usatsi-178321991.jpg
Getty Images

At some point soon Major League Baseball is expected to announce more regular season games are being canceled. The league has already canceled each team's first two series as a result of the owners' lockout, and MLB and the MLBPA remain far enough apart on key issues that a deal will not be struck in time to avoid more cancellations. There is still no end to the owner-imposed lockout in sight.

Already 91 games have been wiped off the schedule and with each cancellation we lose out on great storylines, great pitching matchups, and the all the quirky weird unexpected stuff that makes baseball fun. Who knows, maybe MLB's cancellations took away a perfect game or a home run cycle. These canceled games are history the sport can never get back.

Each cancellation also has an impact on the postseason races. Simply put, the shorter the schedule, the more randomness plays a role in deciding the races. With that in mind, here's a look at what we're missing out on now that the first two series of the regular season have been canceled. Come with me, won't you?

Top storylines

Max Scherzer
SP •
ERA2.46
WHIP.86
IP179.1
BB36
K236

Scherzer vs. Nats. By WAR, Max Scherzer is the best player in Nationals history, narrowly edging out the recently retired Ryan Zimmerman (40.8 to 40.1). He played six-and-a-half seasons in Washington, won two Cy Youngs, finished in the top three of the voting two other times (three if you count his partial season with the Nationals in 2021), and of course led the franchise to its first and only World Series title in 2019. Scherzer signed the NL East rival Mets prior to the lockout and his very first series with New York was scheduled to be at home, against the Nationals. The Nationals being in a down cycle would have taken some of the starch out of this, but still, Scherzer vs. Juan Soto and his former teammates offered plenty of first-week intrigue. Alas.

Trout's return. Mike Trout did not play after May 17 last season, and was limited to 36 games by a nagging calf injury. He was the same ol' Trout before the injury (.333/.466/.624), but the injured robbed him of most of his age-29 season. Trout is over the calf injury and healthy now, and will be a full go on Opening Day, whenever it is. The Angels were scheduled to begin with the season with a six-game road trip through Oakland and Seattle, so with any luck, MLB and the MLBPA will strike a deal in time for Trout and the Angels to play their home opener as scheduled (April 7 vs. Astros). We've already waited long enough to see Trout on the field. I don't want to have to wait any longer. (Also, Anthony Rendon had season-ending hip surgery in August. He's expected to be ready for the start of the season as well.) 

New faces in new places. In addition to Scherzer (and Starling Marte) with the Mets, we would have seen Corey Seager and Marcus Semien makes their Rangers debuts at home against the Yankees, and new Mariners lefty Robbie Ray and new Tigers lefty Eduardo Rodriguez possibly face each other on Opening Day in Seattle. In a normal offseason, I assume the still-available Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman, and Trevor Story would have signed by now, and they would have made their debuts with their new teams (if they even signed with a new teams). Now we have to wait a few weeks to see all these players who changed teams over the winter with their new teams. Bummer.

Verlander's return. The Astros are comfortable enough with Justin Verlander's rehab progress following Tommy John surgery to give him a one-year, $25 million contract with a $25 million club option prior to the lockout. The future Hall of Famer turned 39 last month, and although he showed no signs of slowing down before the injury, he is 39 and coming off a major arm injury. Father Time comes for all of us. Lance McCullers Jr.'s rehab from last postseason's flexor injury isn't going well, making Verlander that much more important to an Astros team that could lose Correa to free agent.

ALDS rematch: The Rays won 100 games and finished with the American League's best record a year ago, though they lasted only four games in the postseason, getting ousted by the AL East rival Red Sox in the ALDS. The Rays were scheduled to visit Boston, where their 2021 season ended, in the second series of the 2022 regular season. ALDS rematch storyline aside, these two clubs always play tough, grinding, entertaining games, and now they'll play (at least) one fewer series this year. Too bad.

Best Opening Day pitching matchups

Depending how the schedule falls and when Opening Day actually happens, we could see a few of these pitching matchups come the season opener. For now though, they're off the table. I should note we're making assumptions about each team's Opening Day starter because none have actually been announced. Sometimes they're obvious. Others not so much.

Walker Buehler, Dodgers vs. Germán Márquez, Rockies. Buehler could be the Dodgers' fourth different Opening Day starter in the last four years, if you can believe that. Clayton Kershaw got the nod last year, and Dustin May and Hyun-Jin Ryu got it the two years before that because Kershaw was injured. Even if Los Angeles re-signs Kershaw, his health is a question given the lingering forearm issue. Strip away the Coors Field factor and Márquez has quietly been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last few years. Non-zero chance the Rockies trade him before Opening Day though.

Sandy Alcantara, Marlins vs. Charlie Morton, Braves. Atlanta could instead give the ball to Max Fried, who won the World Series clincher last year. Either way, they'll send a high-end starter to the bump. Alcantara is outstanding and the centerpiece of Miami's rebuild. He's also one of the game's preeminent workhorses. Morton vs. Alcantara or Fried vs. Alcantara, there's no wrong answer there. Commissioner Rob Manfred & Co. have robbed us of a dandy Opening Day pitching matchup here.

Joe Musgrove, Padres vs. Logan Webb, Giants. The pitching nerd's Opening Day matchup. Webb is no longer flying under the radar thanks to his dynamite NLDS showing last year. Musgrove was San Diego's best pitcher last season, though I supposed the Padres could go with Yu Darvish or Blake Snell on Opening Day. I say go with the hometown San Diego kid who, again, was your best pitcher last year, and also threw the franchise's first no-hitter. This would've been a fun one with two not quite yet household names.

