by John Unrein
Fire up the grill on the back porch and grab your favorite libation. Major League Baseball is back. MLB Network shared the 60 game schedule each team will play on July 6th. Each club will have six off-days, except for the four teams beginning the season on July 23rd. They will have seven apiece due to being the first teams in action during the 2020 season.
Below is a breakdown provided by MLB of what the revised 60 game schedule will look like for each team as the regular season will run through September 27th. Teams will be playing 37 percent of the scheduled games they would typically play during the duration of a regular 162 game season.
40 Divisional Games (20 home, 20 road)
10 games against each opponent, split between three series.
Each of these matchups will have either one team playing seven games at home and three on the road, or six at home and four on the road.
20 Interleague Games (10 home, 10 road)
Six games against the team’s natural interleague rival (three home, three road).
Four games apiece against two other opponents in the corresponding division (two home, two road).
One three-game home series against a fourth opponent.
One three-game road series against a fifth opponent.
The Kansas City Royals will open their season on the road against the Cleveland Indians on July 24th. After three games in Cleveland, the Royals will take on another Central Division rival in Detroit against the Tigers before returning home.
The Royals’ home opener will be July 31st at 7:05 pm at Kauffman Stadium against the White Sox per the Major League Baseball calendar. If that sounds familiar it should, as it will mark the third straight season the Royals’ home opener will be against the White Sox.
Grain Valley Eagles head baseball coach Brian Driskell is interested in the return of professional baseball. The strategy used by teams and how they will approach the shortened season creates intrigue for Driskell.
“My son and I sat and watched the live stream of batting practice the first day back for the players on Twitter. Baseball is a joy or passion for anyone who’s ever played the game, gone to the ballpark with their dad, or learned how to keep score. It’s called America’s pastime for a reason,” Driskell said.
“Strategy deployed during games by managers will be paramount. My thought process is you will see more hit and run, bunting, and relievers going longer with the three batter minimum that is unique. Batters will try to actually take advantage of the shift deployed by hitting to the opposite field and laying down bunts close to the foul line.”
“It’s funny that it’s actually a little bit closer of being like a prep atmosphere because every game matters. You might have two starters go back to back in a game instead of a bullpen trying to hold a lead.”
Driskell continued, “A batter’s approach at the plate to some extent may be to look fastball or for something elevated first and then protect the plate as the at bat continues. I think the value of a run is going to be at a premium because you can’t rely on your team getting hot at some point over 162 games. Managers may be less patient with pitchers who don’t listen.”
The state playoff experience enjoyed by Driskell in managing the Eagles in recent years has reassured him of the value of having a solid bullpen approach. Looking at the scorecard and having a plan for a grouping of opponents batters you are concerned with for the next time they will be up and who will match up best against them is important.
Doing this at the outset of a game or a few innings ahead, instead of waiting for the moment trouble happens in a game promotes a better chance of victory. Knowing your pitchers’ strengths based on their stuff, stats, and how they matchup versus right or left handed batters is in the consistent forefront of Driskell’s managing thought process.
“The three batter minimum for pitchers will affect strategy. That approach alone will be drastic. You might walk a batter intentionally so that you avoid a matchup you don’t like versus a right or left hander to get the most favorable matchups in a game. People will pay attention to the lineup card and look at matchups four or five batters down the road. I’ve seen an excellent batter in a high school playoff game be walked intentionally three times with no one base because the other team was determined that he wasn’t go to hurt them,” Driskell said.
“Usually by the MLB All-Star game, there are five or six teams that are likely out of it by the break. Now there may be 20 or so teams that are in it with 12 games left. That’s going to influence how people manage and approach each game.”
Two things that Driskell enjoys about the Kansas City Royals is how they play the game and the needed distraction that they will provide in the coming months. Both will be a welcome sight.
“One of the greatest things about the Royals in ’14 and ’15 was they played the game the way it was played during the 1950’s and 1960’s. They relied on athleticism, speed, fielding, and making contact with the baseball. I would love to see the game evolve backward away from the long ball,” Driskell said.
“What I love about coaching baseball is taking advantage of your ability versus their inability. I would like to see guys going back to digging out ground balls and I think that will happen more with the abbreviated season.”
Driskell concluded,” One of the things that will get lost is that baseball isn’t the most important thing in the world right now. We are looking for a distraction from the things that are going on economically, politically, or pandemically.”
“There are a ton of kids who did not get drafted this year that would have normally. Those players will be playing college baseball this season depending on what happens with their season. The next three to five year window may see less players getting the chance to play baseball at a higher level. That is sad.”