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Bryce, the Braves, and a Buffalo World Series? Our MLB Roundtable Predicts a Wild Season

Yoenis Cespedes stands in the on-deck circle during a Mets exhibition game, as MLB prepares for a season unlike any other.
Yoenis Cespedes stands in the on-deck circle during a Mets exhibition game, as MLB prepares for a season unlike any other.
Image: (Getty Images)

It is, somehow, about to be baseball season, so Deadspin’s elite crew of people who have been tasked with making predictions about the 2020 MLB season, Chris Baud, Sam Fels, Julie DiCaro, and Jesse Spector, are here to make predictions about the 2020 MLB season. Everyone recognizes that this is a terrible idea — the season itself, and the predictions — but we’re doing it anyway.

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Round One: Trivia, Puzzles, and Artistry

SPECTOR: Alright, let’s do this. We’re supposed to make predictions somehow about this farce of this season, so I just asked my five-year-old son who’s going to win the World Series, and he asked who’s playing. I said “all of the teams,” so he said “okay, the Yankees.”

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So I guess we’re done?

FELS: Yeah, that’s as good of an answer and method as any.

I mean they seem proofed for whatever this is going to be. If you have to bash your way through 60 games, they can do that. If you have to press your bullpen to the metal, they can do that.

Or if their rotation matters, they’ve got a good one. So fine.

DICARO: Unless Houston really did have a super-secret substance that let pitchers increase their spin-rate on the ball and Gerrit Cole lays a huge egg. That would be fun.

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SPECTOR: He’s still in the room, so I’m asking him who’s going to be MVP.

...Congratulations to Asdrubal Cabrera, I guess.

FELS: Are they still handing out individual awards for this thing?

Then I hope someone weird wins it, like Dan Vogelbach. Joey Gallo and his 21 homers in 60 games.

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BAUD: So I have one fearless prediction that I don’t mind looking stupid on later: I think run-scoring will be way down.

FELS: I disagree, Chris. I think it’s mostly going to be a free-for-all.

There’s no way any pitcher is going to be ready. No matter how much bullpenning goes on.

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BAUD: Well, I have my reasons.

SPECTOR: What reasons?

BAUD: I think managers are going to use their top pitching more. This goes against a 140-year trend in baseball of allocating more and more innings to your worst pitchers

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FELS: I doubt it.

BAUD: I think we’ll see guys like Scherzer and Kershaw being pushed to pitch longer in games, maybe even work on short-rest sometimes, and somebody like that will go 11-1 with a 1.75 ERA.

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FELS: I don’t think any team is going to feel too comfy about pushing their No. 1 and No. 2 starters for this joke of a season and possibly ruin the next one.

BAUD: Sure they will!

DICARO: I can’t wait to see what Joe Maddon does. Despite fewer games, at some point, I guarantee he’ll have Mike Trout on the mound and, like, Andrew Heaney out in left field.

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FELS: They absolutely should go to four-man rotations for this and limit starters to five innings.

But no one will.

BAUD: They’ll say hey, it’s a short season, we don’t need to pace ourselves.

DICARO: Dusty will absolutely say this. And no I’m not bitter about how he handled Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Why do you ask?

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SPECTOR: I do think somebody will have those kind of bonkers numbers, but there’s going to be a lot more starters who get lit the hell up fast and bullpens full of guys who have no rhythm.

BAUD: I think it will be more like the postseason, and teams will just be going for it

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FELS: Yeah, especially off a short spring, starters aren’t going to get past the 5th much anyway, at least to start.

SPECTOR: That strategy busts plenty enough in the playoffs, too.

BAUD: You’re not going to waste time figuring out who your No. 5 starter is, just skip him.

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But run-scoring is lower in the playoffs than the regular season, in general.

SPECTOR: Well, more of the opener/Johnny Wholestaff games.

DICARO: This would actually be a great time to try out openers, but most teams won’t.

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FELS: I think you’ll see more multi-inning relief appearances, but that’s it.

Fuck, the Angels have a six-man rotation.

The Rays and A’s and maybe Yankees will get creative, but too many teams are too scared to do it.

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Round Two: Physical Challenge, Pain and Endurance

SPECTOR: So, MVP is basically a glorified Player of the Month award this year. Here are last year’s Players of the Month…

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AL: Tim Anderson, Rafael Devers, D.J. LeMahieu, Yuli Gurriel, Alex Bregman, Austin Meadows

NL: Cody Bellinger, Josh Bell, Charlie Blackmon, Aristides Aquino, Eugenio Suarez

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FELS: I’m all about a Tim Anderson MVP season.

DICARO: Hard same. We need an entire team made up of Tim Andersons. They could at least beat the Orioles and the Royals. By the way, Altuve and Bregman got beaned back-to-back yesterday, proving that baseball has not forgotten. Being more realistic, though, my pick is LeMahieu, because the baseball gods love to stick it to Cubs fans.

