MLB: Who Does the Shorter Season Favor and Hamper?

DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees watches the ball fly as he hits a home run

Major League Baseball is back! One thing is for sure: it’s going to be one of the most unpredictable seasons ever. Owners, players, and union representatives have been in negotiations for months, but at last, it looks like we can expect the season to start on July 23rd or 24th.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that a 60-game season is set to begin. This will ensure that the league is finished within the calendar time for league trades, and avoid clashing with other sports that are expected to start. This format cuts the total games down by 66%, wiping 128 games off each team’s schedule! Many sports betting sites and fans are wondering how this shortened league could impact the season and the MLB betting odds. Which teams are going to benefit from it and who is going to be hampered?

What does the new format look like?

baseball players on the field facing the ball

During the early part of the season there will be an emphasis on playing regional matchups to minimize travel and exposure to COVID-19. So you’re not going to see the Cubs and Phillies, or the Yankees and Dodgers facing off until later in the season. No team will play outside of their region during the regular season, and will play ten games against each of their divisional opponents — yes, that’s ten games per opponent!

It’s safe to say that we’re looking at a totally unique and unpredictable season. Only after the first 40 games of the interregional games have been played will teams be able to expand to other interleague geographical regions. Teams will play the remaining 20 games this way, with four games against each opponent.

MLB Playoffs 2020

The playoffs are the only thing that will resemble the season that we are used to this year. There will be the usual two wild cards along with three division winners per league. The wild cards will face the team above them at the better team’s home ground. The division winner will take on whoever wins between those two teams, in a divisional playoff of five games, and the two division winners play each other. The usual seven games apply to the league championship and World Series.

Keep in mind that the league is able to move games when needed. If one city has a massive COVID-19 outbreak, then they can move to another venue — which could mean we see the World Series played at a neutral venue for the first time!

Seattle Mariners’ player Keon Broxton slides into home plate safely in front of the catcher

What play is going to be the most useful in a shorter season?

Playing 60 games is obviously an unconventional season. There are a few factors that will impact how well teams will do. Here are just some of the things that will help teams get a step ahead in the short season:

The ability to start fast

With a season this short, it’s essential to come out of the starting blocks as fast as possible. There is going to be no time for teams to have a slow start and get into their groove. Teams that are notoriously slow at the beginning of the season, such as the Inidans and the Nationals, may struggle. Teams that usually have a hot streak at the beginning of the season will likely benefit from the shorter season — the Braves and Rays come to mind.

Combination of youth and experience

It’s no secret that younger players may not have found their sweet spot just yet. However, they do give the team the fitness and preparation that they need after months without playing ball. Young players will be able to start with energy and determination, while experienced players will bring consistency from the start. More experienced players might actually benefit from the shorter season, as they won’t have to keep up their high standards as long as usual, and are unlikely to see an end-of-season drop off.

Overall depth

Hitters are going to have fewer games in which to get their timing right at the plate, which makes a solid rotation important. Strong starting pitchers can take advantage of hitters that haven’t had the time to come right. A strong bullpen will play an important role too. This is a season that has had less preparation than usual. In cases where players may succumb to injury or even COVID-19 and teams could be depleted, having strong relievers is going to be a big help for a team’s success.

Winners and Losers

Winners: Who benefits from the shortened MLB season?

When it comes to baseball standings for the shortened 2020 season, sports betting fans will be keen to see which teams will have an added edge. The teams that we think will fare the best include:

The Fans and Gamblers

We’ve waited on live sports for what seems like forever and the MLB season is an absolute win for sports fans and bettors alike. Every game in a shorter season is going to matter more, as teams won’t have as long to find their sweet spot as they normally do. The new designated hitter rule and no more long extra innings means that games are going to be hard-hitting, action-packed spectacles that are going to spring more than a few surprises. With more direct rivalry games included, it also means that fans get to watch their favorite team take on their most fierce competitors more often than they’re used to. This shortened season is one that is going to be packed end-to-end with some of the most exciting baseball in a long time.

