MLB and the perils of a skewed 50-game regular season schedule

MLB short season skews results

MLB will soon exercise its power to impose a regular-season schedule for 2019, widely rumored to be 50-games. A look back at 2019 says foul ball – not fair.

MLB has the players waving a white flag. Soon, Commissioner Manfred will announce a schedule for the 2020 seasons, with reporting dates for players, the final terms of the pro-rated salary structure, and an expanded 16-team playoffs schedule.

Our high-school math taught us that 50 is about one-third of a typical MLB season of 162 games or an incomplete sample of a full season.

But that’s what we’ll have, and it occurred to me it might be revealing to look back at the 2019 season to establish the effect and, more significantly, the validity of a shortened season.

So with that, I have moved the 2019 Opening Day calendar forward sixty days, providing for postponements and off days from April 1, 2019 to May 21, the rough equivalent for each team having playing played 50 games from the starting gate.

Following are the National League Overall Standings fifty games from “Opening Day”:

2019 NL Standings 50 games into the season (Baseball-Reference)
2019 NL Standings 50 games into the season (Baseball-Reference)

As baseball fans know, this snapshot did not prevail when the 2019 season labored on for another 110+ games, and the final standings looked much different. But if a 50-game season were in play as it is today:

  • The Atlanta Braves overcame the Phillies, who faded quickly and were left behind with no one to dance with when the playoffs began.
  • The Washington Nationals, the eventual winners of the 2019 World Series, would not have made the cut as a qualifying team under the rules we’ll be playing by in 2020.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates, who came out of the gate as a .500 team and a playoff qualifier in 2020, would finish where they belonged – in last place with a woeful .393 winning percentage.
  • The Chicago Cubs, the three-seed in the playoffs, as shown above, would also fall by the wayside finishing well off the mark for the 2019 postseason.
  • Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals, out of the playoffs after a fifty-game schedule, rose to the top of the N.L. Central after a “normal” regular season was completed.

Do we want this aberration? MLB owners don’t seem to care less. All they see is the television money coming their way from postseason television contracts – before the projected next wave of the coronavirus hits.

MLB: Individual Stats That Won’t Matter

Do we want to know that Tim Anderson, the eventual Batting Champion in the American League with an average of .335 hit .280 in May before he caught fire?

Or that Jacob deGrom was 4-7 in the first half of 2019, before settling in to capture his second consecutive Cy Young, finishing 9-1, with a minuscule 1.44 ERA?

Or that Stephen Strasburg was 5-5 on May 21, 2019, and that he would finish at 18-6 as a dominant performer in the postseason for the Washington Nationals.

Baseball for the sake of baseball is not baseball. A fifty-game “season” skews team and individual results dramatically, calling into question the validity of all results, including the crowning of a World Series champion.

MLB Owners: Their Real Fear

Yesterday, Commissioner Rob Manfred did a one-eighty on his claim there is a 100% chance there will be major league baseball in 2020. This completely dissolves any credibility he had left, but it also paves the way for something else.

MLB Stalls And Deceives - Again!
MLB Stalls And Deceives – Again!

That is to cancel the entire season simply, an option Manfred has carefully kept veiled until recently.

Manfred’s turnaround caught the ire of Tony Clark, President of the players’ union. “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season”.

Closer to Manfred’s real intention is the distinct possibility the MLBPA will file a grievance against the league if MLB owners elect to impose a schedule on the players.

This is why the L.A. Times is reporting that MLB owners will not start the season until the players agree to forfeit all rights to pursue a legal remedy to the dispute.

Given the league’s duplicity in the manner negotiations have been conducted, Manfred has every reason to fret that a referee will decide in favor of the players.

MLB: Don’t Shoot The Messenger

MLB Owners: It sure would have been fun
MLB Owners: It sure would have been fun

Rob Manfred gets the brunt of criticism with each passing day from fans, players, and a good chunk of the media.

But it’s essential to remember Manfred works at the behest of the MLB owners. He serves at their pleasure and can be fired without notice. He is a good soldier.

By and large, MLB owners have little knowledge or interest in baseball. They make decisions like proposing a 50-game schedule, questioning only its effect on their bottom line, but not on the game itself.

Don’t expect anything good to come out of the 2020 baseball season – if there is one.

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.