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SPECTOR: And I’m here for Aristides Aquino, who you could have given me 400 guesses at last August’s NL Player of the Month before I guessed Aristides Aquino.

FELS: He got that player of the month with like 12 homers against the Cubs.

I agree with most stat-heads in that I want to see another deGrom Cy Young when he goes 0-4.

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BAUD: I’ll go with Acuña and Mitch Garver for MVPs, how’s that?

Will someone hit .400?

FELS: No.

SPECTOR: No.

DICARO: No way! We’ll never see .400 again.

BAUD: I’m guessing someone comes close.

FELS: I’m not even sure someone comes close.

BAUD: Goddamnit! I’m saying it will happen now.

FELS: A starter with a sub-1.00 ERA is more possible.

SPECTOR: Votto hits .385.

BAUD: I’ll go with LeMahieu.

Actually I’m more excited about seeing Kershaw go 12-0 with a 1.10 ERA than anything, and winning the WS MVP and people saying it’s not legit because it’s not a real season.

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FELS: I’m trying to think of teams that genuinely surprised for a length of time like 60 games.

Could be anyone, except Baltimore and Florida.

DICARO: Milwaukee comes on strong at the end of every season lately, so the NL Central has that to look forward to.

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SPECTOR: I mean, the Nats were the worst team in baseball through late May last year.

FELS: Right, the Rockies had a 37-win stretch in 60 games once.

I think a team like them, or the Reds, or other teams with weird ballparks could do anything for this.

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SPECTOR: The Rockies had a 37-23 stretch and a 16-44 stretch last year.

BAUD: There’s a feeling that Bryce Harper is extra motivated this season because the Nats won last year.

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SPECTOR: Oh, I can definitely see a Bryce MVP happening, and then people arguing forever about his legitimacy as a two-time MVP.

That’s probably a good barometer for predicting what happens this season: What’s the most absolutely tiresome shit that people can argue about until the end of time?

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DICARO: The DH. No, I’m not over it.

BAUD: A friend of mine asked if the Mets have the best lineup in the NL. And I said, no, the Dodgers. But the Mets could be very good. But, I am not counting on Cespedes and Cano to do much.

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FELS: You can’t “count” on anyone. Anyone can have a nuclear or shitty six weeks.

BAUD: Do we think Freddie Freeman is going to play?

FELS: He seems like a lifer, so I bet he does.

SPECTOR: Well, he should have antibodies now? I don’t know. This is such horseshit.

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DICARO: But the antibodies don’t last! Don’t you guys read the news?

FELS: Maybe not until September and they’ll bill it as this heroic comeback or whatever.

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He’ll pose with other people who were on ventilators and recovered so we forget about all the people who actually died. Like we do with returning troops.

SPECTOR: NL Comeback Player of the Year.

FELS: Just watch.

And I guarantee no matter what this season is, the Mets will be hilarious.

deGrom will get hurt and they’ll win like 21 games or something.

Or they’ll win 40 and then get swept.

No in-between.

DICARO: This is a given. I’ve never seen so much suffering as I have watching Mets fans on Twitter the last 3-4 years.

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SPECTOR: Everyone is expecting them to be batshit. I bet they have the most boring season of anyone. Go 30-30. If the Mets exist to swerve, that’s the only move.

BAUD: LMAO

FELS: You know MLB is going to really harp on the fact that almost every division race will be close by default.

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Like, it’s hard to separate yourself in just 60 games.

I mean, I say that but three divisions were led by 7 games or more on May 30 last year, so I’ll shut up.

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BAUD: Jesse, what do you think Joe Girardi will do this year? Like, what will his impact be?

SPECTOR: Well, Girardi’s biggest weakness is bullpen management, and the Phillies’ bullpen is a tire fire, so...

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DICARO: I feel like he and Harper will go at it by Game 30. Joe does not communicate well with young players, and Harper seems like he needs a lot of communication. This is going to be a disaster.

FELS: No one cares about the Phillies. There’s a team destined to go 30-30.

It’s their calling.

BAUD: I am sympathetic to [Giants manager Gabe] Kapler because he was analytics-driven but it seems like he wasn’t always respected by his players.

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DICARO: I’m not sympathetic to him because he covered up a sexual assault and then tried to explain why on his weird-ass lifestyle blog.

SPECTOR: He sucks.

BAUD: Well that’s one way of saying it.

SPECTOR: I’m not even talking about him as a manager. It’s gross that he got another job immediately.

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Round Three: Emotional Battery and Public Humiliation

BAUD: It’s funny how shitty the Giants have been.

FELS: The only question that really matters here is do you think they finish?

