‘Dial it up’: Get ready for a sprint of a 2020 MLB season
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
That’s a baseball adage almost as old as the game itself.
But it’s time to throw that out the window because in this shortened 2020 season, baseball will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It’s going to be an exciting, action-packed campaign where every game takes on three times the importance.
Now, it’s going to be a sprint and not a marathon.
“Dial it up,” former Cubs pitcher and current Marquee Sports Network analyst Sean Marshall said in a recent interview. “I’m gonna pitch every pitch like it’s my last pitch.
“I’m gonna leave it all out there on every pitch and I think a lot of players operate the same way.”
With a 60-game slate taking place over two-plus months, it creates a new sense of urgency and mindset for players and teams.
Under normal circumstances, the roller coaster of a 162-game season is more leveled out. That won’t be the case this summer and fall, as the intensity is ramped up each night. It’s going to feel like a pennant race from the very first pitch on Opening Day through the end of the season.
“You’re not going to be able to pace yourself,” former Cubs outfielder and current Marquee Sports Network analyst Ryan Sweeney said. “We always used to say, ‘it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.’ But right now, it’s gonna be how you start. It’s gonna be who comes out of the gate hot.”
That’s also going to place some extra emphasis on how each team’s roster is managed throughout the season. The added benefit of the designated hitter spot is helpful, as is the rule that each team will have a 30-man squad to start the year before moving to a 28-man roster two weeks into the season and then eventually getting back down to the standard 26-man unit that was set up for this year.
“To be able to give guys a break if the universal DH is in play, that opens up some different spots,” outfielder Ian Happ said on Cubs 360 last month. “Just trying to let [manager David Ross] be as creative as possible and hopefully keep guys fresh during the kind of sprint instead of a marathon this year.”
Doug Glanville played more than 1,100 MLB games in his career, including 3 seasons with the Cubs. He’s curious to see how managers are going to handle sitting players and pitch counts in such a shortened season where every game takes on so much more importance.
The three weeks allotted for Spring Training 2.0 will help solve some of those questions as we see how quickly players — and particularly pitchers — can get up to speed.
The schedule will also be a huge factor, as the Cubs are set to play 2/3 of their games against NL Central foes.
“If you’re playing a lot of division rivals, you can gain games very quickly,” Glanville said. “So that’s gonna make it very spicy and interesting. You have to get out of the gate quickly and put the foot on the accelerator and find ways to treat each game like it’s a postseason game. In some ways, that’s gonna be very exciting but also exhausting at the same time.
“There’s gonna be much more emphasis on the sprint side of the game and the playoff mentality side of the game than the marathon and the poetic, leisurely stroll component of baseball.”