You certainly can’t call it a “fun” read, given the underlying subtext, but Tom Verducci writes an interesting article about MLB’s future scheduling questions. No, he’s not trying to predict or project what is going to happen – as we’ve said, right now, that just seems unknowable. Instead, he writes about what it would mean for baseball to play a 100-game schedule.
Again, we don’t know how long the 2020 season can possibly be at this point, and officially, the league hasn’t yet concluded that a 162-game season is off the table. But we all already know that’s the case, and when you start doing a little math, it’s reasonable to just peg things at 100 games for the purposes of putting together the kind of article Verducci does.
So what would happen to our sense of “normal” if the season were reduced to 100 games?
Well, a lot of things you might as expected. Much tighter races much later into the season. The chance for those surprise early-success teams to actually hold on for the “full” season. The need to be hotter earlier to really give yourself a chance. And so on. Interesting reading on that stuff.
But also some things you don’t necessarily expect, including the schedule playing a disproportionately huge role in which teams make the playoffs – if a huge chunk of the season is simply lopped off, rather than totally re-written, the schedules are going to be obscenely imbalanced. And that’s the part I wanted to spotlight from Verducci’s piece, because the Cubs show up number one on the list of teams that might be most negatively impacted by, say, the first two months of the season just getting chopped off:
“Club president Theo Epstein has put his club on notice: if by July 31 it doesn’t look like it can win the World Series–not just grab a playoff spot–he will blow it up. That puts the Cubs on a two-month clock (though the trade deadline probably will be moved later in a truncated season). In such a key season, the Cubs will miss the benefit of one of the easiest April and May schedules in MLB. Chicago was scheduled to play 27 of its first 63 games (43% of its schedule) against last place teams from last season: 13 games vs. Pittsburgh, seven vs. San Diego, four vs. Baltimore and three vs. Miami. On the bright side, they lose the entire season series against Washington, against whom they went 2-4 last year.”
To be sure, we don’t know for sure which teams will be bad this year, but it’s a pretty fair bet that the Pirates will be among the worst in all of baseball. And that’s definitely going to be the case for the Orioles. So, yeah, losing those 17 games would suck, especially 13 of the 19 games against the Pirates when that’s a key part of your divisional schedule.
Another “to be sure,” though, is that some of those games might be moved to the end of the current schedule, so maybe the Cubs wouldn’t lose of those doormat games. And heck, maybe they’d be even more doormatty after the Trade Deadline (unless the Cubs have, themselves, sold off by then (assuming there even is a Trade Deadline … )).
But if everything through the very start of June was just chopped off (making for a 100-game schedule), here are the 62 games the Cubs would lose:
- 13 games against the Pirates (6 at home, 7 on the road)
- 4 games against the Orioles (2 and 2)
- 7 games against the Nationals (3 at home, 4 on the road)
- 7 games against the Padres (3 at home, 4 on the road)
- 3 games against the Marlins (all at home)
- 9 games against the Brewers (6 on the road)
- 6 games against the Diamondbacks (3 and 3)
- 3 games against the Cardinals (all at home)
- 3 games against the Phillies (all at home)
- 3 games against the Dodgers (all on the road)
- 4 games against the Reds (all at home)
Eh. It’s really not all bad. Losing each of those home series against the Cardinals and Reds would stink, though the Brewers lose an extra Cubs home series. The Padres might not actually be that bad, and who wants to go out west for a four-gamer anyway? Losing the Dodgers series in LA? That’s definitely not bad. Losing seven against the Nationals? That’s not bad either. Out of 62 games, if you force me to go binary, I count a max of 33 that you’d definitely be sad to see the Cubs lose.
Obviously, like anything to do with the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the United States at this moment in time, there’s tons of speculation involved, even if you’re not trying to precisely project a start to the season.
The long and the short here is that it’s interesting to think just how much the shape of whatever season lies ahead will impact the competitiveness of the various teams. And that’s extremely weird to be combined with a season where the Cubs were going to draw a very hard line about their competitiveness – remember that whole thing? Either they’re a “legit World Series contender” by midseason, or they’re gonna sell?