Strategies could change due to MLB’s 2020 playoff expansion if regular season play continues

Teams could alter how they manage their starting pitching rotations.

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A baseball with MLB logo is seen at Citizens Bank Park before a game between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies on June 28, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pa.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter


With the arrival of a COVID-19 outbreak within the Miami Marlins organization just days after Major League Baseball began its season on July 23, it has been speculated that the league may have to stop all games if other teams see similar outbreaks.

The league has taken steps to try to stop the outbreak from getting to other organizations, postponing all Marlins games from July 27 through Sunday.

According to ESPN, other teams, including the Cardinals and the Phillies — who were facing the Marlins at the time that many of Miami’s players tested positive for the virus —had people in their organization test positive for COVID-19. The league has also altered the schedules of those teams.

If, however, MLB does continue its season, the new format the league has put in place could affect how teams manage their players. Specifically, rest days for players and how teams will elect to handle their pitchers.

This year’s regular season, because of the late start, will only consist of 60 games per team instead of a normal season that has 162. This could mean fewer starting pitchers because the pitchers may not need as many days of rest in between starts because of the shorter season.

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Or, if the starting pitchers follow the same schedule as normal, they could get some action out of the bullpen if managers simply try to get their best arms on the mound as much as possible. This isn’t a new strategy as some teams have used this in the playoffs in past years.

In an article by The Ringer, an MLB pitching coach addressed the topic.

“I think rest management is more important than workload management,” Athletics pitching coach Scott Emerson said. “Let them pitch and let’s see how they respond. Starters are going every fifth day. How do we monitor their bullpens? And it’s a 12-start season, but we have to remember most of these guys have been throwing [during the playoff].”

While the Athletics may be utilizing a 5-man starting rotation, the Cincinnati Reds are open to experimenting with various methods.

According to an article from the Cincinnati Enquirer, “When Cincinnati Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson prepares for a 60-game schedule, he looks at the starting rotation and sees endless possibilities. It could mean piggybacking starters, so one starter pitches three innings and another starter follows for three innings. Another option is treating the staff like it’s a playoff series where guys return on short rest.”

Aside from pitching, rest days for players may be handled differently, because even though teams will be playing fewer games during the regular season, they will also have fewer scheduled off-days as well.

Regardless of how teams decide to manage their players for the remainder of the season, one thing is certain if it does continue: managers will try at all costs to have their best players on the diamond.

The biggest change in this year’s MLB season may be its postseason.

The league and the MLBPA agreed to play a playoff expansion following the 2020 regular season. Unlike years in the past, eight teams from each league will advance to the postseason in 2020.

The three division winners from each league will be seeded first through third based on record, and the next three teams will be those that finished the year in second in their division, again seeded fourth through sixth based on regular-season record. Two wild card teams will be seeded seventh and eighth and will be the teams with the best record of a team not seeded already.

The first round of the playoffs is set to take place Sept. 29 through Oct. 2.

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