COVID-19 Roundup: Green Shoots of Hope

This is the latest installment of a daily series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

IHME Projections Continue Positive Trend

The daily projections for COVID-19’s impact in the U.S. have continued to trend in a positive direction, whic is good news in a world currently starved for it. In its latest model run, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington again projects the peak stress on the American health system as less than in the previous day. From nearly 90,000 projected fatalities in the United States last week, the latest run knocks almost a third off that number.

There’s a lot of hardship and heartbreak still ahead of us, and all of this dependent on continued aggressive social distancing. But if the virus truly peaks on April 11 as projected, we could start to see more detailed road maps for the slow transition out of quarantine mode. It likely won’t happen as quickly as MLB’s ill-received plan to return as early as May would require, but this kind of planning will necessarily accelerate once we appear to be on the right side of the curve. For more on the challenges attendant with baseball’s reported Arizona Plan, check out Ben Clemens’ piece for FanGraphs from earlier today.

Fanless Games…with Fans?

One of the ways baseball might transition back to, well, existing, is to hold fanless games. Baseball has had a fanless game in recent memory: the April 29, 2015 White Sox-Orioles game in Baltimore kept out fans after unrest in the city stemming from protests in response to Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. But the idea of fanless games on such a large scale would have seemed preposterous two months ago.

Well, the Rakuten Monkeys of the Chinese Professional Baseball League are taking a trip to uncanny valley, playing in front of 500 mannequins dressed as fans.

It wouldn’t be the wildest thing for teams to experiment like this for the benefit of cameras, even in more normal times. “Canned heat” has been a thing in entertainment for a long time, from laugh tracks to the WWE piping in crowd noise.

Chris Sale’s Flu

While few of us have direct experience with being a Cy Young contender, there’s one thing many of us have in common with Chris Sale: wondering whether previous flu symptoms were in fact COVID-19. Earlier in the spring, Sale missed time due to what the team described as a mild case of pneumonia. This is an example of why more robust testing is necessary for a return to baseball normalcy: It’s hard to protect players and staff when we don’t know who’s sick now, who has been sick, and who is at risk of becoming sick in the future.

More Streams than Just FanGraphs’

Hopefully, you’ve joined me, Ben Clemens, and Paul Sporer for our recent FanGraphsLive! streams livecasting games of MLB The Show 20, and participated in our arguments about baseball questions and random bee attacks. But we’re not the only ones using streams as a way to stay in touch with baseball. Red Sox organist Josh Kantor has been streaming his ballpark organ-play, this time from home on Facebook Live. He’s even been taking song requests from listeners, though I don’t believe he’s tackled In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

Dan Szymborski is a senior writer for FanGraphs and the developer of the ZiPS projection system. He was a writer for from 2010-2018, a regular guest on a number of radio shows and podcasts, and a voting BBWAA member. He also maintains a terrible Twitter account at @DSzymborski.

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4 years ago

Sale’s illness, in retrospect, was almost certainly COVID. Remember that at least 1/2 the cases are very mild, and another 30-40% are like having an AWFUL flu. The remaining 10% or so are the scary, requiring-hospitalization cases.

The Stranger
4 years ago
Reply to  ScottyB

I don’t know. When the virus was first found in my state in mid March and there was good reporting on negative tests, only about 1% of all tests were positive. And that’s among people who met the testing criteria to begin with. It’s certainly possible, but sometimes the flu is just the flu.

4 years ago
Reply to  The Stranger

we’d know more if we knew what kind of pneumonia he had (viral: not actually likely corona, I think- this is telephone with my wife the ID doc), but it would be worth testing him and everyone else in MLB to see who has had it.