With the offseason acquisition of ace pitcher Gerrit Cole from the Houston Astros, among others, the New York Yankees were viewed, along with the Los Angeles Dodgers, as the favorites to win the World Series before the pandemic shook the baseball universe and not only delayed the start of the 2020 season, but also cut it from 162 to 60 games.
With the shorter season, there is more space for randomness, luck, and “fluky” outcomes. However, the audience still expects the Yankees to lift the trophy come playoff time. Is that fair? Well, that’s up for debate, but according to a Hall of Fame pitcher, it will definitely add more pressure to a team like the Bombers.
Smoltz, famous for his pitching days with the Atlanta Braves, seems to think that the baseball season in 2020 will be more like a sprint instead of a marathon, like it used to be.
“I think it’s going to be awesome from a standpoint of a lot of things that you never could predict and we’ve never seen,” Smoltz said in a conference call that promoted this week’s American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament, according to NJ.com. “It’s going to be so much different on the strategy and how you manipulate the roster.”
A cold streak can compromise the Yankees’ season
Smoltz believes that the shortened season will open a window of opportunity for teams that aren’t usually playoff contenders. That isn’t very likely to happen in a regular, 162-game schedule, but with precious few games, a hot streak can do wonders for a mediocre team, and a cold spell could doom a team like the New York Yankees, as unlikely as it may be.
“The great teams that were great before this happened are still going to be great, but there’s a lot more pressure on them because in a 60-game schedule,” Smoltz said. “I think that you’ll have 25 percent more teams that can compete that had no idea if they were going to compete for 162 games.”
Randy Miller of NJ.com writes that, per the Elias Sports Bureau, almost one third of clubs that qualified to the playoffs in the Wild Card era (1995 to present) did not hold a postseason spot after 60 games.
“You’re going to see more teams have a chance in a 60-game schedule,” Smoltz stated. “When you have 162 games and you know your roster’s good, the first two months don’t bother whether you’re 10 games down or eight games down. You know you’re better over 162 games.
“Now the pressure of trying to get in position to be in the playoffs is going to be greater. I think it’s really got a chance to be unique.”