History Says: 60-Game Schedule Isn't Likely to Impact Post-Season
With a combination of COVID-19 and senseless, elongated negotiations with Major League Baseball and the Players Association, the Major League season will open the final weekend of July and be limited to 60 games.
The odds are the teams that make it into October in a 162-game regular season will be the participants at the end of the 60-game season.
The Nationals became the darlings of the underdogs last season. They battled back from a horrid start -- they were 27-33 and in fourth place, 6 1/2 games back in the NL East after 60 games -- to win a world championship.
What's more, they knocked off the Houston Astros in seven games in the World Series, adding to the lore of the Nationals in light of the post-World Series revelation that the Astros had been cheating in previous seasons.
The residual was Astros' general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were suspended for a year by MLB, and then fired by the Astros. The team was fined $5 million and lost its first-round and second-round draft choices in 2020 and 2021.
But let's focus on what the Nationals did.
They put together one of the most amazing rebounds from stumbling early in a season and winning a world championship.
Well, they were the first team since the 2003 Florida Marlins -- now known as the Miami Marlins -- to not be in place for a post-season berth 60 games into a season, and win a world championship.
What's more, the Nationals became only the fourth team since the 2007 Colorado Rockies that wasn't in line for a post-season spot 60 games in the season to advance into October.
The three others?
-- The 2018 Dodgers, who rallied from a 30-30 beginning that had them in third place in the NL West, albeit only two games out of first. The Dodgers lost to Boston in the World Series.
-- The 2014 Royals, who rallied from a 29-31 start, which had them tied for last place in the AL Central, four games out of first. The Royals won 60 of their final 102 games, but lost to the Giants in the World Series.
-- The 2012 Tigers, who were 28-32 at the 60-game mark, in third place in the AL Central, five games out of first. They lost to the Giants in the World Series.
There have been only five other teams that would not have advanced to the post-season based off their record in the first 60 games of a season that have played in a World Series in the 21st Century -- including the Angels and Giants in 2002, the only World Series that featured two wild-card teams.
-- The 2007 Rockies were 29-31, in fourth place in the NL West, 7 1/2 games out of first. They went on one of the more amazing late-season rallies in MLB history. They won 13 of the final 14 games of the 162-game schedule -- including an 11-game winning streak they began with a win against the Marlins, and then saw the Rockies win seven games against the Dodgers and sweep a three-game series at San Diego, against a Padres team they were battling for the NL Wild-Card.
They stunned the Padres in a Game 163 to decide the NL Wild-Card. After the Padres went ahead 8-6 in the top of the 13th at Coors Field, the Rockies came up with a three-run, walk-off rally in the bottom of that inning.
The only out Trevor Hoffman recorded in that unlucky 13th was on Jamey Carroll's game-winning sacrifice fly. Kazuo Matsui led off with a double and scored on Troy Tulowitzki's double. Matt Holliday tripled home Tulowitzki with the game-tying run, and after Todd Helton was intentionally walked, Carroll delivered the game-winning sacrifice fly.
There is a strong feeling that Holliday never touched home plate, but what rarely gets mentioned is that Padres catcher Michael Barrett had home plate blocked before he received the ball, which was a violation of MLB rules.
After sweeping the Phillies in three games in the NL Division Series, and the Diamondbacks in four games in the NL Championship Series, the Rockies faced an eight-day layoff, waiting for the Boston Red Sox to rally from a 3-games-to-1 deficit against the Indians to claim the AL title. Boston then swept the Rockies in the World Series, outscoring them by a combined 29-10.
-- The 2005 Astros were 25-35 in fifth place in the NL Central, 13 1/2 back of division-leading St. Louis, and 8 1/2 back of the Phillies, who were leading the NL Wild-Card Race. They didn't catch the Cardinals, but they did overtake the Phillies to earn the NL wild-card.
After knocking off the Braves in four games in the NL Division Series, and Cardinals in six games in the NL Championship Series, however, they were swept by the White Sox in a closer-than-the-end-result World Series. The White Sox won two games by two runs, and two games by one run.
-- The 2003 Marlins were 27-33 at the 60-game mark, in fifth place in the NL East, 13 games out of first. They had nine teams ahead of them in the Wild-Card race. Florida won 64 of the final 92 games, and then, after being shutout by the Giants in a 2-0 loss in Game 1 of the NL Division Series, scored 20 runs in the next three to advance to the NL Championship Series.
After losing the first two games of the NLCS to the Cubs, they won four of the next five, and found themselves facing the Yankees in the World Series, in which they again stumbled early, losing two of the first three games, but then ran off three consecutive wins and celebrated a world championship.
-- And the 2002 Angels and Giants. the Angels were 2 1/2 games back of the Yankees for an AL post-season berth 60 games into the season, but rallied to finish six games ahead of both the Red Sox and Mariners for the that final AL post-season spot.
The Giants, meanwhile, were just a half-game back in the NL Wild-Card race after their first 60 games, but finished 3 1/2 games ahead of the Dodgers at the end of the regular season.
The Angels won the world championship in seven games, finishing the Giants off with back-to-back wins at Anaheim Stadium, even though they were outscored 44-41 in the seven games.
The Angels advanced to the World Series by knocking off the Yankees in four games in the best-of-five AL Division Series, and Twins in five games in the best-of-seven AL Championship Series. The Giants went the full five games in the NL Division Series against the Braves and needed only five games to eliminated the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series.