Best series

Giants at Brewers. Because the early season schedule is so heavy on intra-division matchups, this is the only series featuring two 2021 division winners that has been wiped off the books by the lockout (so far). Let's hope it stays that way. The Giants and Brewers had the best and fourth-best records in baseball last season, respectively, and they were slated to play three games in Milwaukee in the second series of the year. Let's not cancel any more series involving two very good, very fun teams, okay MLB? Those series are harder to find these days because of all the tanking.

Yankees at Astros. I get it, we all have Yankees and Astros fatigue, but when these two clubs meet, they tend to play epic battles with great finishes and occasionally bad blood. They were scheduled to play three games in Minute Maid Park in the second series of the regular season and who knows, maybe that would have been Carlos Correa's return to Houston. I don't think the Yankees will open the wallet for Correa, but it's not impossible.

Giants at Padres. OK, so the Padres weren't the World Series contender we all expected last season, but this club remains very talented and entertaining. San Francisco came out nowhere last year and now they have a target on their back. The Padres want to get to where the Padres were last season, and they were set to open this season with four games at Petco Park. This is one four-game series I badly wish we hadn't lost to the lockout.

Rays at Blue Jays. Similar to the Giants and Padres, the Rays are a defending AL East champs and the Blue Jays want to get to where Tampa was last season. These two rivals were scheduled to play three games in Toronto in the second series of the regular season. The Blue Jays have only played 36 games at Rogers Centre the last two seasons and fans are understandably excited about their up-and-coming powerhouse. Making them wait even longer to see their team seems cruel.

Braves at Mets. Sense a theme? We have another series featuring a division champ (in this case the World Series champs) and a team trying to supplant them. The Mets spent a lot of money prior to the lockout to close the gap between them and the Braves. This was only supposed to be a little two-game midweek series at Citi Field, but make no mistake, both teams had it circled on their calendars.

Which teams are helped (and hurt) the most?

Whenever the lockout ends, the expectation is MLB and the MLBPA will agree to pick up the existing 2022 schedule wherever it falls. Generating a new schedule will be complicated (travel arrangements are already set, ballparks have been booked for non-baseball events, etc.) and too time consuming. Any time spent building a new schedule can be better spent playing baseball.

That means teams will play schedules that are more unbalanced than usual this year, and they could play a different number of games too. Right off the bat, canceling the first two series means some teams lose seven games and others lose only five. There's plenty of precedent for that. Teams have played an unequal number of games around work stoppages several times in the past. The 86-70 Tigers won the 1972 AL East title by a half-game over the 85-70 Red Sox thanks to the strike, for example.

In a 162-game season, missing two series isn't a huge deal -- good and bad teams have good and bad weeks against good and bad competition all the time -- though the fact of the matter is some teams are losing a chunk of their schedule that is more favorable than others, and it could impact postseason races down the line. Plus you know owners are keeping tabs on how many home dates they're losing (some teams have lost as many as seven home games already).

With the caveat that rosters can and will change after the lockout (there are still a lot of quality free agents waiting to be signed), here are the teams losing the most "difficult" chunk of games to the lockout. To do this, we used Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system to calculate the projected winning percentage of each team's opponents in the two series lost to the lockout.


Series lostOpponents' projected winning percentage

Diamondbacks

3 games @ Brewers, 3 games @ Dodgers

.597

Rockies

4 games @ Dodgers, 2 games @ Padres

.584

Giants

4 games @ Padres, 3 games @ Brewers

.582

Astros

3 games vs. Phillies, 3 games vs. Yankees

.556

Nationals

3 games @ Mets, 2 games vs. Phillies

.547

The D-Backs lost 110 games last season and I'm not sure anyone believes they can contend in 2022, but if they do make a run at a (expanded?) postseason spot this year, chopping six games against the Brewers and Dodgers off the schedule will help. Same goes for the Rockies, who have lost a series to the Dodgers as well as a Padres team that PECOTA loves. Added bonus: these are road series for the D-Backs and Rockies. At minimum, they didn't lose lucrative home dates against good teams to the lockout.

The Giants and Astros have the most "favorable" series losses among contenders. San Francisco sheds a four-game set against a talented Padres team and three games against a very good Brewers club. Houston avoids Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in their opening series, then a Yankees team that is always a handful. PECOTA really loves the Mets and Phillies, hence Washington's spot. Now here are the teams losing a "softer" piece of their schedule to the lockout:


Series missedOpponents' projected winning percentage

Dodgers

4 games vs. Rockies, 3 games vs. D-Backs

.421

Reds

3 games vs. Cubs, 3 games vs. Pirates

.424

Cardinals

3 games @ Pirates, 2 games @ Cubs

.425

Mariners

4 games vs. Tigers, 2 games vs. Angels

.454

Padres

4 games vs. Giants, 2 games vs. Rockies

.458

San Francisco's "everything that can go right will go right" act is carrying over into 2022. The lockout took road series against the Padres and Brewers away from the Giants while the NL West rival Dodgers lost home series against the Rockies and D-Backs. Any team can beat any other team on any given night in this game, but if you're going to have games taken away, wouldn't you rather sacrifice games against teams like the Padres and Brewers, and keep games against the Rockies and D-Backs? I know I would.

On paper the Cardinals, Reds, and Mariners all fall into the "could make a run as a postseason bubble team" bucket more than the "no doubt about it contender" bucket, and losing a stretch of schedule against teams that project poorly is suboptimal. If the players and front offices (and fans) are upset about it, then I suggest taking it up with the owners who locked out the players and shut down the sport. The schedule will only grow more unequal and more unbalanced with each announced cancellation.