MLB (Major League Baseball) has its hands full at the moment juggling its schedule to play as many games as it can every night. But there’s so much more…
Major League Baseball (MLB) is doing the best it can to keep the 2020 season afloat. It has the support of the player’s union (MLBPA) and the players themselves who are out there, sequestered in a hotel room, barred even from walking to the nearest Starbucks.
Managers, players, owners, and the Commissioner himself react (now) to the hiccups occurring daily with a resigned, “Well, this is baseball in 2020”.
It’s why the Yankees are playing a doubleheader in Philadelphia instead of Yankee Stadium due to a rainout of last night’s game against the Phillies.
More significantly, it’s why the Miami Marlins (if the season ended today) would qualify as the NL East Division winner, even though the Atlanta Braves have played seven more games than the Marlins (graphic below)
MLB: What Is Your Answer To That Inconsistency?
MLB has a problem. In doing the right thing by postponing numerous games because team players and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, another issue has inadvertently been exposed.
The original 60-game schedule proposed by MLB and adopted by the MLBPA was for sixty games in sixty-six days.
There are 54 days between today and the end of the MLB regular season. The Cardinals, having played only five games, face the difficult task of playing 55 games in 54 days to complete the season.
And that’s if they play straight through with no days off and no further COVID or weather-related postponements.
Already, MLB has announced the postponement of tonight’s games for the Cardinals, Phillies, and Marlins, an extra hurt on the numbers above.
MLB: Determining Division Winners And Playoff Teams
What will MLB and the MLBPA do if a team like the Marlins finishes the regular season with – say 50 games played, a distinct possibility for the Phillies and Cardinals as well? Moreover, there can be other teams barred from playing as the season moves on.
Will won-loss percentage still be the rule to determine qualifiers for spots in the expanded 16-team playoffs this year?
I wouldn’t hazard a guess, but it’s MLB’s job to come up with a solution (rule) that governs the possibility of this outcome – NOW – so every team is aware of what is necessary to not only make the playoffs but to acquire the top seeds.
At issue is the rule that the highest winning percentage determines the Division winner and the seeding of the playoffs.
So, what happens if, let’s say, the St. Louis Cardinals only manage to play fifty of the 60-game schedule, and they finish with a record of 30-20, or a win percentage of .600.
Meanwhile, the Cubs in the same NL Central Division play a full schedule of 60 games, winning 35 games (+5 over the Cubs), but their win percentage is .583.
What is the proper thing for MLB to do?
MLB: A Lesser But Similar Problem
The same scenario can likely exist when it comes to the Batting Title awards in both leagues.
The current rule states that a player must have 3.1 plate appearances for each game their team has played to qualify.
This means a player needs 186 plate appearances to qualify for an MLB Batting Title.
Cardinal All-Star Paul Goldschmidt currently has 19 at-bats and a .313 batting average. He’s a ways from the top, but does he have a fair shot of reaching 186 given the crunching schedule ahead?
MLB: A Game Of Adjustments
Baseball is a game of adjustments, sometimes even from one at-bat to the next by a hitter.
A pitcher will quickly strike out a batter three times one game only to get blasted the next time because the same player has watched the film and figured out what happened last time.
And so it is for all of MLB in this eerie but decidedly unique 2020 season. Day to day adjustments by the league and teams – to make it through one more day on the calendar.
Some argue it’s not worth the risk and effort, and the season should’ve been canceled long ago.
At one time, Commissioner Manfred revealed he was considering canceling the season.
But one day at a time gets MLB closer to its goal – baby steps and a lot of patience will do it.
Still to be dealt with, though, is the herculean effort teams like the Phillies, Cardinals, and Marlins are going to endure just to finish the season.
And what will MLB do if they can’t?