If MLB’s plans go well — and there’s no guarantee this will happen — teams will begin playing a 60-game 2020 season on July 23 or 24, depending on team.
How will the schedule look? Here’s an article by Bob Nightengale in USA Today that explains a bit. Now, let me say right here — Nightengale’s articles are often riven with errors and other things that call their facts into question. But in this article he quotes an actual MLB executive, Chris Marinak, MLB’s executive vice president for strategy, technology and innovation. Marinak is responsible for scheduling, so let’s hear his words:
“Oh my God, it’s been a long road,’’ Marinak told USA TODAY Sports. “The struggle, the challenge was just not knowing. We all wanted to play as soon as possible, but the virus was going to dictate that. We had to wait, but wanted to be ready to go when we got the word.
“Now, here we are; a pretty good schedule given how much time is left.’’
You can imagine that this was a tough thing to do. Usually, schedules are worked on a year in advance — there should be a 2021 162-game schedule released by late August — but in this case, Marinak and his team had to scrap the original schedule and start over, not knowing how many games would be played, and get the whole thing done in about a month. Here’s some of the nitty-gritty of what we’ll see this year, if games are played:
This will be a schedule built for primetime TV, with the highest percentage of games during local markets’ prime time in baseball history considering the regional schedule and precious few day games. Without travel to the West Coast, no team in the AL or NL East will have to play a 10 p.m. ET game.
Marinak and Torres tried to eliminate as much travel as possible in this new schedule. Teams who normally stop in New York, Chicago, San Francisco or LA for a three-game series, now will be staying for an entire week. There still will be two-game series, but most will last three and four games.
The 60 games will be divided this way: 40 games against every team in a club’s own division, so the Cubs will play 10 games against all the N.L. Central teams. This will likely be split into a pair of five-game series to minimize travel. Then there will be 20 games against each team in the corresponding division for all teams, so the Cubs will face A.L. Central teams.
Unfortunately, MLB is insisting that the ridiculous “rivalry” games take precedence again, so the Cubs and White Sox will play each other six times. I hate these games and there are far too many of them. I agree with this take:
I could live on the Guaranteed Rate Field lot and not care at all about the "rivalry."— Matt Clapp (@TheBlogfines) June 25, 2020
These teams do not directly impact each other. Until the White Sox are in the NL or playing the Cubs in the World Series, they mean less to me from a Cubs perspective than any NL team does. https://t.co/G0DLkoIIZe
I do live in Chicago and what Matt Clapp said is exactly how I feel. Give me less Cubs/Sox, not more.
Anyway, that leaves 14 games against the other four A.L. Central teams, so figure the Cubs would play two of them four times (eight games) and the other two three times (six games).
Craig Edwards of Fangraphs ran some numbers on the N.L. Central and found that four of the five teams came out essentially even:
Yesterday, I told you the NL Central was going to be crazy based on the ZiPS odds. The full Fangraphs Playoff Odds are now available, and yep, still crazy. https://t.co/Ts8zbB6k7C pic.twitter.com/lAIqWXRU33— Craig Edwards (@craigjedwards) June 25, 2020
Those numbers have the Cubs winning the division, but not by much. Of course, that’s just a projection. The Cubs would also play the awful Royals and Tigers, and that could be a bonus if those are the A.L. Central teams they’d face four times instead of three. The Indians, Twins and White Sox are all likely to be pretty good teams, so the Central vs. Central matchups are probably going to be competitive ones.
If they play.
It still could be a few days before we know what the schedule will look like. When it’s released, I will post it here.