This should be a popular topic as the regular season is set to start in less than a month. How will managers have to adjust to a season that is only 40% as long as a standard one?
I think people’s initial thought, as was mine when I first started contemplating this subject, is there is no holding back. Every game is a must-win, you can’t afford a slow start, and if you do start poorly, you might be selling away all your pieces at the trade deadline within a month. This means managers should treat things full throttle, balls to the wall, from start to finish. However, just from Alex Anthopoulos’ comments yesterday, we know that won’t be the case.
The Braves are going to ease their starting pitchers into things, as I imagine every team will. These guys haven’t been able to throw live in a few months now, and spring training will only be three weeks long. So for at least the first couple of starts, don’t expect anyone to go much longer than 4-5 innings. Pitchers will always be treated with extra caution because there is so much more injury risk, but I don’t think this conservative approach at the beginning of the regular season will be limited to just the arms.
While every game may be exponentially more valuable in this shortened season, one significant injury could ruin a team’s chances in the blink of an eye. While typically, a 4-6 week stint on the IL by a team’s best player can be overcome over a 162-game stretch, that’s almost the entire season this time around, forcing managers to maintain a fine line between keeping players as healthy as possible while also aggressively attempting to win every game.
The most intriguing part about all of this is that it is new to everybody. No organization prepares for this type of thing, so it will be up to each team to come up with a plan they feel is best — for this year and the long-term health of their players — and stick with it.
The Braves are in a better position than most, which is why I believe this shortened season positively benefits their chances of making a run at their first World Series since 1995 (which was also a shortened season). They have seven or eight guys that can start and serve as long relievers early in the season when there are 30-man rosters. They also possess possibly the deepest bullpen in baseball, and their depth doesn’t stop with their arms.
The Braves have several bench pieces that would start on most other ball clubs and a ton of talent in the upper levels of the minor leagues that contribute if injuries or positive coronavirus tests become a problem. There’s no questioning that every game will have a playoff-type feel to it, but the Braves have the depth to go about this shortened season the right way, taking care of all their players. And judging by Alex Anthopoulos’ comments from yesterday, that is the plan as we approach Spring Training.
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