After months of waiting, and toing and froing between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the 2020 season is finally set to get underway.
Originally scheduled to begin in March, the coronavirus pandemic has led to an enforced break up until now – World Series champions the Washington Nationals' clash with the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants showdown headlining Thursday's Opening Day.
This season's MLB schedule, however, looks different with just 60 regular-season games compared to the usual 162-game calendar after the league and the MLBPA finally reached an agreement amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The likes of San Francisco Giants star Buster Posey and Los Angeles Dodgers recruit David Price are sitting out 2020 due to health concerns, while the Nationals will be without Ryan Zimmerman and Wellington Castillo.
Attention now turns to the field and whether the Nationals can defend their World Series crown this year.
The spotlight is also on the Dodgers following their mammoth 12-year, $365million investment in star signing Mookie Betts after another National League Division Series exit, while pressure is on the star-studded Yankees to deliver.
All eyes will be on the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox for other reasons following the sign-stealing scandal.
Using STATS data, we preview the shortened 2020 MLB season as the Nationals eye back-to-back titles.
133 – When the MLB season begins, it will end a drought of 133 consecutive days without a game being played in any of the four major North American sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL). It is the longest such stretch for those four leagues since the 1916-1917 MLB offseason (180 days from the end of the 1916 World Series to the 1917 opener). That was before the NBA, NFL and NHL existed.
297 – Looking at MLB specifically, the July 23 contests will end a string of 297 consecutive days without a regular-season game and 266 consecutive days without any game, regular season or postseason. Both droughts are the longest since the first major league game was played in 1876. The previous longest stoppage was 256 days from August 1994 to April 1995 due to a labor dispute.
23,670 – Based on teams' 60-game schedules, the Texas Rangers are slated for the most travel in 2020, a total of 23,670 kilometres (14,708 miles). In 2019, the fewest miles traveled by any franchise in the regular season was 39,478km (24,531 miles) via the Detroit Tigers. The Milwaukee Brewers are scheduled for only 6,500km (4,039 miles) travel this season – less than the equivalent of one cross-country round trip.
0 – With team schedules being regionalised, the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs will not face each other in the regular season. The two franchises – both of them charter members of the National League – squared off in every regular season from 1876 through 2019 – a streak of 144 consecutive years.
52 – With the Blue Jays not permitted to play home games in Toronto, the entire regular season is slated to take place in the United States for the first time in 52 years. Not since 1968 have there been no MLB games played in Canada. One season ago, there were games played in five different countries (the USA, Canada, England, Japan, Mexico).
When #MLB returns tomorrow, a few teams will turn to young prospects (and potential fantasy sleepers) to fill the roles of players who opted out.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) July 22, 2020
We analyze which players might be best suited to take advantage of their opportunity.
: https://t.co/mlGaeHjytL#DFS pic.twitter.com/wQd5kZ3iRb
1.17 – Extra-inning games in 2020 will see each half-inning begin with a runner on second base. In 2019 regular-season play, in innings in which the lead-off hitter reached second with no outs, his team scored an average of 1.17 runs in that inning, scoring at least once in 61.4 per cent of those frames.
9.87 – All MLB games in 2020 will have a designated hitter, marking the first time the DH will be used in National League parks in the regular season – with the exception of a relocated 2010 Phillies-Blue Jays series in Philadelphia in which the Jays were designated as the home team. During the 2019 regular season, games with a designated hitter saw an average of 9.87 runs scored (both teams combined), compared to 9.45 in games without the DH.
52-8 – The best record by any team in a single-season 60-game span in MLB history (ignoring ties) is 52-8, achieved by three clubs: the 1884 St Louis Maroons, 1906 Cubs and 1912 New York Giants. In the past 100 years, the best such mark is 51-9 by the 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers.
35 – Since 2000, 22 players have hit at least .400 over a span of 60 team games within a single season (minimum 180 plate appearances), topped by the .460 mark by the Seattle Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki over 60 games in the 2004 campaign. The most home runs by any player in a single-season 60-game span is 35 by Barry Bonds in 2001, his record-setting 73-homer season.
15 – Through July 20, a total of 15 players have opted not to play in the 2020 season. None of those players were a 2019 All-Star, but seven have been All-Stars at some point in their careers, with a total of 23 selections.