Happy Friday, everyone. Or, maybe not so much. Day 1 of the post-sports reality is going to be interesting to say the least. There’s a lot to unpack about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the baseball world, and I’m sure we’re all collectively working through our thoughts about all of this. I know I am. It’s weird and it puts this site in a bit of a bizarre place, but we’re going to keep plugging ahead. Season previews, thoughts, updates on the ever-changing reality, the like. It will keep some sense of normalcy and hopefully serve as a good distraction (As an aside, the podcast is TBD – it probably does not make sense for us to travel to the studio to record Monday night, but we’ll announce something either way).
To that end, we’re doing a mailbag this week and each week going forward. We’ve got four good questions today. As always, send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll answer our favorites each week.
Chris Asks: What teams benefit the most the most and least from the delayed season start? My thoughts: With less strain on the bullpen and a higher percentage of games played by Paxton, Hicks, Stanton, and Judge now, it has to be the Yankees, right? I would think the 2nd and 3rd best teams in each division would also benefit a lot – with a smaller sample size of games, there should be more variation.
I have to be honest: the impact on the Yankees’ health was the first baseball-related thought I had about all of this. It’s pretty clear that, when considering only the on-field impact, this is a huge boon to the Yankees. That would be true even if this was only a two week delay. (That’s the plan right now.) I think we should all accept a dose of cold hard reality, though: this is going to be much longer than two weeks. We should not expect to see Major League Baseball until May at the earliest, in my opinion. Maybe even June. That is just how things are trending right now, although it’s an obviously fluid situation.
So, with that in mind, that’s good news for Giancarlo Stanton, James Paxton, and Aaron Hicks. They were slated to return in April, May, and June, respectively. I think they should all be healthy – or close to it, barring setbacks – right around the time games get going again, in the best-case scenario. (As for Judge, let’s just hope he doesn’t exacerbate his injury since the guy doesn’t know how to take it easy for one day, apparently.) A fully-healthy Yankees roster is the best in the league, in my opinion, and this should make that a more likely possibility come Opening Day. That’s good news (I guess).
There are other downstream impacts, too. The higher rate of variance in the shortened season is a real one. It benefits the Astros in a meaningful way, I think. Do we really think fans are going to care about the sign-stealing stuff in a few months? I think it’s possible that the fervor has died down and people will want to just get back to normal. Then again, maybe fans will redouble their efforts when games come back, to get to normal? This is really uncharted territory. Nobody knows what is going to happen or when.
Iron Mike Asks: Lets say the season gets shortened to 130 games. How do you think this would affect vesting contracts? For example Happ needs to pitch something like 165 innings (don’t quote me on that number) this season in order for his 2021 contract to be activated?
Second confession: I also thought about this almost immediately. Happ’s contract vests for 2021 in one of two ways: 1) he throws 165 innings or 2) he makes 27 starts. Neither of those outcomes feels very likely right now. They did feel likely a few days ago. If he reaches either of those milestones, he will be back in pinstripes for 2021.
I really have no idea what the hell to make of this. I’m not an expert in contract law. I do wonder if his agent would try to renegotiate the terms of the vest once we hear more about the plans for the season. That’s what I would do. There may even be some clauses in there for catastrophes or other unforeseen events. Again, though, I have absolutely no idea. I can’t wait to hear more about this once things get back to normal, because I do think this is an interesting baseball implication.
Rafi Asks: I know that spring training stats are meaningless, but at what point should we worry about Gleyber’s error total (5 errors through 10 games so far)? Haven’t been watching the games, so not sure if he’s been making routine plays etc.; worth a deep dive/analysis?
No, not yet. I wrote about this the other day in a thoughts post, but I don’t think we’re there yet. I don’t feel good about it by any means. But we don’t have enough information yet. All I’m going off is tweets, and we all know how reliable that can be. (Not very reliable.) Only a few of these errors have been in televised games. That really matters! Seeing the errors, obviously, allows us to determine what kind of errors they are and how worried we should be.
Anyway, here is one of those tweets:
Those seem bad? I don’t know. Gleyber has a penchant for making mistakes defensively, even on otherwise routine plays. It’s been that way since he was a rookie. I always make excuses – he’s a rookie, it’s a new position, etc. – but maybe time is running out? For what it’s worth, as I noted the other day, the advanced stats rate him a better shortstop than second baseman. I think that’s true, too. I’m not worried but we should all be monitoring this again, as soon as we can. I’m sure the Yankees are.
Bob Asks: I was thinking about the new rule regarding having a relief pitcher face at least three batters which, as I understand it, is a pace-of-play thing. However, it seems that if a pitcher comes in and has an off-day (or night) there is the potential for a big inning, which then could lead to a longer game, defeating the purpose of the rule. Or is the rule just designed to reduce trips to the mound and game length is not a factor?
It’s all about pace-of-play. That’s what Rob Manfred is all about these days: making baseball games end faster. I don’t get it, but maybe I’m just in the .001% of baseball fans? I actually like the sport, after all. It’s true that this plan is dumb and poorly thought out. I don’t think a player getting smacked around changes much though. It’s only three batters. It should not add that much time. (As for the mound visits, they should have handled sign-stealing better. That was definitely why teams were visiting the mound so much.)
I gotta say, though, I just wish there were baseball games on. Who cares if they take 4 hours? It was the right decision to suspend the league for now. It really was and I think it’s foolish to pretend otherwise. But even a 4 hour game is better than no game. Even baseball fans who have whined about pace of play for the last decade would surely agree with that.