After what seemed like an eternity of bickering back and forth between the owners and the players association, a deal has finally been reached, and we are finally going to see Major League Baseball later this month. Opening Day is set for July 23rd and 24th, and the teams are already headed to spring training to get ready to play.
With the many changes to the game, a 60-game season, universal DH, and larger roster sizes, amongst others, we are going to see teams that benefit from all of this change, ad other teams that struggle with the new landscape. The key to being able to handicap baseball effectively has always been about staying informed, and this year, despite MLB looking a lot different, that hasn’t changed.
It's July 1, and that means baseball is scheduled to begin this month. ? pic.twitter.com/3r9vmnPeTP
— MLB (@MLB) July 1, 2020
In the coming days and weeks before Opening Day 2.0, we here at The Sports Geek, are going to do our best to make sure that you are informed of all of the various changes to the game, and how they affect each team. We kick that effort off today as we take a look at the five reasons why you don’t want to fade the New York Yankees in 2020. Let’s get started!
They Are Healthy
With all of the new rule changes being recently announced, we are hearing a lot of chatter on how each change will affect the game. Will the universal DH change the NL pennant chase? How will forcing relievers to face at least three batters affect the late innings of close games? And what about the unbalanced schedule? But one thing we aren’t hearing a lot of talk about is how this three-month delay to the start of the season will very clearly help some teams more than others.
MLB officially announces rules changes:
– DH in the National League
– Extra innings will start with runner on 2nd
– Arguing/brawling and spitting prohibited
– No pregame lineup card exchange
– Three-batter minimum remains in effect
– Any player may appear as a pitcher
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) June 29, 2020
The team that is helped the most by this long-delayed start to the season? You guessed it, the New York Yankees. The Yankees were decimated by injuries last season. They lost Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Andujar, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Aaron Hicks, Jordan Montgomery, and Didi Gregorious, all for long swaths of the season. And despite all these injuries, they still somehow managed to 103 games and an American League East Division title.
Heading into the original start of the season, way back in March, the Yankees were again banged up. Stanton, Judge, and Hicks were all expected to miss significant time, and it looked like 2020 was going to start off like 2019 ended, with lots of injuries for the Bronx Bombers.
Instead, New York has taken advantage of this long layoff to get their best guys healthy, and if they can start the season with their full lineup intact, they have one of the most powerful and hard-hitting teams in recent memory. With many of the Yankees players having a history of missing action, the fact that they only need them to survive for a 60-game season is a major benefit for New York.
Top to bottom, the Yankees don’t have the best bullpen in the game. But at the top of their ‘pen, they have five guys that are as good as anybody. In a short season like this one, we are starting the pennant race on Opening Day.
Similar to playoff baseball, teams in contention aren’t going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for guys to eat up innings, they are going to lean on their best guys and work them hard, as they know the season isn’t long enough to wear them out.
That is going to make the Yankees really hard to beat late in games. Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino make up a group of flame throwers that are going to make coming back late on the Yankees nearly impossible in 2020. We all know what Chapman and Britton are capable of as they are two of the best closers in the game, but it is Ottavino that really impresses me.
New York Yankee Adam Ottavino strikes out the side in the 6th. pic.twitter.com/BFoP3gn4yw
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) July 20, 2019
After spending his entire career pitching in the rarified air of Coors Field in Colorado, Ottavino finally got a chance to pitch outside of Denver, and he was lights out last year for New York as he had a 1.90 ERA in 73 appearances and struck out 88 batters in just 66.1 innings.
Can you imagine having to face a seventh, eighth, ninth inning of Ottavino, Britton, and then Chapman? Good luck. In a season where a good bullpen is going to be more important than ever, New York’s staff is going to thrive.
While the official MLB schedules have yet to be released, they have told us what to expect. Teams are going to play 60 games, 40 against their division, and 20 against their geographic counterparts in the other league. That means the Yankees are going to play two-thirds of their games against the AL East, and the last third of their games against the NL East.
And while the AL East is usually one of the toughest divisions in baseball, that just isn’t the case this year, as you could argue that, top to bottom, it is the worst league in the American League this season.
The Red Sox lost Mookie Betts, David Price, and Chris Sale from a team that finished in third place, 19 games back of the Yankees last year and are almost certain to have a down year. The Orioles might not win a game in 2020 (only a slight exaggeration) as that organization is a complete mess, and after winning only 33% of their games last year, look to be even worse this year.
Opening Day: July 23 or 24
Season: 60 games
Location: Home ballparks
Health and safety: "MLB's foremost priorities" pic.twitter.com/PWOu9GolDh
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 24, 2020
The Blue Jays added some veteran talent to their core of young studs, and they should be somewhat competitive this season, but only in a maybe they win more games than they lose way, not really a win the division title way. That leaves just the Tampa Bay Rays as tough competition in the division for New York. New York is going to dominate much of the AL East, and that will help them pad their record as they finish with the best record in the AL.
