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Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 7/9/2020

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Five Thoughts on the 2020 MLB Schedule

While most of the attention yesterday rightly went to the potential deficiencies in MLB’s testing protocol as delays prevented multiple teams from getting ready for the season and left many players unaware of their own test results, the league did release this year’s schedule. The season begins with a doubleheader featuring the Nationals against the Yankees followed by the Dodgers against the Giants on July 23, with a full slate of games the following day. If all goes well, teams will have finished the full 60-game season on September 27.

The Schedule is Going to Look Weird

As the league decided to limit travel this year in the hopes of containing the coronavirus, teams are playing games in their own division as well as the corresponding geographical division in the opposite league, with 40 games played in-division and 20 games against the opposite league; six of those interleague games are against each team’s so-called natural interleague rival. So, this serves as your official reminder that Atlanta actually lines up pretty close to the Indiana-Ohio border going from North to South!

The Central is clustered together in the middle and the East is all in the same time zone, while the West has some outliers with the Mariners and the two Texas teams a considerable distance apart and Colorado off on its own. Where the schedule gets even weirder is that teams in the division don’t play an equal number of home and road games against their opponents. Teams will play every team in their own division 10 times, but instead of playing five home games and five road games, the number of home games will range from three to seven. That being said… Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 7/2/2020

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Will a Player Hit .400 This Season?

The 2020 season, assuming it happens and is completed, is sure to have some quirky statistics that will be tough to wrap our heads around. The home run leader might not even get to 20 dingers this year. A three-win season might lead all of baseball. And while batting average has fallen out of favor as the be-all, end-all of a hitter’s talent at the plate because walks matter and getting a double is better than getting a single, hits are an undoubtedly good pursuit for batters. As such, the aura of batting average still maintains some glow when contemplating the history of baseball. The pursuit of a .400 batting average in a shortened season due to a pandemic will not and should not be viewed with the same historical significance as Ted Williams’ run in 1941, or even George Brett’s 1980 campaign or Tony Gwynn’s strike-shortened 1994 season, but it would make this season a little more fun.

Ty Cobb, George Sisler, and Rogers Hornsby all put up batting averages above .400 nearly 100 years ago, while Ted Williams was the last player to hit that mark nearly 80 years ago. The list of players who have even hit .375 since then is a short one: Stan Musial’s .376 (1948), Williams’ .388 (1957), Rod Carew’s .388 (1977), George Brett’s .390 (1980), Tony Gwynn’s .394 (1994), and Larry Walker’s .379 (1999). The last player to hit above .350 was Josh Hamilton, who hit .359 in 2010. History has shown that if a very high batting average is your goal, the odds are very much stacked against you in a full season. Shrink the season down to just 60 games, though, and we might get a fighting chance. Read the rest of this entry »

Four Things We Learned from 60-Man Player Pool Day

With players set to report to camp on July 1, yesterday was the day teams submitted their 60-man player pools to MLB. While there is certainly going to be considerably more maneuvering as teams set up their own camps (plus a satellite camp for those pool players not invited to major league camp), teams’ initial rosters can tell us a little about how clubs plan to operate over the next few weeks and potentially into the season. Here’s what we can say so far.

A 60-Man Player Pool is Not a 60-Man Player Pool

While we were perhaps expecting a 60-man player pool for every team, many clubs fell far short of that number. You can check every team’s initial selections on our Roster Resource Opening Day Tracker; those pages also project Opening Day rosters. Overall, teams put out rosters averaging 53 players. The Indians, Tigers, Royals, Astros, Angels, Yankees, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, Blue Jays, Braves, Reds, Marlins, Phillies, Pirates, Padres, and Nationals were all at capacity or were a handful of players away from reaching the 60-player limit. The Diamondbacks, Twins, and Giants didn’t even release rosters yesterday, while the Orioles, White Sox, Brewers, and Cardinals were all at 45 players or fewer. We will have to wait for full roster information on about half the teams.

Placement in the Player Pool is Pretty Permanent

Later this week, Jay Jaffe is going to analyze the roster rules contained in the 2020 Operations Manual and how they will affect the season, but one wrinkle in particular caught the attention of twitter yesterday, including The Athletic’s Levi Weaver. That wrinkle concerns how players are moved in and out of the 60-man pool depending on their 40-man status. Per the Operations Manual:

In the event a Club is at the limit and wishes to add a player to its Active Roster or its Alternate Training Site, the Club must select a player to be removed from the Club Player Pool by means of a bona fide transaction, as follows:

  • 40-man roster players may be removed from the Club Player Pool by an approved trade, waiver claim, return of Rule 5 selection, release, outright assignment, designation for assignment, placement on the 60-day Injured List, placement on the COVID-19 Related Injured List, or placement on the Suspended List (by Club), Military, Voluntarily Retired, Restricted, Disqualified, or Ineligible Lists.
  • Non-40-man roster players may be removed from the Club Player Pool by an approved trade, release, placement on the COVID-19 Related Injured List, or placement on the Military, Voluntarily Retired, Restricted, Disqualified, or Ineligible Lists. Injured non-40-man roster players will continue to count against the Club Player Pool limit unless removed through one of the permitted transactions listed above.

