The coronavirus pandemic gets worse by the day in the United States. Giants icon Buster Posey is the latest player to opt out of playing this season. Mike Trout, the best player in the game, remains uncertain about what to do. But Major League Baseball presses on, having announced its 60-game schedule for the 2020 season this week.
While it’s tempting to analyze the schedule by quality of opponents, we really don’t know what that’s going to be, do we? How much worse are the Giants without Posey? What’s Freddie Freeman’s status for defending National League East champion Atlanta? The Angels might be contenders with Trout, but what if he’s not there?
The questions about strength of schedule not only are nearly impossible to answer, they raise another, even bigger question: who gives a shit?
We live in a world where Posey, a future Hall of Famer, decides to skip a fugazi shortened season that shouldn’t even be happening anyway, because he’s adopting prematurely born twin girls who are going to have an extended NICU stay… and somebody who gets paid for sports opinions writes that “this is the first thing that can be perceived as negative on his ‘permanent record.’” Fuck. All. The. Way. Outta. Here.
Still, schedule analysis is fun. So, here’s some schedule analysis.
Major League Baseball is going to have its 30 teams flying all over the country in a couple of weeks, just so that they can salvage some sweet TV money out of 2020. To try to achieve this, they’re going to be doing thousands of daily COVID-19 tests, at a time when people who have a true need for testing are facing lengthy delays. But on goes baseball, as recklessly into the void as the nation whose pastime the game is.
But about that city-to-city travel and the schedule analysis…
The New York Times has been publishing county-by-county data from across the United States on coronavirus, noting seven-day case averages and the seven-day case averages from two weeks ago as a measure of comparison to see whether COVID-19 is trending up or down in each place. A note on this is that Bronx and Queens Counties, homes of the Yankees and Mets, are lumped together as part of New York City’s data, while Harris County, Texas, home of the Astros, had a data reporting problem on Thursday, so we’ll pull numbers shifted back a day off the Harris County Public Health website.
We’ve ranked each major league county by total number of new COVID-19 cases in the past week, and by the percentage change in the rolling average from two weeks ago — these are the numbers that are measuring how bad the virus is in each place, and how much worse it’s been getting of late. Take the teams’ rankings in each category, from 1-30, add them up, and bingo, you’ve got a coronavirus score for everywhere MLB is planning to take the 2020 Superspreader Event Presented By Country Crock. The lower a city’s score, the better, and the gamut runs from Washington at 13 points to Miami at 56.
Toronto, obviously, is not in the United States, so noting the entire nation of Canada has averaged nine times fewer cases over the past week than Maricopa County, Ariz., alone, we’re going to make Toronto’s score here 2.
Through the end of July, teams are doing unequal amounts of travel, but days are days and travel is travel, so we’re starting each team out in their home, where they are now, and averaging the scores of the counties they’ll be in, including the phenomenally silly preseason exhibition games some teams are going to travel for. And we’re only going to the end of July because who knows what the virus will be doing by then, or, maybe if MLB will have come to its senses by then and ended this farce.
Is this method perfect? No. Is it a fine approximation of what we’re dealing with here, especially considering that anyone can get this virus in any city, and if someone slips through the net of tests and asymptomatically spreads it to a whole team, it doesn’t really matter where they are? Sure, let’s say so.
How does your team stack up? Let’s find out! We’ll go from best to worst.
Blue Jays: Toronto, Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington, Toronto (14.2)
Phillies: Philadelphia, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, New York, Toronto (14.2 — tie goes to the team with less travel)
Yankees: New York, Washington, Philadelphia, New York (17.3)
Red Sox: Boston, New York (19.0)
Twins: Minnesota, Chicago, Minnesota (20.3)
Nationals: Washington, Baltimore, Washington, Toronto, Miami (20.4)
Orioles: Baltimore, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Baltimore Boston, Miami, Baltimore (21.5)
Giants: San Francisco, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Francisco (23.4)
Mets: New York, Boston, New York, Atlanta (23.8)
A’s: Oakland, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle (25.5)
Rockies: Colorado, Texas, Oakland, Colorado (25.8)
Cubs: Chicago, Cincinnati, Chicago (28.7)
Tigers: Detroit, Cincinnati, Detroit (29.3)
Cleveland: Cleveland, Minnesota (29.5)
Reds: Cincinnati, Detroit (30.0)
Rangers: Texas, San Francisco (30.0 — tie goes to the team that doesn’t play its home games in Texas, come on now)
Cardinals: St. Louis, Minnesota, Milwaukee (30.0)
Rays: Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Baltimore (30.3)
Royals: Kansas City, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City (30.5)
White Sox: Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City (31.7)
Atlanta: Atlanta, New York, Tampa Bay, Atlanta (31.7)
Padres: San Diego, Anaheim, San Diego, San Francisco, Colorado (35.4)
Pirates: Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago (36.5)
Mariners: Seattle, Houston, Anaheim, Seattle (37.8)
Brewers: Milwaukee, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee (38.8)
Marlins: Miami, Philadelphia, Miami, Baltimore, Miami (40.0)
Dodgers: Los Angeles, Houston, Arizona (41.0)
Astros: Houston, Anaheim (43.5)
Diamondbacks: Arizona, Los Angeles, Arizona, San Diego, Texas, Arizona (45.5)
Angels: Anaheim, San Diego, Los Angeles, Anaheim, Oakland, Anaheim (45.7)