The 2020 MLB season is slated to start it’s 60 game, COVID-19 shortened season On Thursday July 23rd. You can count me as one of those who thought they would never start this season, and I still think the odds are they won’t be able to finish. Nevertheless, I am always the cockeyed optimist and will forage for some tasty predictions as to what may happen this year.
First off my feeling is the long break and lack of the typically lengthy spring training will favour the pitchers vs. the hitters. Pitchers could easily practice their craft of firing strikes (or nasty pitches that look like strikes) without having an actual hitter in the box. Hitters on, on the other hand, are not going to get the same timing and feel from a batting cage, or BP pitching. Timing will be off and for many it will take a number of games to get back into the…ahem…swing of things. You will need to hit the ground running this year with only 60 games.
Second, I think this season will be better suited for the youthful teams as opposed to the more veteran squads. You would think the opposite, as the veteran players would be able to get back in the saddle easily as the game should be more natural from years of experience. I see it as , they are the ones that are out of their year after year routine. Your body gets use to the the spring sessions and your year after year routine when you have done it so many times. The younger players are not that far removed from a shorter seasons, and can adapt to change easier, as they haven’t fallen into the decade long routine. Fast and loose, like Fast Eddie Felson, that is how this season is going to play out.
So what does all this mean for the teams, season and playoffs in the AL EAST? You will need a fast start and pitchers to burn. With only 60 games, even the most durable of starters will only get 12 starts. Playing about 37% of a normal season puts that much more emphasis on the bullpen and winning those close games. Baseball used to be a marathon. It’s more like a 5k run now. So lets look at who we think will come out of the American League East.
The New York Yankees are the heavy favourites to win this division given their talent pool, money and a pretty solid starting rotation with Cole, Tanaka, Paxton and Happ and instant offence up and down the lineup. The Tampa Bay Rays though likely have an even better rotation in Morton, Snell, Glasnow, Yarbrough and Chirinos. And they may have one of the most versatile teams in baseball, and a manager who is not afraid to get creative with it. The Red Sox, despite losing Mookie Betts have an incredible top of the order (Benintendi, Boegaerts, Devers, Martinez) but will need an out of this world performance from an underwhelming rotation. And don’t sleep on the Blue Jays who have an arsenal of young studs (with pedigree to boot) in Bichette, Guerrero Jr, Biggio as well as Gurriel Jr. A veteran pitching staff led by Ryu could get their nose to the line first in this short run. Orioles fans can cheer that the team will not lose 100 games this year and have a pool of young talent in the pipeline that should have them fighting the giants of this division in the near future.
Who Will Win? I think it is going to be very close between the Yankees and Rays and their head to head games will determine who comes out on top. The Yankees led the division after 60 games last year, and I expect them to be 2 games clear of the Rays (wild-carde team) with the young Blue Jays just ahead of the Sox.
AL EAST ORDER OF FINISH
New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue jays
Boston Red Sox