Imagine this scenario.
Let’s imagine that the Diamondbacks and Cardinals are locked in a tight race for the final NL Wild Card berth this season. The teams are tied going into the final day of the regular season, but the Cardinals win and make the playoffs as the Diamondbacks lose their game.
During a hypothetical regular season, the Cardinals played a pair of 7-inning doubleheaders and won all four games. On the other hand, Arizona did not play any doubleheaders during the regular season, so every game (except for rain shortened affairs) was nine innings. Additionally, Arizona blew a number of leads in the eighth inning or later. Two of those games would’ve been wins if they were seven innings long and that, potentially, could’ve spelled the difference between going to the playoffs or going home.
The Cardinals, essentially played four less innings than the Diamondbacks. You can make the argument that the results of those games could’ve been different had they played nine innings. It’s a game of “what ifs” with a sub title of “what could.”
In a normal regular season, there are rain shortened games so in a 162-game season, those teams will play less innings. For all intents and purposes, most times, that’s only one game, plus those rain shortened games still have a chance to go nine innings before they are officially called. The doubleheaders are cut and dried. 7-innings, both games.
One team may play four doubleheaders this season, while their main competitor would play one. That would be, potentially 12 less innings for the team that played more twin bills. A lot can happen in 12 innings.
Last season, the 7-inning doubleheaders made sense because of the risks involved in playing the season, but there was also an expanded playoff system, where eight teams from each league qualified. As it was before 2020, the playoff will feature five teams in each league.
I thought that baseball would possibly go to a system where the first game of a doubleheader is nine innings, but the second game would be seven innings.
Injuries are starting to pile up late in the spring. Unfortunately, more than ever, that will be a constant theme throughout the 2021 season.
Toronto has already been hit hard. George Springer has an oblique injury, left hand pitcher Robbie Ray is dealing with a bruised elbow and Kirby Yates, who was signed to be their closer, will need Tommy John surgery on his elbow and is done for the season. The Braves reportedly backed out of a deal with Yates because of his elbow issues. Toronto took a chance and got burned.
Yankees got a break when the results of an MRI showed left hander Justin Wilson has “nothing actionable” but an inflammation problem in his pitching shoulder. He is being treated with oral-inflammatory medication to treat the tightness.
How teams piece together their pitching staffs will go a long way towards determining who makes the playoffs and World Series.
Mets shortstop Francisco Lindor is getting a lot of support from the local media to get his name on a lucrative contract extension. The Mets didn’t acquire Lindor with the idea of a “one-year stand,” but there are other factors at play here.
If they lock up Lindor now, what’s the plan for Michael Conforto and Noah Syndergaard. No disrespect to Lindor who has the ability to be a candidate for an NL MVP, but Conforto and Syndergaard have already helped the Mets win a National League pennant and could possibly do so again.
It will be a good problem to have if Conforto and Syndergaard (when he returns in late May or early June) are both performing up to their potential.
There is no one in New York who will have more pressure on him than Gary Sanchez. Now even the aforementioned Lindor.
There’s no sugarcoating how bad Sanchez’ season was last year. No need to repeat the numbers, but in all fairness, the 60-game season played somewhat of a role.
Many believed that it was even more difficult for players who got off to a bad start in 2020, to salvage their seasons. Look at what happened to the Brewers’ Christian Yelich, who got off to a horrendous start and hit .205 in 58 games. Yelich was the NL MVP in 2018 and finished second in the voting in 2019. Even if he was banged up, Yelich would have better numbers than what he posted last season, so you have to believe the short season was part of it. (BTW: Yelich is raking this spring)
Is that the case with Sanchez? That remains to be seen but he’s already felt the heat in the spring and we’re not talking about the weather.
Sanchez was being praised for his play early on when he was hitting some long bombs in the spring but he’s been in a slump recently so the criticism was reignited. The Yankees are relying heavily on a comeback season from Sanchez so the 28-year old will be under enormous pressure to produce.