Anything possible in 2020
A’s should contend, but don’t write off Giants in randomness of 60 games
Baseball2020 is going to be very different from baseball, and maybe more entertaining.
And here’s a Bay Area bonus: The 60game schedule and the rule changes for the 2020 season work in favor of the Giants and the A’s.
The A’s were well positioned as a contender in a “normal” season, and their outlook is even brighter now. The Giants figured to struggle and rebuild, but now they have the look of an interesting dark horse.
What the heck am I talking about? Thanks for asking.
Baseball is now a sprint. Every loss is the equivalent of 2.7 losses in a standard 162game season, so every game will be played and managed more like a playoff game than a regularseason game, because this ain’t no regular season.
Baseball has hit the fastforward button on the languid pace of its season. Close your eyes and think back to the days when a Giants hitter would be in a slump and Bruce Bochy would growl comfortingly to the media, “Heee’ll be fiiiiine.”
Sure, he’ll work himself out of that slump. In a week or two. That was then. Now you can’t give the slumper that time.
Quickreact managing is going to be part of the new deal. Less patience with a struggling hitter or pitcher. We’ll see more frequent changes, game to game and inning to inning.
Rotations will get more juggling, based on hot hands and matchups.
They’ll be playing speed chess, not frontporch
checkers. The beneficiaries of this new deal will be teams with versatile rosters and with analyticsdriven leadership.
Teams like, oh, I don’t know ... the Giants and the A’s.
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi, no longer the awkward new kid, has settled into a groove, and he’s one of the more analytics-oriented men in the game. New skipper Gabe Kapler is on board with the new stuff, and completely in sync with Zaidi, going back to their days together in the Dodgers’ organization.
Kapler’s 13person coaching crew, to a man and woman, is analyticssavvy and programmed for quick action and reaction.
Zaidi and Kapler, in building this season’s team, have put a premium on Swiss Army knife players, which suits the quickreact style of ball.
The season is scheduled for 60 games. This opens the door for a catchlightninginabottle team. The Giants are a wild card, clearly short on talent but a team that could flash some early spunk and then ride its wave. If that happens, the season might not be long enough to allow the Giants to sink back to reality.
With no minorleague season, top prospects will be thrown into the mix, adding an anythingcanhappen vibe to the season. Catcher Joey Bart will get a sniff, and what if he catches fire?
A team like the Giants could blow up the other way, too, being a disjointed disaster from Day 1. But in a short season, the Giants have a puncher’s chance.
The A’s were going to be in the playoff mix anyway, but the short season works well for them, too.
The Billy Beane/david Forst/bob Melvin crew has been big on mixandmatch — move players around, emphasize versatility, keep everyone involved and engaged. That’s the kind of team that will thrive this season.
Analytics? The A’s get A’s in that subject. Melvin is a newage skipper who works well with his team’s cyber crew. His solid communication lines with his players contribute to good morale and a teamwide understanding that moves will be made day by day and inning by inning.
Old baseball was about having to coddle the established players. New baseball, exemplified by Melvin and the A’s, is building an allforone team chemistry. The Giants, with leaders like Buster Posey but with no superstars, also fit this category.
The short season benefits the A’s pitching staff, as The Chronicle’s Susan Slusser pointed out. Starters A.J. Puk, Jesús Luzardo and Sean Manaea all are in the final stages of recovery from injury, which would necessitate innings limits in a normal season.
With the short season, Melvin told Slusser, “It means the reins are off, we can let these guys go.”
The ability to adjust and tweak the roster on the fly will be a vital skill. The Giants and A’s should be near the top of baseball in that aspect, neither team afraid to pull the trigger.
The A’s, from the front office to the dugout, have an extra incentive this season. Plans for a new ballpark were already shaky, and the pandemic has messed with their questionable timetable. Chances are dimming that the team will be able to keep young cornerstones like Matt Chapman and Matt Olson around long term. “Now or never” might be the team motto.
Bay Bridge World Series, what an absurd idea. But this is 2020.
Above, infielders Matt Chapman and Matt Olson helped the A’s to 97 victories and wildcard appearances in each of the past two seasons. Below, the Giants and Farhan Zaidi, president of baseball operations, will embark on a shortseason campaign with a new manager in Gabe Kapler.
A’s executives David Forst, left, and Billy Beane settled on a pool of 54 players for the 60game 2020 season.