Major League Baseball is preparing to embark on a season unlike any other. The game is going to look different, and there may not be fans in the stands for many, if not all teams. The biggest change is probably the most fundamental one: all 30 teams will play just 60 regular season games, a 102-game reduction from the normal schedule.
This change alone brings with it a lot of questions. Will teams really be able to hit their stride in such a short period of time? Will one major injury completely doom a team’s playoff hopes? Most importantly, can a team that wins the World Series under these circumstances possibly be considered a legitimate champion?
The answer is complicated. MLB has never played this short a season before. MLB played a shortened season in 1981 due to a midseason players’ strike, but teams still played roughly 60 percent of their scheduled games. The 1995 season started late due to the work stoppage that canceled the 1994 World Series, but teams still managed a 144-game schedule. We won’t come close to that in 2020.
The first question is how legitimate the playoff field will be. For instance, the Washington Nationals went 27-33 in their first 60 games of 2019. That would not have been good enough for a playoff spot, but as we know, they turned it around, made the postseason, and won the World Series. The Chicago Cubs and Philadelphia Phillies were two teams who had good enough records to lead their divisions after 60 games, but neither team ultimately made the postseason. On the other hand, teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Astros, and Twins were all atop their respective divisions, and all four of those teams went on to win them.