And what do you think it would take for them to stop?

SPECTOR: I honestly don’t know because I can’t believe they’re starting.

BAUD: They shouldn’t even start so what would make them stop?

DICARO: This is where I am with public schools.

FELS: That’s where I’m at. I mean a team would have to be unable to even field a team for them to consider it.

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SPECTOR: I hate to go there, but I think the answer to what makes them stop is “a player dying.” But even then, I don’t know.

FELS: But if it were the Mariners or Marlins? I doubt they would do it.

SPECTOR: Hell, the Royals are going to start with like a sixth-string catcher.

FELS: Well a player dying wouldn’t be immediate, right? It still takes weeks to get that sick, no?

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And he’d be separated by then.

Players have died before.

DICARO: To be morbid for a minute, I bet nothing stops if a player (or more likely, a staff member) dies. MLB will trot out James Earl Jones’ “Baseball has been the one constant” speech from Field of Dreams and use it for some shitty memorial video before a game and then they’ll move on.

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BAUD: This roundtable is depressing just like everything else going on right now.

FELS: I mean with these taxi squads and reserves, no team is going to be so ransacked they can’t actually take the field.

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They might have to do it with a Triple-A team, but they can still do it.

No team is going to refuse.

SPECTOR: Imagine that happens during the playoffs.

FELS: Right. But once they’re there, they’re definitely not going to stop.

SPECTOR: “Welcome to Game 7 of the World Series. Starting tonight for the Philadelphia Phillies is... Don Carman?”

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FELS: They only have to get through five weeks before they can claim they’re too close to the playoffs to stop.

I mean put it in real context or numbers, Jesse. What do you think would have to happen for them to pull the plug? How many players on one team? How many teams?

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SPECTOR: Yeah, I think it’s got to be more than one team.

Especially with the divisonally-based schedule, they could just excise all of one team’s games from the standings easily enough.

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This is fucking grim.

FELS: I think it probably has to be three-to-five.

SPECTOR: And that could happen!

BAUD: It will be like a Rudy Gobert situation, where one key player gets it, and spreads it to multiple teams.

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FELS: I mean, players have already been in camp with it.

DICARO: Speaking of which, how did the Yankees not have to quarantine a bunch of guys who had been around Aroldis Chapman? Is there any contract tracing happening at all?

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SPECTOR: Like, the NHL is going to Canada, where things are about as under control as some of the places in Europe where they’re doing sports. The NBA, WNBA, MLS, NWSL are all in one place.

This is just... ugh.

FELS: And the MLS is a mess.

SPECTOR: Yup.

But they’ve also provided the model for pulling a team out of competition.

FELS: Right, but that’s like a standalone competition.

SPECTOR: The one thing with baseball is you’d figure there wouldn’t be much team-to-team transmission?

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DICARO: With all the rubbing up and spit on the ball? I don’t feel great about it. Spit on the ball, toss it to your friends. Lick your fingers afterwards. UGH.

BAUD: And if the numbers keep going up — we’re moving toward the 100,000 new cases a day that Dr. Fauci mentioned that seemed unfathomable before — and there is public outcry to stop the games, it could happen.

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FELS: Where is that public outcry going to come from?

Like seriously.

SPECTOR: Yeah, it’s not like people are going to stop going to the games that they’re already not going to.

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FELS: We’ve already seen everyone say this is dumb and they don’t care. And then the same people who said it was dumb and dangerous were tweeting about how excited they were that baseball was on their TV on Sunday night.

DICARO: Exactly right. “This is dangerous and we shouldn’t be doing it but also here are our top five picks to win the NL West!” Which I guess is also what we’re doing here, so nevermind.

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SPECTOR: It would have to be government officials saying no, and in that case, we have the Blue Jays model of “we’ll just go somewhere else.”

BAUD: I was thinking maybe sanity will set in somehow.

FELS: That’s cute, Chris.

Do you know where you are?

BAUD: Yes, I was told by people on Twitter to leave the country because I said we are the dumbest nation on Earth the other day.

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DICARO: I say that pretty regularly, which I guess explains my mentions.

FELS: Yeah I don’t see how even mayors can stop it.

And I don’t know that any one of them has tried.

SPECTOR: We’re clearly the dumbest nation on Earth.

FELS: You know the federal government isn’t going to say shit about a private enterprise.

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Another route is if the players balk because there are more testing mishaps.

Like they get jammed up again during the season and the players walk.

SPECTOR: Yeah, that’s the most likely way it gets shut down is the players say enough.

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FELS: Like if [Dodgers’ Cody] Bellinger can’t play for two days because he’s waiting for results.

That could happen.

DICARO: What are we doing about teams from “quarantine states” heading to non-quarantine states? If Wisconsin gets added to the Chicago quarantine list, how do the Brewers escape that rule? We just don’t care because sports?

