Photo via NY Daily News
The 2020 MLB season was a season like no other. Through postponements, a shortened schedule and a pandemic, all 30 teams had to overcome obstacles never before encountered or dealt with.
Nevertheless, the sport persisted, and the sport succeeded. Although the success of completing the season was as unfounded as they came, new and old themes were still apparent during the course of the year. Here are five main takeaways from the 2020 season.
5. More hitting, hitting and hitting
The addition of the designated hitter to the National League during the 2020 season definitely did not make teams in the Senior Circuit complain. When looking at team on-base plus slugging (OPS) from this position over the course of the 2020 season, five NL teams ranked in its top 10 (Atlanta in second, the Mets in fourth, Miami in fifth, Milwaukee in eighth and Cincinnati in ninth). The addition of the position to the National League gave teams the opportunity to lengthen their lineup from top to bottom. Regardless, 2020 was a trial run. The question moving forward will be simple – will the success of the DH in the National League lead to its eventual permanence in it? This will be a main talking point in future collective bargaining arguments.
4. Prospect protection
This takeaway is cheating the system, to a degree. Teams have started to hold on to their coveted blue-chip prospects (and hopeful major leaguers) more and more over the past few seasons. This conservative philosophy, however, reached a crescendo over the course of the shortened 2020 campaign. The MLB Trade Deadline saw relatively minimal movement in player-for-prospect trades. The biggest blockbuster trade came from the transfer of Mike Clevinger from Cleveland to San Diego. Even this trade, however, saw more movement in terms of player quantity as opposed to prospect quality. While clubs definitely were not going to trade their top prospects for a 30-game (or less) rental, the 2020 season definitely emphasized on the growing development around the sport. No matter what potential win-now player you can get, prospects are becoming more cherished.
3. Aces wild
Shortened seasons, for obvious reasons, lead to more extreme sample sizes. Such was the case for starters over the duration of the 2020 season. Starters, with less starts and innings to work with, excelled more and more with a much lighter workload. Cleveland’s Shane Bieber and Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer, for instance, practically struck out every other batter (at least, it seemed) and won the American League and National League Cy Young Awards, respectively. While they undoubtedly deserved such recognition (they both pitched to sub-2.00 ERA’s), 18 other pitchers, with a minimum of 50 innings pitched, twirled to a sub-3.00 ERA. Small sample size or not, ace-caliber production is solid production, 60-game season or not.
2. Contention surprises
Heading into the 2020 season, experts and casuals alike figured that certain “rebuilding” teams would take a step forward. The “step forward,” however, was not expected to culminate with a postseason berth. The San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox, in their infinite wisdom and confidence, scoffed at the statement. Who would blame them? Both broke postseason droughts and solidified themselves as steady playoff forces now. From the combination of their youth, veterans and prospects still yet to show themselves, both teams put themselves right in the thick of the playoff races for years to come. It all started in a shortened season where the expectations were still relatively minimal.
1. Super teams still reign supreme
Were there team surprises during the season? Definitely. Was there parity? For sure. There was also certainty, and no other team proved this point more than the 2020 World Series Champions themselves in the Los Angeles Dodgers. The team not only possessed the star power, but the record one would expect with their plethora of talent at their disposal. The team’s 43-17 record and .717-win percentage both ranked first in all of MLB. Although the team did not have the World Series-reigning success before 2020, they finally put it all together in the shortened season. Shortened season or not, the team proved they were the super team to beat. And get beat, they did not.