The latest and perhaps final proposal for beginning the 2020 MLB season — i.e., the one that actually has owners and players exchanging terms — would include a limited schedule of 80 or so games for each team.
That's the biggest change and an unavoidable one with the start of the season being delayed several months. But the new schedule would also limit travel by having teams face only their division and the corresponding division from the opposite league. So the Yankees, for example, would play teams in the AL East and NL East. That's it.
The breakdown of those matchups, as outlined by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, is also critical. He suggests that teams would play their in-division rivals about twice as often as they play teams from the opposing division. So while your first thought might be to consider how the Diamondbacks stack up against the five AL West clubs, about 60 percent of their games would actually come against the four teams in their own division.
They're used to facing them a lot, sure, but not that much.
In determining winners and losers for this new schedule, then, I found myself drawn more to those same-division matchups than the opposite-division matchups. And it just so happens that the three divisions with the strongest identity are in the AL. The AL East is dominated by hitter's parks. The AL Central is dominated by rebuilding teams. The AL West is dominated by pitcher's parks. The NL divisions are all more balanced by comparison.
Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that all of my winners and losers come from AL clubs. It wasn't my intention, but it's too interesting not to point out.
So how much value do they actually gain or lose? We're talking a matter of degrees here. I'm not upending my rankings for any of them, but a spot or two? Sure. Even just raising doubt or confidence in a player, without actually moving him in the rankings, can change the way you put your team together.
HOU Houston • #17 • Age: 31
Odorizzi has plenty of doubters after a career year built mostly on a spike in average fastball velocity. But pitching in the weakest division in baseball probably also had something to do with it. In 14 starts between the Tigers, Royals, White Sox and Indians, two of which are still rebuilding and none of which are offensive juggernauts, he had a 2.76 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 11.1 K/9. They'll make up an even larger percentage of his schedule this year.
Mike Minor SP
KC Kansas City • #23 • Age: 33
Maybe Minor gets stuck making a start in Colorado this year, but San Francisco and San Diego are also on the table. Mostly, though, it's a case of a fly-ball pitcher getting an even bigger dose of the Angels', Athletics' and Mariners' home parks. His new home in Texas doesn't figure to be as hitter-friendly either, and together, it may be enough for him to follow up on his big 2019 -- something his ADP gives him little chance of doing.
Jose Urquidy SP
HOU Houston • #65 • Age: 26
Like Minor, Urquidy has a tendency to put the ball in the air, which can be a danger in some venues. But those same three that benefit Minor -- the ones in Anaheim, Oakland and Seattle -- figure to host the majority of his road starts, and the Mariners should be a pushover when they're in town, too. Josh James, another up-and-coming Astros hurler with fly-ball tendencies, should also benefit.
Kenta Maeda SP
MIN Minnesota • #18 • Age: 33
There's already a compelling case for Maeda taking a big step forward in his first year with the Twins. They need him in the starting rotation too much to let contract terms dictate his usage the way the Dodgers did. But for a guy who became accustomed to some tough matchups within his division -- and in environments like Colorado and Arizona, no less -- the rebuilding Tigers and Royals, not to mention the Pirates, are going to seem like a cakewalk.
CLE Cleveland • #32 • Age: 26
The one good starting rotation in the AL Central is the Indians', and Reyes obviously won't have to face that one. Maybe the Twins pitching staff plays pretty tough, especially if you take into account their bullpen, but the White Sox and especially the Royals and Tigers could serve as a batting practice for a guy who somehow disappointed while hitting 37 home runs last year. And it's not like the NL Central is especially deep in pitching either.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #19 • Age: 32
It won't matter whether Tanaka gets his splitter back if he can't keep the ball in the park, which has been a longstanding issue for him, and making a larger percentage of his starts in those hitter-friendly AL East parks won't help. His career ERA may be 3.75, but it's a combined 4.67 where the Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays play.
HOU Houston • #1 • Age: 26
For all the success the 25-year-old Correa has had, putting together an .845 OPS, all those big ballparks in his division haven't done him any favors. He has a career a .789 OPS in Anaheim, a .777 OPS in Oakland and a .642 OPS in Seattle. His numbers at Texas aren't bad, but it's a new ballpark there now. He's already in lower demand this year with the surplus of studs at the shortstop position and should probably stay that way.
Matt Chapman 3B
OAK Oakland • #26 • Age: 28
Matt Olson is the Athletics hitter thought to be most susceptible to pitcher's parks given his poor production at home, but the percentage of games the Athletics are playing there isn't changing. It's actually Chapman, another fly-ball hitter, who has struggled within his division, hitting .195 with a .624 OPS in Seattle and .198 with a .573 OPS in Houston (which low-key tends not to be so great for left-handed hitters).
Yuli Gurriel 1B
HOU Houston • #10 • Age: 37
So you've heard a little about those AL West parks being pitcher-friendly, have you? Sorry, but there's just such compelling evidence of the division's impact on certain players, and Gurriel might be the most overwhelming example yet. A career .808 OPS, right? Well, it's .691 in Anaheim, .645 in Seattle and .699 in Oakland. His odds of a big repeat just got longer.
Evan White 1B
SEA Seattle • #12 • Age: 25
Talk about a tough way to break in for a prospect whose power profile is already in question. As if all those home games at T-Mobile Park weren't bad enough, White is now poised to play basically half his road games in Anaheim, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco, none of which are going to help his power play up.