Collin Whitchurch is an associate editor at Baseball Prospectus.
Collin Whitchurch: Hey y'all. There's Major League Baseball on our TVs. Somehow, someway.
mw (PNW): How will the expanded playoffs impact strategy?
Is the trade deadline more or less important now?
Collin Whitchurch: Yes, it's true. In case you missed it, MLB expanded its playoffs approximately 30 seconds before the first pitch on Opening Day.
This is a good question with what is probably an unsatisfying answer. I think we’re about to find out how the expanded playoffs will impact stategy. *Literally* anyone can make it with 8/15 teams in each league qualifying (yes, even the Mariners), and I think if anything, this benefits teams who are good, but stuck in divisions with behemoths, notably the AL East and NL West. I don’t know if we’re going to see teams “go for it” quite as hard as we or MLB might like, but I do think it will affect teams selling off. Especially in a shortened season, how many teams will even be out of the race come August 31? Two? I think what we’re going to be left with is a bunch of good-to-mediocre teams fighting amongst themselves in the last month of the season. How it plays out is anyone’s guess.
Quincy (Ames): Thoughts on arrietta and Vince Velasquez .arrietta post surgery and Velasquez with new pitches
Collin Whitchurch: Count me among the many who have been waiting for an eternity for Velasquez to live up to his potential. I think I've rostered him on a fantasy team at some point every year for the past...four(?) seasons. (checks notes: Wow, that 16-strikeout game was in 2016). With reports of him adding a cutter over the offseason and him looking solid in Summer Camp, there's plenty of reason for optimism...again. But I'm going to be cautious until I see him put it together for more than a couple of starts in a row. He made 23 starts last year and didn't get out of the fifth inning in 10 of them. That's not great! As for Arrieta, count me out. He's dealt with shoulder stiffness during the build-up to the season, and while he can maybe be effective enough to be a back-of-the-rotation innings eater, I don't even know if he'll be consistently healthy enough to provide that.
Steve (The Garden Covid): Collin, why?
Collin Whitchurch: All about the Benjamins, Steve.
Marc (Oly ): With a short season and a few really bad teams, do you think we could see a few single-game records fall (most Ks, most HRs allowed, etc.). Which ones?
Collin Whitchurch: This is fun to think about and something I hadn't really considered. But the more I think about it, maybe it's LESS likely in the shortened season. Baring something really bad happening to a team, even the worst teams are going to have a larger pool of players with which to use to stay fresh. Could the Dodgers do something embarrassing to the Pirates, or the Yankees to the Orioles? Sure. But I don't know if I'd consider it any more likely than in a 162-game season.
That said, I've been on 21-K watch for years now. Dying for someone to get there. Scherzer seems the obvious bet, no?
Steve (And you, perfect together ): Juan Soto?
Collin Whitchurch: What a crappy thing to happen, eh? I'll admit that as the season crept closer, my excitement for real, live MLB games started to become more prevalent in my mind than the concerns over them trying to play. That flip-flopped QUICKLY this afternoon, and everything we worried about when they decided to try to get this season in came right back to the forefront. Should the Nationals and Yankees be playing right now? No. But they are. It's a terrible risk they're taking. All we can do is hope for the best for Soto and everyone he encountered over the last few days.
And unrelatedly, it sure seems the 2019 ball is back for another season, eh?
Marc (Oly): Is it just me, or are injuries up in the past week or so? Kershaw today, Julio Rodriguez in Seattle, etc. Even setting aside Covid risks, are we going to see more injuries due to the weirdness of March-June and the season morphing from a marathon to a sprint? Or fewer, given the shorter season and fewer total players involved in pro baseball?
Collin Whitchurch: I don't know if the injuries are because of the weirdness, or because teams finally had to start making roster decisions today. But I do agree we could see more. Something I wondered when they announced Summer Camp and the short build-up to the season compared to Spring Training is how that would affect guys, and particularly pitchers. But I guess that's part of the reason why they're allowing 30-man rosters to start the season and start dwindling it down. I don't know if it's going to be as much of a risk for position players, but I certainly wonder how many pitcher injuries we're going to see in the first week or two. Even if managers are smart in limiting their work, piggybacking starters, etc., it might be more than we're used to.
Steve (And you, perfect together ): True or false: "LeMahieu" sounds like a sneeze. Or something you say AFTER a sneeze.
Collin Whitchurch: False. I've always envisioned it as someone butchering an attempt to say "lemme through" to someone in their way. No, that doesn't make any sense to me either.
Collin Whitchurch: All right the queue has gotten light so I think we'll call it here. Enjoy the baseball, everyone!