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Current Labor Strife Doesn’t Mean a Strike Or Lockout Is Inevitable

Throughout the last few months of hectic, sometimes nasty negotiations between the players and the owners to resume the 2020 season, one issue operating in the background was the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement at the end of next year. For those who watch, cover, and love baseball, losing the 2020 season would be sad, but understandable; there’s a global pandemic. To turn around 18 months later and lose all or part of the 2022 season because the players and owners can’t agree to a new CBA would be considerably less so. Still, while MLB and the MLBPA’s inability to agree to modify their March agreement in such a way as to provide mutual benefit (and more games) is frustrating, no deal today doesn’t mean no deal after 2021.

The recent negotiations offer a preview into the tone, tenor, and general degree of trust (or lack thereof) both parties are likely to bring to the table as they work toward an agreement for 2022, but achieving a different result is possible because 2022 is going to be much different than both 1994 and 2020. There will be a lot of issues to resolve, as Dayn Perry laid out at CBS Sports in May and Andy Martino examined yesterday for SNY, and the process will be contentious. But the owners will also be looking to maximize profits after 2021 rather than minimize losses. And while the negotiations over the last month didn’t result in a new deal, they might actually prove to have been fruitful practice for the next time the two parties come to the table. Read the rest of this entry »

Craig Edwards FanGraphs Chat – 6/25/2020

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With Health and Safety Protocols Agreed To, Major League Baseball Is a Go

On Monday, the cautious optimist in all of us got to hope there would be major league baseball in 2020, with Rob Manfred implementing a 60-game season contingent on the players confirming that they would report to team camps on July 1 and agree to the health and safety protocols required to move the season forward. Although the 5 PM deadline for the players to respond passed without word on Tuesday, the MLBPA later confirmed that “All remaining issues have been resolved and Players are reporting to training camps.” While there is still a pandemic to contend with, one that will alter the game and could still cause it to stall out, it appears the disagreements between the players and the owners over economic questions will not further impede a 2020 baseball season.

MLB also made its own announcement, revealing a July 23 or 24 Opening Day, with some additional information about the potential schedule:

MLB has submitted a 60-game regular season schedule for review by the Players Association. The proposed schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each Club’s games against their opposite league’s corresponding geographical division (i.e., East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West), in order to mitigate travel. The vast majority of Major League Clubs are expected to conduct training at the ballparks in their primary home cities.

The full schedule is expected within 72 hours, though Jon Heyman has reported there will be 40 games in-division (10 games vs. each division opponent) and 20 games against teams in the opposite league’s corresponding geographic division. Ronald Blum of the Associated Press reports that teams will play four games each against their interleague opponents and will make just one visit to all of their opponents during the season.  Read the rest of this entry »

What the Season Will Look Like: Final Crowdsource Results

Last week, for the seventh and final time, I asked readers how they thought the season would go. While we don’t know for sure how many games will actually be played this year or when the season will end, should the two sides settle on health and safety protocols, the current plan is to play 60 games and have a standard postseason that concludes at the end of October. In addition to looking at the last round of results, we’ll take a look at how the reported season compares to the results over time.

First, this is how readers answered regarding whether there would be a season (voting closed Monday morning):

Here’s how the responses have gone since late-March:

For the first five surveys, two out of every three readers believed there would be a 2020 season, but the negotiations over the last month turned it into a 50/50 proposition. While it certainly seems that we will get a season, there’s still a month to go before a potential Opening Day. Read the rest of this entry »

As Safety Concerns Grow, Stalling Owners Leaves Players in Bind

Following a flurry of activity last week between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association as the two sides volleyed to resume the 2020 season, this past weekend was marked by inactivity. After an in-person meeting between Rob Manfred and Tony Clark spurred an owners’ proposal for 60 games on Wednesday and a 70-game counter-offer from the players on Thursday, the owners opted to wait the players out. While they were waiting, the schedule for a potential season got a little bit shorter, and positive coronavirus tests for five players and three staff members in Phillies camp forced some re-evaluation of the viability of Florida as a training site ahead of the upcoming season. With other positive tests popping up around the sport, all of the spring training complexes were temporarily closed for deep cleaning, and to establish new, more stringent safety protocols; in all, 40 players and staff have tested positive for the virus over the last week. Even with that news, the players were expected to formally vote on the owners’ 60-game proposal on Sunday, but a last-minute modification by Rob Manfred pushed the vote back.

In an email obtained by the Associated Press, Rob Manfred indicated to Tony Clark on Sunday that the season would not be able to begin on the July 19 date previously proposed by both sides, pushing the start of the season back to July 26:

“I really believe we are fighting over an impossibility on games,” Manfred said in the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “The earliest we will be ready for players to report is a week from Monday, given the need to relocate teams from Florida. That leaves 66 days to play 60 games. Realistically, that is the outside of the envelope now.”

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