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BAUD: Let’s wrap this up with division winners and stuff.

I’ll go Braves, Reds, Dodgers.

FELS: I’m not dumb enough to predict teams playing over 60 games. You two have at it.

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SPECTOR: I’ll go Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers in the NL.

DICARO: Maybe I’ll just say “Dodgers” and leave it alone. Fine - Nationals and Cardinals. And it KILLS me to say it.

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BAUD: NL wild cards: Cubs and Phillies

SPECTOR: NL wild cards: Padres and Brewers

BAUD: AL: Yankees, Twins, Astros

Wild cards: Buffalo (or wherever the Blue Jays play) and Cleveland

DICARO: Yankees, White Sox!, and the A’s. The Astros get booed and beaned too much to put a decent season together. Wait, are these predictions what we think will happen or what I want to have happen?

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SPECTOR: AL: Yankees, Twins, Astros, with the Rays and A’s as wild cards, just like last year, for the sake of crapping on “anything can happen, it’s a short season!”

Chris, you’re picking the Blue Jays entirely for the sake of the Buffalo joke?

BAUD: Also I like the fact that it’s a team of sons of major leaguers.

And Boston deserves to be cursed for the Mookie Betts trade

SPECTOR Oh, hell yeah.

I’ll say Mookie is NL MVP and Vlad Guerrero Jr. in the AL.

Another year where it’s not Mike Trout because the universe is a big ball of WTF.

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BAUD: On the subject of old guys who may be rejuvenated, I’d like to see Albert Pujols have a comeback year. Is he still in the league?

SPECTOR: Yeah, I think Pujols still has 15 more years on that Angels deal.

FELS: I’ll pick Trout to lead the walk-out.

Thus making him the real MVP.

SPECTOR: Indeed.

BAUD: It seems so long ago that Pujols was an elite player, and I guess it was.

SPECTOR: Pujols has one more year.

At THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS.

BAUD: Any thoughts on the Astros? It seems like a million years ago that they were the talk of baseball in a bad way, but it was only this spring.

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FELS: The Astros will be more than fine.

SPECTOR: I think the Astros winning would be a good way for everyone to totally discount the year.

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They’ll probably have a ‘fuck you’ year.

DICARO: Depends on how quickly they get to ‘fuck you.’ Right now, they seem really upset by people not liking them, which is fun.

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SPECTOR: I’m sad that this is what it took for Dusty Baker to get another job. Also, I hope he stays healthy.

But, yeah, they’re loaded, and even if the A’s catch them in the division, they’re comfortably a wild card.

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Again, assuming that we get through this gong show.

BAUD: I’m rooting for the Astros to have a “fuck-you year”

Cy Young: NL - Kershaw (Dodgers) and AL - Charlie Morton (Rays)

SPECTOR: I’ll say AL Cole (Yankees) and NL Scherzer (Nats).

DICARO: I’ll toss out a vote for Kyle Hendricks (Cubs) in the NL (he’s gonna win one at some point) and probably a nostalgia vote (not mine!) for Verlander (Asterisks) in the AL, if he’s decent and they win. Male sports writers LOVE Justin Verlander.

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BAUD: Scherzer is due to win one.

It’s been like 3 years or something?

SPECTOR: Exactly, three years.

2013, 2016, 2017 for him.

Oh, and the World Series... I guess I’ll go with my son’s pick and say the Yankees, and since he had Asdrubal Cabrera as MVP, we’ll make it over the Nationals.

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BAUD: Blue Jays over Braves just like 1992.

FELS: I’ll just say the Dodgers because they’re going to win one eventually, so I want it to be the illegitimate one.

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DICARO: I can’t decide, so I’ll go out on a limb and say we don’t make it to the World Series before the season gets called.

BAUD: First title for Buffalo

SPECTOR: WORLD CHAMPION DUNEDIN

BAUD: Vlad Guerrero Jr. hits walk-off homer to win it

SPECTOR: In Pittsburgh. Karma pays off Sid Bream somehow.

Although not really.

BAUD: I’ll also predict something really goofy, backing up what I said about run-scoring being down, like there will be two no-hitters in the first week or someone will have 2 20-strikeout games

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OK, you can’t force me to talk more about this baseball season.

SPECTOR: OK, well, thanks. I’m more depressed than I was before.

FELS: What I’m here for.

BAUD: They don’t call me Sunshine for nothing

SPECTOR: Happy baseball season!

Managing editor. Former N.Y. Daily Newser. Former broke poker player.

Sorry to all the other Jesse Spectors for ruining your Google results.

Have you ever looked at a dollar bill, man?

Former sports-talking / law-talking chick. Push out the jive, bring in the love.

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