Rays

The Rays simply have a plethora of strength in their bullpen. No other team seems to be able to find such talented relievers. This could be a huge strength in a season that needs everyone at their best for every game.

Dodgers

First things first, the regional part of the new format is helping the Dodgers avoid East Coast travel and the region’s humidity. Three of their trips in the first two months would have been to the East Coast.  But they are likely to only play a few towards the end of the season in an indoor stadium in Miami. 

The Dodgers have a range of talented players like no other team and this could prove to be the winning formula. They have a pitching depth that will help with the shortened spring training, position-player depth for more hitter options, and an overall depth that will help mitigate the impact of injury and illness.

Angels

Shohei Ohtani would have been on a restrictive innings limit in a normal season. Griffin Canning would have missed a large portion of the first half of a full season due to injury. Angels can take heart knowing that they will have these two for the full season. Their older players may also benefit from having a shorter season rather than playing the full 162 games.

Brain Goodwin gives Shohei Ohtani a high-five after Ohtani hit a three-run home run

Braves

Starting pitch depth and young position players are a winning combination for a shortened season – the Braves possess both. Star players like Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, and Dansby Swanson are complimented by a rotation that could have Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Cole Hamels, Mike Foltynewicz, Felix Hernandez, Kyle Wright, Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint and prospects Ian Anderson, Bryse Wilson, Tucker Davidson, Kyle Muller, Huascar Ynoa, and Jasseel De La Cruz. 

It’s easy to see why many sportsbook casinos have the Braves down to win the National East League Championships for the third season in a row.

Brewers

The two Central Divisions are likely to be the weakest across the leagues and the Brewers will benefit from this. Although they don’t have the strongest starting lineup, at least they won’t have to play a full 162 games. Ryan Braun is coming into the form of his life and will be essential.

Astros

The Astros’ biggest competitors in the AL West are the A’s and the Angels. The new format means the AL West is not as likely to be down to a head-to-head competition. The Astros are set to miss 20 games against their strongest opponents, which could be a great opportunity for them this season.

Losers: Who will struggle with the shortened season?

Baseball player sliding on the diamond with opposing players on the field

The shorter season could see some teams struggling with depth and changed schedules. 

Teams who would have done better in a regular-season:

Nationals

The Nationals had a slow start last season. This will need to change if they have any chance of going to the playoffs. Anthony Rendon has also left and they lack pitching depth, especially in the bullpen.

However, they do get to mitigate what was a heavily front-loaded schedule. 25 of their first 58 games were set to be out of Eastern-time schedule, with three West Coast trips. They now play 91 of their final 102 games in the Eastern zone.

Chicago White Sox player Jose Abreu thanks fans after winning the American League RBI title

Yankees

We still see the Yankees making it through to the playoffs, but it will be a much more grueling start than they expected. 28 of their first 34 games were against last season’s losing teams, which won’t happen now. The East divisions are also likely to be the most competitive when the season resumes, making their way to the playoffs a bit harder now.

Indians

Cleveland has become synonymous with slow starts. It’s going to be tough to get starters into shape without spring training games. They have strength in their pitching staff, but there will be massive pressure placed on Jose Ramirez to provide consistency, which isn’t his strong point.

A’s

The A’s are slow starters, it’s that simple. They often need to really pull out all the stops and play excellent baseball towards the second half of the season. Time is not a luxury that they have this time around.

Twins

Although the Twins are current AL Central champions, they lack depth in their pitching staff. The regular season was also set to be kind to them with 23 of their 50 games playing against Tigers, Orioles, Royals, Mariners, and Blue Jays. Now they won’t face the five worst teams from last season and this could impact their results.

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At the end of the day, we are staring down the barrel of an incredibly unpredictable baseball season. Who knows how teams are going to react to the shortened schedule? What we do know is that our sports betting experts are ahead of the game. Stay tuned for updated odds as things become more clear.

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