While there aren’t a lot of soft spots in the NL East, the Braves, Phillies, Mets, and Nats all range from decent to potentially very good, the NL East also features the Miami Marlins, a team that won just 57 games in 2019. That means New York will get at least one series against another team that can’t beat them.
Don’t be shocked when you see New York laying -300 in a lot of games this season as the competition is going to be very light at times. And while I always love to fade big favorites, this just isn’t the year, and the Yankees just aren’t the team, that you are going to want to fool around with. Lay the wood or stay away, New York is going to win a lot of games in 2020.
The 1927 New York Yankees have stood the test of time as the gold standard of what a power-hitting lineup is capable of doing. With guys like Earle Combs (who led the league in hits), Lou Gehrig (who led the league in RBI), and Babe Ruth (who led the league in home runs), the 1927 Yankees won 110 games and a World Series title, and their lineup, dubbed Murderer’s Row, is widely considered as the greatest of all time.
The Yankees lineup in 2020 is on that level, and it is a shame that we won’t get to see this team hit for 162 games. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are both guys that can hit 50+ homers in a year and will anchor the lineup. But it is the rest of this lineup that is sending fear through the rest of the American League.
Gary Sanchez has thirty home run power. DJ Lemahieu is a former batting champ that hit .327 last year and almost took home the AL MVP award. Miguel Andujar hit nearly .300 with close to 30 home runs and 100 RBI as a rookie in 2018 before missing last season with an injury and is healthy and ready to play this year and is almost certain to still be getting better as he is still only 25 years old.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) October 2, 2019
And oh, did I mention Aaron Hicks? All Hicks did in 2018 was get MVP votes in his first season in the Bronx, when he hit 27 bombs. Hicks only played 59 games last season as he battled injuries but is healthy and ready to go this year.
This lineup is so stacked I almost forget to talk about Gleyber Torres, a guy that at age 23 last year smashed 38 home runs and drove in 90 runs while scoring 96 times. The Yankees strong rotation and nasty bullpen tells me that they don’t need to score ten runs to win games, but this lineup tells me that if they need to, they certainly can.
The starting rotation has been a bit of a sore subject in the Bronx over the course of the last several seasons. But New York did what they always seem to do, and that is go out and get the best guy available on the market and give him more money than some country’s GDP, to pitch in pinstripes. This year, that guy was former World Series hero, Gerrit Cole.
Cole has arguably the best pitcher in the American League since leaving the NL, where he pitched for the Pirates for the first five years of his career, before joining Houston Astros in 2018. In his two seasons with Houston, all Cole did was run up a borderline absurd 35-10 record with 2.68 ERA, and 602 strikeouts in 412.2 innings pitched. In the playoffs, he was even better, leading the Astros to back to back World Series appearances, winning it all in 2018.
Gerrit Cole played favorites. pic.twitter.com/94vBH39TRI
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) December 18, 2019
He now joins a much-improved rotation in New York, as the ace of the staff. Behind Cole, New York has Masahiro Tanaka, a guy who has had his fair share of ups and downs but was an All-Star last year and still owns a more than respectable 3.75 career ERA.
James Paxton is the number three guy and is a pitcher who has ace level stuff. He very quietly went 15-6 with a K/9 ratio of 11.1 in his first season in the Bronx last year, after being brought over from the Seattle Mariners where he showed flashes of greatness in six seasons with the M’s. The big three starters for New York are going to snatch most of the headlines, but the bottom of the rotation has talent as well.
JA Happ has to be close to 100 years old at this point, I didn’t fact check that, but it has to be fairly close, but he is still getting guys out in the Big Leagues. In his two seasons with New York, Happ has been an innings eater that has compiled a record of 19-8. If your number four or five starter is winning twice as many games as he is losing, your rotation is really good.
The last spot in the rotation for New York is likely going to be Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery was once one of the most prized prospects in all of baseball and showed a lot of promise in his debut season in 2017, when he finished in 6th place for the AL rookie of the year award.
Montgomery has battled injuries since then, making just three starts in the last two seasons combined. He had Tommy John surgery last year and is expected to be fully recovered and finally ready to resume his MLB career this year and is a potential breakout candidate for New York in 2020.
On paper, this New York Yankees team has zero weaknesses. They can hit, they can pitch, and the majority of the changes we are seeing to MLB in 2020 are going to help them out. No team is going to be able to break the record for most wins in a season this year, as there just aren’t going to be enough games played, but this New York team could threaten to win 70% or more of their games, putting them in elite territory with teams like the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1998 New York Yankees.
Only time will tell how this strange season will play out, but one thing is for sure, it is going to be a year that will never be forgotten. Thanks for reading and make sure that you stay tuned to The Sports Geek all month long as we get you ready for Major League Baseball Opening Day, and give you all the sharp betting advice that you need to make money betting on baseball in 2020!