After months of waiting, and tense negotiations between the owners and players, the Major League Baseball season is finally set to get underway.
Originally scheduled to begin in March, the coronavirus pandemic led to an enforced delay until tonight’s openers when three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer and the defending champion Washington Nationals face the New York Yankees and new ace Gerrit Cole. Later, the seven-time NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers renew their rivalry with the San Francisco Giants.
This season’s schedule, however, looks different with just 60 regular-season games compared to the usual 162 after the league and the MLBPA finally reached an agreement amid the COVID-19 crisis. Giants veteran catcher Buster Posey and new Dodgers left-hander David Price are among the players who have decided to sit out the season due to health concerns, while the Nationals will be without Ryan Zimmerman, Wellington Castillo and Joe Ross in 2020.
Attention now turns to the field and whether Washington can defend its World Series crown without star slugger Anthony Rendon, who signed a seven-year, $245 million deal to join Mike Trout, new manager Joe Maddon and the Los Angeles Angels. The spotlight is also on the Dodgers after they agreed to a 12-year, $365 million extension with Mookie Betts, who was acquired from the Boston Red Sox with the hope he can help the franchise finally capture its first title since 1988.
The star-studded Yankees have high expectations after adding Cole, while Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox might feel fortunate they don’t have to face opposing fans in the wake of their sign-stealing scandals.
Using Stats Perform’s historical data, we’re taking a by-the-numbers look at the much-anticipated MLB season in a way no one else can.
133 – When the MLB season begins tonight, 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). This 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, tonight’s 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.
14,708 – The Texas Rangers are set to open new Globe Life Field in Arlington but they’re also slated for the most travel based on each team’s 60-game schedule, a total of 14,708 miles. In 2019, the fewest miles traveled by any team in the regular season were 24,531 (Detroit Tigers). The Milwaukee Brewers are scheduled for only 4,039 travel miles this season – less than the equivalent of one cross-country round trip.
0 – With team schedules being regionalized, 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. This would be the first time in 52 years without a game played in Canada. One season ago, there were games played in five different countries (U.S., Canada, England, Japan, Mexico).
1.17 – Extra-inning games will see each half-inning begin with a runner on second base. In 2019 regular-season play, in innings in which the leadoff 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% of those frames. The Rangers scored a league-high 70.1% of runners in those situations in 2019, while the Indians allowed a league-low 51.9% of those runners to score.
9.87 – All MLB games will have a designated hitter, marking the first time the DH will be used in NL 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. In 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, done by three clubs: 1884 St. Louis Maroons, 1906 Cubs and 1912 New York Giants. In the last 100 years, the best such mark is 51-9 by the 2017 Dodgers.
.460 – 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 Ichiro of the Seattle Mariners during the 2004 campaign.
35 – The Giants’ Barry Bonds had the most home runs by any player in a single-season 60-game span with 35 during his record-setting 73-homer season in 2001.
15 – Through July 19, a total of 15 players have opted not to play in the 2020 season. None of those players was a 2019 All-Star, but seven have been All-Stars at some point in their careers, with a total of 23 selections.