Toronto Blue Jays: Why an abbreviated season benefits team

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez of the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez of the Toronto Blue Jays. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images) /

MLB is moving closer towards a shortened 2020 regular season, and this is a benefit for a good but not great Toronto Blue jays team.

Major League Baseball is currently considering a proposal to play an abbreviated 81 or 82 game season. While many fans may be disappointed in this news as it means less baseball will be played in 2020 than expected, I will personally take any live sports that I can get at this point. Additionally, a shortened season greatly benefits the Toronto Blue Jays.

There are a few reasons that ‘Any Given Sunday’ is a phrase associated with the NFL and not the MLB, the obvious reason being that football is mainly played on Sundays while baseball takes place over the course of the week.

However, the more popular reason is because over the course of a 16-game football season, anything can happen. A team can catch fire, win a few games in a row, and all a sudden find themselves in the playoffs. Baseball’s 162-game regular season essentially eliminates the opportunity for this sort of randomness.

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While we often see an underdog come out on top in a one-off game, over the course of the full regular season the better teams will win more often than the not so good teams. Cutting the season in half is a complete game changer and introduces far more randomness to the playoff picture than we would normally see.

For proof of this, look no further than the 2019 MLB regular season. Entering the year, the St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals were both projected by experts to be playoff contenders. They each had stacked rosters and postseason experience – generally good indicators of a playoff team. However, through 82 games, each team was merely 41-41.

In fact, at the halfway point of the season, the Nationals hadn’t been more than a game over .500 all year long. Through 50 games the team was just 19-31. Of course, we all know how the season played out – both the Cardinals and the Nationals made the playoffs, and the Nationals ended up beating the Houston Astros in seven games to win the World Series and save baseball fans from another Astros’ championship.

Over a full season these teams were able to play up to their respective abilities, but in an abbreviated season neither would have even qualified for the postseason.

The proposal also includes an expanded playoff field – no explanation is needed for why this would be a tremendous help to the Blue Jays’ chances.

This all is great news for a much-improved Toronto Blue Jays team that, while better than last year’s version, are still considered by many to be a season or two away from the playoffs. If they can catch fire early, they will be able to lock up a spot over teams that sputter out of the gate.

It is also great news for new starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu. Toronto signed the star free agent to a four year, $80 million contract this offseason – a fair price for a pitcher who has been dominant while on the field, but has struggled through injury issues during his career.

A shortened season would mean less work for Ryu, minimizing the chance of him getting hurt at some point during the season. Figuring a five-man rotation, over the course of an 82 game season Ryu would project to make 17 starts, which is a very reasonable number.

Resting him for a start or two at the beginning of the season wouldn’t hurt, either. It would ensure that Ryu would be fresh for a playoff push late in the year when the Jays need him most.

The last time Ryu got to start fewer than 20 games in a season (in 2018, due to injury) he registered a sparkling 1.97 ERA, despite allowing three runs in just three innings during his first start of the season. There would be no complaints out of Jays fans if an abbreviated season meant this type of dominance from Ryu.

One negative thought I initially had surrounding a shortened schedule was that it would give the Jays’ young core less development opportunity. Theoretically, only playing half a season means less time for young stars like Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette to develop in the big leagues.

In a sense, however, a shorter schedule might be very beneficial for these players. In the minor leagues, players don’t play a full 162 game schedule. These guys aren’t used to the sort of long, grinding season that is played out in the MLB. We may have seen this longer schedule cause fatigue in Guererro Jr. last season, as he batted just .232 in September and didn’t hit a home run all month.

An 82-game season would mean these guys could go hard all season long without having to worry about burning out at the end, providing a good foundation to build on as they move towards a full 162-game campaign. If the team can use the shortened schedule to sneak into the playoffs, the benefit of postseason experience cannot be understated for a young core that looks to be a playoff mainstay in the years to come.

There is no better tool for growth than postseason baseball.

There is a growing belief that the 2020 MLB season may be forced to take place without fans. Additionally, there is talk that because the Toronto Blue Jays play in Canada, the team will have to relocate for the 2020 season to eliminate cross-border travel.

From a financial standpoint, this would be detrimental. From a fan standpoint, this would be very disappointing. But from a player standpoint, this may not be the worst thing. Empty stands would eliminate a lot of distraction for the young Jays roster, allowing the team to focus on baseball and the game at hand.

Some think that having no fans would be a distraction in itself. However, to paraphrase what former Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the Orioles game against the Chicago White Sox that was played without fans back in 2015, it’s still baseball in between the lines.

These players grew up playing little league games with next to no fans and have spent many years in the minor leagues playing in near-empty stadiums. I don’t think that fanless games would be a problem for the Blue Jays at all.

While it may not be ideal, a shortened 2020 MLB season benefits the Toronto Blue Jays more than most other teams in the league. A sprint rather than a marathon provides the young Jays with a better chance at making the playoffs, creating the type of randomness that could allow the team to sneak into the postseason.

Once we learn in the coming days whether or not we get the opportunity to see this sort of abbreviated season take place, we can start to get excited about the possibility of the Jays using it to their advantage.

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How do you think the MLB season returning with half the number of games benefits the Blue Jays this season? What do you think about the latest proposal? Let us know in the comments below.