their hitting shoes in the past week, so I'm hopeful going forward.
It may end up being a Rays-Dodgers world series but I don't think so. I hoped for a Cubs-Sox series but the palehose have hit a wall at the wrong time. I think they beat Oakland and then run out of gas for 2020. Next year though, watch out, as I expect them to be one of the elite teams in 2021.