The impacts of a short-season for the San Diego Padres.
The 2020 season is going to be unlike any other season in Major League Baseball’s history, that much is clear.
Looking back, the most recent season that was cut short was in 1994. However, the circumstances were much different. A work stoppage officially began on August 12, 1994, canceling the postseason, including the World Series for the first time since 1904.
Labor talks soured before the strike due to owners wanting to instill a salary cap and acting-commissioner Bud Selig dropping the ball on several occasions in negotiations with players.
This time around, there were labor disputes, threats were made, and it once again got ugly. However, the season was initially shortened to no fault of the players, owners or the commissioner. The coronavirus pandemic has run rampant throughout the world, canceling virtually every sporting event around the globe for several months.
Now, after labor disputes (temporarily) ceased and an agreement was made, the season is set to begin on July 23, barring another spike in COVID-19 cases deemed uncontrollable.
In some ways, 1994 and 2020 are similar, with nasty labor disputes, backbiting, mud-slinging with backs turned, and noses firmly pointed upwards. The reason for the shortened season may be different, but the intensity in which the plan to start the shorten season was born brought back memories of that fateful time 26 years ago.
Padres fans know well what was lost in 1994.
San Diego was certainly not in the crowd of “we could have won the World Series!” with their putrid 47-70 record, on pace for a 64-98 season. Other teams who were starved for a championship certainly have a right to such a grievance, such as the Montreal Expos, who were baseball’s best team in 1994 at 74-40. Some fans north of the border believe that had 1994 been played, not only would the Expos have been World Series champs, but that baseball would still be played in Montreal to this day.
For the Padres, it was Tony Gwynn’s quest for a .400 batting average. Gwynn was given his fifth of what would be eight career batting titles when the season abruptly ended with him standing at .393 with just over a month to go.
Then-Padres general manager Randy Smith was quoted in an article by AJ Cassavell of MLB.com saying, “That year, he was healthy, and he was roaring. He was running well. He was moving. And he smoked every ball, even the outs. He would’ve done it.”
This time around, the season will start late instead of ending early, and it is entirely at the mercy of the coronavirus pandemic deciding if the season lasts until there is a champion crowned. At least in this scenario, while certainly not guaranteed, the World Series being played seems possible.
What will a shortened season cost the Padres this time? It’s unlikely anyone will challenge Gwynn’s .394 mark. Most single-season records around the league will be very safe, with the season being cut short by over 100 games.
The last time Major League Baseball had a season shorter than 1994 was 1981 when the Padres played 110 games.
In 1994, Matt Williams of the Giants led baseball with 43 home runs. Had the season not been shortened, he might have hit north of 50.
Through approximately 60 games last year, Christian Yelich led baseball with 23 home runs on June 6, with Cody Bellinger and Pete Alonso right behind him at 20 each. On the Friars, Franmil Reyes led the squad with 19 home runs with Hunter Renfroe leading the team with 1.6 fWAR. Chris Paddack had made 11 starts, and Kirby Yates had notched 23 saves.
With a 60-game schedule, those are the kinds of numbers that will lead the club for the entire season. 2020 will not have exciting home run totals reaching into the 40s or a player who reaches 100 RBIs. A player’s success during the 2020 season will be judged more on the weighted numbers, which do not rely on cumulative numbers like home runs or strikeouts. OPS+, ERA+, and On-base plus slugging (OPS) will paint a better picture of how well a player is producing with the limited sample size.
Someone who hits 25 home runs or strikes out 100 batters may lead the league this coming season.
In terms of team accomplishments, things can get downright wacky with a shortened schedule. The Padres were 31-29 through 60 games last season, just one game short of a Wild Card spot. The 2019 World Series champion Nationals were in fourth place in the N.L. East at 27-33 through 60 games and would have not even gotten close to the postseason, and the Phillies would have been N.L. East champions with the format that will unfold in 2020. In fact, neither participant in the NLCS would have made the playoffs through 60 games with the Cardinals also trailing in the N.L. Central.
Statistics and standings will be wildly different in 2020. One hot or cold streak by a player or a team could mean the difference between making the playoffs and sitting at home in the fall.