A common trend found in sports fandom is the distinction between two kinds of fans. On one side there are fans that cheer hard for one team but also become engrossed in the league as a whole; reading every news report and watching every primetime game.
The second group is made up of fans that only care about the outcome of a game during the playoffs. This trend seems to be most present in the sport of baseball, as there is a clear difference in intensity and fandom during the month of October and November compared to a summer day in July.
In this upcoming baseball season, the baseball community will be a hardy mix of both, as those casual July games will turn into meaningful match-ups with elevated stakes. By combining a 60 game schedule with the MLB’s 10 team postseason limit, there will be more mid-level teams that outperform their expectations.
Two names, Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon. Under a normal schedule, star power would not be able to carry an average roster to the postseason. However, with only sixty games to play, stars like Trout and Rendon can save the day.
The ability for a hitter to hit .400 will be more of a possibility than ever in the modern era. Trout and Rendon are both capable of going on monster hitting tears over the course of several months. Starting pitchers will get off to a slower start than normal because of the shortened and limited spring training which will give Trout and Rendon the edge right out the gate.
They complement each other well, as both are complete players, but Trout will bring the hitting power while Rendon will extend at-bats and deliver a hit to any part of the field. The offensive firepower that these two can bring will be magnified because of a 60 game schedule.
The Mets have a unique history of being injury-riddled year after year after year. With a 60 game schedule and a long offseason, the chances of injuries plaguing a team are not as likely. While this can favor any team in baseball, the Mets are positioned to benefit the most because of their overall roster talent. Their lineup includes Rookie of the Year Pete Alonso as well as a cast of veterans and contact hitters.
Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto will be in prominent roles and continue to build off last season’s individual success. The rotation includes back to back Cy Young winner Jacob Degrom with Stroman and Matz to enhance the depth of this pitching staff.
Yoenis Céspedes can take over the new DH role in the lineup providing more pop on offense. The Mets have the pieces to get hot over the course of a shortened season, and less injury risk will help them do just that.
One key factor in deciding who can make a surprise run over the course of 60 games will be the strength of a team’s bullpen. San Diego possesses a star-studded big three in the pen. Their bullpen starts with Kirby Yates who has a legitimate case for being the best closer in baseball by posting 41 saves, a 1.19 ERA, and 101 strikeouts in 2019.
The Padres were aggressive in the offseason by acquiring Emilio Pagan and Drew Pomeranz. Both relievers force the opponent to strike out a high rate. Pomeranz put up a 45% strikeout rate after August 1st last season, and Pagan pinned a 7.38 strikeout to walk ratio in 2019.
A fully healthy Fernando Tatis Jr will give the Padres a punch in their lineup and set up a dangerous duo of Tatis Jr and Machado. Due to the added importance of a strong bullpen, the Padres can ride their bullpen arms and powerful bats into the postseason picture.
If you had to pinpoint a most improved team based on offseason moves heading into 2020, the White Sox are undoubtedly one of the leading candidates. Yasmani Grandal signed with the Sox at the price of $73 million for the next four seasons. The All-Star catcher will provide a power bat in the lineup and be nothing but reliable behind the plate.
Jose Abreu signed a contract extension last November and is coming off of an excellent season where he put up a career-high 123 RBIs with 33 HRs and an .834 OPS. Meanwhile, the pitching staff will be the biggest factor in their potential success this upcoming season.
Lucas Giolito had his breakout season posting a 3.41 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, and 228 strikeouts in 29 games in 2019. His development into a true ace combined with the offseason signing of Dallas Keuchel will give the White Sox enough pitching power to win lots of games in the shortened season. The White Sox have a collection of young and older pieces and no clear flaw to stop them from thriving in 2020.
Over the past few years, the Reds have been building up the farm system and acquiring talent through trades and signings. In terms of pitching, Luis Castillo has all the tools to be a true ace pitcher. He has a lightning fastball with an electric change-up that gives him some of the best stuff in baseball. If he can reduce his BB/9, then the Reds will have a top-line starter this season.
Moving down the rotation, Trevor Bauer is not as consistent as he once was in Cleveland, but he still remains a great second or third option. Sonny Gray and Wade Miley round out the rotation to give the Reds a ridiculously deep and productive staff that will give even the best teams in baseball problems.
In the bullpen, the addition of Pedro Strop gives the Reds flexibility for late-inning pitching joining Amir Garrett to form a more than capable back end. Veteran Mike Moustakas will come in and make an impact early both on the field and in the locker room. The Reds have a lot of talent that can bud at the right time and challenge for a postseason spot in a division that is up for grabs.
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