Injuries, Holdouts & Positive Tests: What’s It All Mean for the MLB Season?
This MLB season is going to be different from and in many ways the opposite of any we’ve seen before. But it promises great entertainment value for sports-starved fans.
Covid-19 has pretty much upended the upcoming Major League Baseball season, causing angst and inconvenience for players and teams, but promising great entertainment for fans.
The viral outbreak has already altered the dynamic of the season. Players and teams are used to showing up in Florida or Arizona for six weeks of spring training, followed by a six-month, 162-game regular season. This year, spring training will take place exclusively at home stadiums over the course of three weeks, followed by a 60-game season that will last a little over two months.
This shuffle has completely changed teams’ playing strategies. Now, the most important factor in a team’s success looks to be health. Teams that stay the healthiest the longest will stand a better chance of success. But the compressed schedule is bound to leave many teams with holes in their lineups.
The Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers are well equipped for this format. Both teams have lots of pitching depth, especially in the starting rotation, which should be instrumental in their ability to last through this season’s grueling schedule.
Another team that relied heavily on strong starting pitching last year is the Tampa Bay Rays. Can their pitching lead to similar success this year?
As for individual talents, quick starts will mean everything this season. Sluggers like Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels are explosive out of the gate every season, and this could lead to either (or both) of them adding another MVP trophy to the shelf. Returning NL MVP Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers will also look to replicate his historic 60-game start from last season.
Now let’s take a look at how Covid-19 as well as injuries have impacted players so far this preseason. The MLB revealed on July 3 that of 3,185 Covid tests, only 31 players and seven staff have tested positive (good for 1.2%). The league has agreed to withhold the names of those who tested positive.
Four players have opted to preemptively skip this season in order to avoid any risk and keep their families safe. These players are Ian Desmond of the Colorado Rockies, Mike Leake of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross of the Washington Nationals. These four, in addition to any others that (inevitably) decide to join them, will not be paid during their absence.
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The Silver Lining
Believe it or not, there’s a handful of players who actually have benefitted from the Covid-impacted season. Some were still recovering from injury and would have missed the beginning of the season, but now have had enough time to make a full recovery and will be ready for Opening Day.
These players include Justin Verlander (l.) of the Houston Astros, James Paxton of the New York Yankees, Shohei Ohtani of the L.A. Angels, Michael Kopech of the Chicago White Sox, Cole Hamels of the Atlanta Braves, Rich Hill of the Minnesota Twins, Andrew McCutchen of the Phillies and Yoenis Cespedes of the New York Mets. In such a short season, getting key players like these backs from injury is almost as significant as acquiring a new player via trade or free agency. Look for each team to greatly benefit from being at full strength.
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Some players are already ruled out for the season, and the Covid delay will ultimately have little effect on them. Big names in this category are Chris Sale of the Boston Red Sox, Noah Syndergaard of the Mets, Luis Severino of the Yankees and Jameson Taillon and Chris Archer of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The absence of these crucial players will undoubtedly be a big loss to their respective clubs.
The most important part of this upcoming season is staying healthy and Covid-free. The team that can do that best may be holding a World Series trophy in late October/early November. It’s going to be one rollercoaster of a season, that’s for sure. So strap in and place some futures bets ASAP.
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