The Colorado Rockies – 7 Strategies for a 60-Game Season
As COVID-19 closed spring training sights and Major League Baseball argued amongst themselves, a peculiar thing happened on the way to the ballpark. Through delays, rejected contracts, Twitter rants, and bitter negotiations, the players and owners begrudgingly agreed to play a 60-game season beginning late July.
And while confusion still exists as to revenue sharing, COVID-19 testing, safety regulations, scheduling specifics, and whether there’s an actual agreement in the first place, teams are gearing up for a season that will include 40 divisional games, 20 interleague games, some new rules, and a lot of strategy as the League maneuvers through a pandemic, and an abbreviated season, in just 66 calendar days.
For the baseball purist, a season generally means 162 games, the occasional seat in the left field stands, mustard stains on your favorite jersey, and a cold beer on a hot day. The 2020 season may offer none of those things, but after finishing with a record of 71-91 last year, the Colorado Rockies may prove to the baseball world that less is sometimes more.
Seven strategies for a 60-game season.
- Have Nolan Arenado bat second – If Charlie Blackmon wasn’t such a natural as a leadoff hitter, I would have suggested Arenado even try leading off. The concept is simple. Your best player needs to have as many opportunities as possible to swing the bat. Moving Arenado up one or two spots could mean an additional 30 at bats over a 60-game season.
- Make Daniel Murphy the everyday DH – One of the greatest gifts to the Rockies this season is the experimentation of trying out the DH in the National League instead of letting pitchers hit for themselves. Making Daniel Murphy the Designated Hitter will keep the aging veteran’s legs fresh while thankfully keeping his cursed glove (9 errors at first base) on the bench.
- Keep Garret Hampson on the roster – Hampson isn’t much of a hitter, doesn’t have a very good on-base percentage, and is a utility player at best. But he can run. With MLB’s second experiment in which extra-inning games will start with a player standing on second base, every team will need a speedster. In 2019, Colorado played in 16 extra-inning games. In a season in which 33 wins could clinch a playoff spot, every game matters.
- Have only two starting pitchers – I’m serious. Only German Marquez (12-5/4.76 ERA) and Jon Gray (11-8/3.84 ERA) should be on a starting rotation with specific days of rest in between. The rest of the starters should just consider themselves spot starters or middle relief. With the wear and tear of 60 games in 66 days, little to no spring training, and every game meaning so much, look for many teams going with the Milwaukee Brewers theory of more pitchers and less innings.
- Use Scott Oberg and Ian Desmond in relief situations – I did not mean together as a tandem. Oberg went 6-1 with an ERA of 2.25 in 2019 and Bud Black needs to use him in every close game as possible without blowing his arm out. Desmond, the everyday outfielder that pitched one inning of relief last season in a blowout loss, should be on the mound, saving pitching arms, anytime the Rockies are down big.
- Hope the schedule is favorable – The format looks to be fair as teams will play their division foes ten times each, and twenty more interleague games will be played against teams in the AL West. But the reality is that once a team has lost their 28th game, no matter what point of the season that is, they are most likely sending all their starting players home and bringing up an entire roster of young kids from the Taxi Squad. If teams like the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, and Texas Rangers struggle early, the Rockies may just catch a break.
- Catch COVID-19 right now – I’m only half-kidding. There is nothing funny about getting COVID-19, but in a 60-game season it could be a game-changer. Common sense says that any player contracting the virus will probably need to isolate and be out 10-14 days. That’s almost one-quarter of the entire season! Charlie Blackmon and two other Colorado Rockies tested positive over a week ago. While not scientifically proven, the assumption is that these three players will no longer spread or get the virus a second time when baseball starts on July 23. Imagine an entire roster that had already recovered.
Suggesting that the Rockies subject themselves to Herd Immunity for the sake of baseball does sound a little ridiculous as I say it out loud. But the NBA is playing in a bubble at Disney World, Novak Djokovic is sponsoring COVID-19 tennis and disco parties, and baseball is playing 60-game seasons. Ridiculous is a relative term.
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