clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Any sort of 2020 season would likely further expose the weaknesses of the Red Sox roster

A shortened season doesn’t play into this team’s hands

MLB: Spring Training-Philadelphia Phillies at Boston Red Sox Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

We are living in a world of uncertainty that is enough to make even the most even-keeled among us anxious. That is, at least, my experience. On the less important side of the global pandemic is the effect it has on the world of sports, and specifically in our slice of that world with baseball. It’s no secret that everybody involved with MLB is going to do everything they can to get the sport up and running this year, and preferably sooner than later. That’s obviously and hard to fault, both for financial reasons and also because, well, it’s what they do. That’s not to say there is no fault for them potentially putting employees and communities at risk, but it’s hard to fault them for at least considering options. For example, we got a report on Tuesday about one possibility which, frankly, sounds absurd.

I am extremely skeptical at this point of the viability of that particular plan, for whatever that’s worth, but it does speak to one important point. That is the fact that if there is baseball in 2020, it is almost certainly going to come under very different circumstances unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Games are going to be different, atmospheres are going to be different, rules are going to be different, and rosters are going to be different. Teams are not constructed for this situation, of course, but some rosters are better prepared than others for some kind of shortened, condensed or whatever other variation of season we would potentially get in 2020.

This idea of what this kind of season would mean for the Red Sox is obviously something that I have thought about a lot basically since this all started considering, ya know, my job is to think about the Red Sox and this is a bizarre situation. I’ll say right now that my overall opinion is that this is a net negative, but it’s not a situation without some silver linings for the Red Sox. For one thing, they would get a couple of injured players presumably ready to go by whenever this strange season would start in Alex Verdugo and Collin McHugh. The latter’s timeline was less clear than the former’s, but I think even an aggressive start in June (which, again, I just don’t see happening) should be enough time for him. Having both of these guys healthy instead of needing to start Kevin Pillar and, like, Brian Johnson, is a very good thing.

MLB: Spring Training-Boston Red Sox at Atlanta Braves Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It also crossed my mind at one point that this kind of shortened season could potentially help a team like the Red Sox who, frankly, don’t have very impressive depth. The best teams are built to last over the marathon that is a 162-game season, but in a specific scenario in which they just decide to hold an 81-game half season or something like that teams lacking depth could theoretically benefit. I don’t really believe this as much as I did when it first crossed my mind, but I at least entertained the idea such a scenario could allow teams to lean more on stars. So, in the Red Sox’s case, their position players could basically play every day, and in the bullpen they could just push harder on their top five arms. You could also argue that they could more aggressively deploy openers and bullpen games for their weak rotation since they, again, could lean more on their stronger arms and potentially have a 15-man pitching staff with 29-man rosters.

Now, again, I don’t really believe this too much anymore. In fact, I’ve kind of flipped the other way and ultimately think that any sort of bizarro world 2020 season would be even worse for teams like the Red Sox who don’t have the impressive depth on which to lean. Mostly, this comes down to the fact that baseball players are in fact human beings and not avatars in a video games, a fact that I unfortunately forget from time to time. It sounds great in theory that they would be able to lean more heavily on their best players, but they’d actually probably need to ease up even more than usual.

The season could be shortened, but pitchers in particular rely on their routines and that has been thrown out of whack. I’m totally convinced that any second spring training would be rushed (the report referred in the link above mentions a two-to-three week camp, which seems too short), and I’m also totally convinced this will lead to a rash of injuries to start the makeshift season. The Red Sox are already weak on the pitching side and were vulnerable to normal injury rates. That increasing could drop them way down the standings.

There’s also the fact that there are potentially going to be more doubleheaders and at the very least fewer days off. If there is a season, MLB will obviously do everything in their power to play as many games as possible. Even seven-inning doubleheaders — an absurd and terrible idea, but that’s a story for another day — would require teams to dig deep into their pitching staff. The fact of the matter is that pitching depth is the biggest weakness on this Red Sox roster. In a video game, you could use a shortened season and still try to get 120-130 innings combined from Matt Barnes and Brandon Workman and just ride your best players. Unfortunately, we live in the real world. Any possible 2020 season is going to be bizarre, and it’s almost certainly going to only exacerbate Boston’s biggest weaknesses.