As of now, the MLB season won’t start until at least Mid-May, but with the way things are going, I expect that to turn into June and possibly even July. Eventually, the spread of the coronavirus will slow down, and things will go back to normal. However, that may not be for a little, and the league is going to have to give the players some time to stretch out before the start of the regular season.
There are discussions of the MLB still trying to play at least 140-150 games, with doubleheaders on the weekends and the season possibly extending into November and December. That seems a bit optimistic, and something like 100-120 games could be more realistic. That’s not going to be music to the ears of any baseball fans, but it should be especially worrisome for the teams that look to be the favorites to reach the playoffs — like the Braves.
The concept isn’t that difficult to understand. The shorter the season, the more opportunity lesser teams have of hanging around and sneaking into the playoffs. Throughout a 162-game grind, the best teams almost always find their way in, even if the postseason can be a coin flip much of the time. Still, that’s what makes baseball so unique. The most deserving teams are almost always rewarded with a chance to chase the most coveted trophy in the sport.
Fangraphs recently did an article last week on this very topic. Originally, the Braves were projected to finish with a 90-72 record — a game behind the Washington Nationals for the NL East. But keep in mind, these projection systems — no matter where you look — have consistently overlooked the Braves the past two seasons, in which they ran away with the NL East. You can’t put a value on what goes on in the clubhouse, and that’s where Atlanta has had a significant advantage of late.
Still, Fangraphs might be the best site to use when it comes to projections, and they feel the Braves will be ultra-competitive in 2020, sliding in as one of the two Wild Card teams and giving them a 66.3% chance of making the postseason. That changes significantly, however, the shorter the season becomes.
In a 140-game campaign — which is extremely optimistic — the Braves’ chances of making the playoffs shrink a tiny bit, to 64.7%. However, in a 110-game season — a much more realistic projection, that number drops dramatically, to 53.5%. And in a worst-case scenario — if the season were cut in half, to 81 games — the Braves are given less than a 50% chance to make the postseason, at 47.5%.
These projections mean next to nothing in the grand scheme of things, but what they offer is a picture of how the best teams will be negatively affected by a shortened season, and conversely, how it will give organizations that shouldn’t have a prayer’s chance of making the playoffs a legitimate opportunity. In an 81-game season, the lowly Marlins are even given a 10% chance to make the postseason.
Hopefully, the coronavirus pandemic will end sooner rather than later, and we can all get back to the sport we love, but there is no way to tell when that might be. The MLB seems hell-bent on having season when this ends, no matter the circumstances, as they should be. But it will inevitably be much shorter, and the Braves are going to be at a disadvantage because of that.