It’s unfathomable to think, but we are less than one week away from the 2020 Major League Baseball season officially beginning. Over 125 days ago, the NBA and NHL shut down operations due to the coronavirus and since then there have been no major sports in the United States.
On July 23rd, there will be a star studded doubleheader to kick off the season. New prized free agent weapon Gerrit Cole will lead the New York Yankees against Max Scherzer and the defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals, followed by impending free agent and newly acquired Mookie Betts leading the Los Angeles Dodgers against bitter rival San Francisco Giants.
Anyone that follows baseball knows it’s a game of numbers and statistics. Records in baseball might be more important and cherished than in any other sport. Because of this, the truncated 60 game schedule being featured this season allows imaginations to run wild on what is possible. Obviously, the records of sheer compilation won’t be in doubt- no one will hit 73 home runs or have 262 base hits in a 60 game period; and anyone who doesn’t record a base hit in the fourth game of the season is mathematically eliminated from surpassing Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Records that at least have a chance to be broken, however, are the percentage records.
The last player to hit .400 in a season is Ted Williams in 1941 (.406). The chance to hit .400 over 60 games greatly increases than reaching that mark over a regular 162 game schedule, but sadly, it is still highly unlikely the mark will be reached. The last player to hit .400 over the first 60 games came twelve years ago when Chipper Jones began the 2008 campaign by hitting .408. Over the last ten seasons, the highest mark for the first 60 games actually came last season when the Dodgers’ Clay Bellinger hit .376. Though it would make for great excitement, the question is whether or not someone will seriously contend with the hallowed mark. The short answer? No.
As for team predictions, the Yankees waltz to the AL East crown, Minnesota handles the AL Central, and the Astros walk away with the AL West. The two wild card teams from the AL will be Oakland and Tampa Bay. The Yankees will knock out the Astros in the ALCS. Cole will be the difference.
In the National League, the NL Easy will see the upstart Atlanta Braves, led by budding megastar Ronald Acuña Jr., outlast the Nationals to capture the division. The Chicago Cubs will take the NL Central, and in another runaway, the Dodgers will easily win the NL West. The Nationals and San Diego Padres round out the playoff picture in the Senior Circuit. The Dodgers have too much star power and will again take their place in the Fall Classic by escaping the Braves in the NLCS.
The World Series will see the likes of Cole, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, Gary Sanchez et al ascend to Yankees immortality with the Bronx Bombers besting the Dodgers in a seven game series thriller. And 28 will feel so good.