At least for the time being, baseball is on its way back to our eyeballs, if only electronically. The Cubs will be back on July 24 with a series against the Brewers. To recap a few season related details, for those who haven’t been paying attention or for whom time no longer has any meaning, here’s the logistics of the new season as it will ideally play out:
Season rules, etc.
The season will last 60 games, and the Cubs will play 10 games each against the other NL Central teams and 20 games against the AL central, with extra games against their ‘natural’ rival. In our case that is the White Sox, who might be pretty good this year, while the Reds and Cardinals get to beat up on the crappy Tigers and Royals respectively.
Not surprisingly there are a buncha roster rule changes this year.
- The game-day roster size has expanded to 30 players, though that number will drop down as the season goes along. I guess this was intended to expand bullpens as pitchers ramp up.
- Teams have a 60-man ‘bubble’ in training camp, but players still have to be added to the 40-man roster before they can appear in a game. I think most teams have less than 60 on their list because you can’t add a player back to your own bubble if they are taken out.
- Teams can carry 3 extra ‘taxi-squad’ players with the team to ‘hot-swap’ between games, one of which has to be a catcher. This is to avoid extra travel.
- There’s a shorter turnaround time for bringing back pitchers who were optioned to the minors – it’s 10 days now instead of 15.
There are also some rule changes
- The NL will play with a DH this year. And the peasants rejoiced! More on that below.
- They’re doing the stupid runner on second rule in extra innings. And the peasants revolted!
- There won’t be any rainouts – if a game has to be called early it will just be treated as a suspended game and picked up the next time the teams play each other. This should vastly improve scheduling, but will likely only work because there are so few long distance single series games this year.
- There’s also covid-19 testing and surveillance stuff, but I don’t know enough to speak on it other than it got off to a rocky start.
- No high fives, spitting, etc. Who knows how this one will play out.
Cubs specific stuff
Obviously as far as the 2020-specific rule changes go the biggest change for the Cubs is the DH. This spawned a lot of jokes about how the Cubs are one of the NL teams that is well prepared for this because War Bear. But it’s not like he’s Adam Dunn out there. I know this is an axe I grind often, but he’s had the misfortune of having a few screwups in high profile games (2015 playoffs, a few home openers). Numbers-wise he rates out as pretty much average for a LF.
That said if he can be replaced by a better glove out there that would certainly be a net positive, though now that I look at Souza’s numbers he’s not exactly an upgrade out there. His bat is certainly an upgrade over Jon Lester’s though.
The schedule was going to be pretty unbalanced no matter what, and a lot of the attention has gone to the Reds since they get a few bonus games against the Tigers. Even in a 60-game season though, eh, it’s just one extra series. The same goes for the uneven distribution of home games within the division – while each team has an equal number of in-division home games that’s not true per team. If anything this should be an interesting experiment on what aspects of home field advantage matter – is it the fans, or is it the lack of travel? All of the NL central teams have an advantage over the rest of the NL in that they get to play the overall crappy AL central, so it will give a leg up in any WC races.
As far as Covid goes, the Cubs are ahead of other teams in that they haven’t had a positive test yet. It’s going to be a matter of time though. MLB has struggled with testing turnaround times already, and the number of tests needed is likely to be in shorter supply going forward thanks to the curve going up. Even if MLB does everything right the utter failure to control the virus around the country could sink things anyway. EW had a podcast with an epidemiologist a few weeks back and the prognisis of what could go wrong was pretty grim. I would have put the chance that MLB completes the season at 20% then, but given the current case trajectory I’d probably drop it down to 10%. At least the positive rate across MLB has been pretty low to start.
It looks like baseball is pretty much going to be a smoke em while you got em situation this year.