2020 MLB: A Season of Experimentation
The 2020 MLB season will be one we will never forget. That much is certain. But could it end up being a complete science experiment? Well, for the most part, it should be. This will not settle well with the purists of the game as many people fear change. After all, it is baseball, America’s past time. But what if we change a few things here and there to see if anything sticks? What is the worse that happens? If it doesn’t work, 2021 can return to normalcy in the baseball world.
Try to have an open mind and think about the possibility of these “experiments” WHEN the 2020 season starts.
No matter when the season starts, we all would be shocked to see 162 regular-season games. Many actually won’t mind this, as 162 games can exhausting, particularly for fans or teams eliminated by Labor Day.
The season will likely have somewhere between 100-150 games. There are a lot of speculations or rumors going around but no one knows when or how many there will be.
Will making a new schedule be easy? Absolutely not! What makes it even more difficult is that the MLB has an odd number of teams in each league. There must always be an interleague match-up going on. So eliminating interleague isn’t that easy of a fix.
The schedule must have a fair amount of division games so that all teams get a fair shake heading into the playoffs. Cutting some of those games are easy, it’s the juggling of the rest of the schedule that could bring a challenge.
Universal Designated Hitter
Having the DH be a universal position in the lineup has been a topic for a long time and this could be its long-awaited debut.
With a new spring training period and shortened season, injuries will be a topic of discussion. One way to help limit injuries, especially for pitchers, is to have a DH. This will allow pitchers to get their arms in shape and keep them focused on what they need to do on the mound. Even National League teams early in spring training use a DH to allow for pitchers to build up stamina and strength. It can provide some simplicity in a time that is anything but simple.
Another reason to have the DH is to provide flexibility in the lineup for managers. The 2020 season could feature more doubleheaders than most players and managers have seen. The DH allows the manager to have elite bats in the lineup for both games while not forcing them to play 18 innings on defense.
This is another aspect of the game that many won’t like being “experimented” with but needs to be explored. Depending on how you view extra innings, they can either be exciting or downright boring and terrifying. The problem is, there is no telling when the game will end. It could be the first pitch in the bottom of the 10th or the last strike in the bottom of the 15th. When it’s the latter, it takes a toll on the pitchers, bench players, and even the fans. Poor Michael has school tomorrow and you have to explain to him why you’re leaving the game when it’s not even over yet.
NHL has made two big changes in their overtime periods and man do they bring excitement. They have brought in the shootout and even more recent, 3-on-3 overtime. It’s quick and the fans like it. Plus you have an idea of when the game will end.
Here are some things MLB can do to keep fans in their seats during a tie game.
End in a Tie
Let the groaning begin. No one likes a tie, yet the NFL (with only 16 regular-season games) still has it. With so many games in a schedule, a tie wouldn’t be the end of the world. Play two or three extra innings and call it a day. It saves arms and makes it easier for fans to get up the next morning. Odds are, there is another game tomorrow.
Runners on Base
Now we are talking! Let’s get some action on those base paths. The most obvious one that many have heard of is the “international tiebreaker“. The last batter out in the 9th inning will start on 2nd base with no one out. This brings strategy into play and can help get runs scored. Do you bring in a speedy runner? Do you play small ball to get him over to 3rd with one out or play for the big inning? That should be enough to end the game in an innings or two. It also brings quick excitement to fans and keeps them in their seats.
Home Run Derby
Justin Turner was the most recent player to propose such an idea. The NHL has a 3 player shootout and hockey fans love it. Baseball can do the same thing. Each team would select 2-3 players and have a “swing” off. Fans love the long ball so why not bring out the screen and toss up some batting practice. This would also be appealing to young fans. Kids love seeing home runs so why not end the game that way?
Doubleheaders are usually reserved for rainouts and other weather delays but 2020 could see the most scheduled doubleheaders in a very long time. With the season starting in the middle of the summer, we will have a lot of time to make up. Depending on how late the season starts will determine the necessity of doubleheaders.
Another thing that has been mentioned is seven inning doubleheaders. This is quite common in the minors leagues and college but many aren’t a fan of it at the major league level. A fun idea with seven-inning games is to only bat eight guys. No pitchers and no DH. This is not something seen anywhere but another fun twist into the equation. This would allow the lineup to turn over quickly and most players get their four at-bats for each game.
The rosters are already expanding to 26 in 2020 but we should expect that to increase even more. Is 28 to 30 is a safe number to imagine? More players provide more rest with less days off and more doubleheaders being played. It will be interesting to see if teams go to a six-man rotation or adopt the “opener” as many teams have already done.
MLB saw a proposal during the offseason about expanding the playoff field at a later date. With less regular-season games, that later date could be THIS year. How many teams are uncertain but again, why not carry the experimenting into the playoffs. Less regular-season games would also mean a thinner margin between making the playoffs or not. More teams create more opportunity and more exciting playoff-atmosphere baseball.
Neutral Site World Series
Since the season won’t start until the summer, this would likely mean a later start to the playoffs. As the postseason moves into even colder months, its hard to see a World Series in the Northeast or Midwest. The hard part is when would that be decided? It’s a tough gamble either way.
What if they give a neutral site location and the World Series is between two dome or warm weather teams like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers? On the other hand, if they don’t do a neutral site, better bring your winter clothes for a New York vs Chicago showdown.
Re-align the Divisions
Whoa, you mean no American League East or National league Central? Well, yes and no. Just merge the Wests, Centrals, and Easts. You will still have all the same rivalries and it allows more inter-city match-ups. This would also cut down on travel as you would keep teams in the same time zones.
Each team would have nine opponents in their “division”. Four game home and four-game road schedule will put you at 72 games. Mix in a three-game home and 3 game road schedule vs 10 of the remaining 20 teams and you have 132 game season.
There will be a lot to remember about the 2020 baseball season but what is realistic to expect?
A season less than 162 games is almost a guarantee. This will likely have less division games and some cut back on interleague play.
The Universal Designated Hitter is one to expect soon, and many would be surprised if it’s not this season.
A smart move to help keep players healthy and on schedule would be to adjust baseball after nine innings. Don’t be surprised to see a few double headers a month, if not more.
The playoffs are sure to start later than the first week in October and could include more teams. A neutral field World Series should not come as a shock, especially if it happens in mid-November or later.
As far as re-aligning the divisions, that may be where the ball stops. Many wouldn’t be very accepting to that and it’s not an easy transition to throw in.
No matter what changes there will be, fans can expect baseball to be a little different in 2020. All changes aside, baseball will be welcomed with open arms.
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