Article

MLB season will be sprint instead of marathon

June 26 2020 2:54 AM

One truism of Major League Baseball is by season's end, a team's record is representative of what kind of club it is.

It's hard for a team that misses the playoffs to argue that they're actually better than their final win-loss record, because over the course of 162 games played, the best teams separate themselves and rise to the top. 

The 162 games in a major league season is a big enough sample size to determine the best teams. Sixty is not.

But 60 games is all the truncated 2020 season will consist of after the Major League Baseball Players Association agreed to the proposal from the league on Tuesday. 

With 60 games, teams can't afford to scuffle because if they do, they'll be left behind. 

There'll be no repeat of what the Washington Nationals pulled off last year. 

The Nationals were 27-33 at the 60-game mark, sitting in fourth place in the National League (NL) East. All they did from that point on was compile the NL's best record at 66-36 and go on to win the franchise's first World Series. 

While a lot can change for a team from game number 61 to game 162 in a normal baseball season, the same goes for baseball players.  

The MVP award isn't handed out after 60 games because the best player at season's end isn't always the best player through the first week of June. 

Even the best hitters slump at some point over the grind of a typical six-month season, but hitters who endure a prolonged slump this year won't have time to recover to finish as a league leader. 

Here's a look at the standard triple crown statistical leaders through 60 team games of the 2019 season and where the eventual season leader stood after 60 games. 

Batting Average 

As soon as it's written the MVP isn't handed out in June, the 2019 NL MVP was leading all of baseball in hitting after 60 games last season among batting qualifiers (186 plate appearances). The Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger began his MVP campaign by hitting a robust .376 through 60 games to lead the majors. He was unable to maintain that lofty clip through the next four months, though, and finished the year batting .305 – ninth in the NL. 

The Milwaukee Brewers' Christian Yelich finished second to Bellinger in NL MVP voting to fall short of winning the award in consecutive years, but did win a second straight NL batting title, finishing the year hitting a career-high .329. Unlike Bellinger, Yelich's average improved as the season progressed, as he was batting .313 after 60 games. 

In the American League (AL), the Tampa Bay Rays' Austin Meadows was hitting a league-leading .349 after 60 games on his way to his first All-Star appearance. By season's end, his .291 batting average ranked 19th in the AL, while Tim Anderson ended with a .335 average to become the first Chicago White Sox to win the batting title since Hall of Famer Frank Thomas in 1997. Anderson was hitting .323 after 60 games. 

Best 60-game start to season by active hitter – .388 by Albert Pujols, St Louis Cardinals, 2003. Finished 2003 with MLB-leading .359 batting average. 

Best 60-game start to season in live-ball era (since 1920) – .447 by George Sisler, St Louis Browns, 1922. Finished 1922 with MLB-leading .420 batting average. 

Best 60-game stretch at any point of single season by active hitter – .420 by Jose Altuve, Houston Astros, May 27-August 8, 2017. Finished 2017 with MLB-leading .346 batting average. 

Best 60-game stretch at any point of single season in live-ball era – .486 by Rogers Hornsby, St Louis Cardinals, July 1-August 29, 1924. Finished 1924 with MLB single-season live-ball record .424 batting average. 

Home Runs 

Yelich had more homers than anyone in the majors through 60 games last season with 22 – two ahead of Bellinger and New York Mets rookie Pete Alonso. Alonso went on to club a major league-best and franchise-record 53 home runs to become the first Met to led the NL in home runs since Howard Johnson hit 38 in 1991. Bellinger finished the year third in the NL with 47 homers and Yelich's 44 ranked fourth despite him missing the final two and a half weeks of the season with a fractured kneecap. 

Like Yelich, New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez, the AL's home run leader through 60 games, also missed two and a half weeks of the season in July and August with an injury. Sanchez, however, was also on the injured list in April with a strained left calf, but still managed to have a league-leading 19 home runs after the Yankees' 60th game. He finished the year with 34 – tied with three other hitters for 12th in the AL. 

The batter that ended up leading the league in home runs was one of the bigger surprises in recent years. The Kansas City Royals' Jorge Soler entered 2019 with 38 homers over his first five seasons in the majors before clubbing a franchise-record 48 last year. He had 15 through 60 games. 

Best 60-game start to season by active hitter – 25 by Albert Pujols, St Louis Cardinals, 2006. Finished 2006 third in MLB with 49. 

Best 60-game start to season in live-ball era (since 1920) – 32 by Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants, 2001. Finished 2001 with MLB single-season record 73. 

Best 60-game stretch at any point of single season by active hitter – 33 by Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins, July 5-September 10, 2017. Finished 2017 with MLB-leading 59. 

Best 60-game stretch at any point of single season in live-ball era – 37 by Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants, April 13-June 23, 2001. Finished 2001 with MLB single-season record 73. 

RBIs

The Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado has led the NL in home runs three times and has led the league in RBIs twice. After 60 games in 2019, the All-Star third baseman had 54 RBIs to tie for the major-league lead with the Pittsburgh Pirates' Josh Bell. Arenado ended up finishing the year tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks' Eduardo Escobar for fourth in the NL with 118 RBIs – one more than Bell. 

Current Los Angeles Angel and 2019 Nationals World Series hero Anthony Rendon, finished with an NL-best 126 RBIs. He drove in 86 runs over Washington's final 102 games to help spur the Nats to the playoffs (and secure a big payday from the Angels) after having 40 at the 60-game mark. 

The Minnesota Twins' Eddie Rosario and White Sox slugger Jose Abreu each paced the AL at the 60-game mark last year with 50 RBIs. Abreu went on to finish with a league-leading 123 RBI – 14 more than Rosario, who finished sixth in the AL. 

Best 60-game start to season by active hitter – 67 by Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, 2013. Finished 2013 second in MLB with 137 behind Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis with 138. 

Best 60-game start to season in live-ball era (since 1920) – 78 by Jimmie Foxx, Boston Red Sox, 1938. Finished 1938 with MLB-leading 175. 

Best 60-game stretch at any point of single season by active hitter – 69 by Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers, 2008. Finished 2008 fourth in MLB with 127. 

Best 60-game stretch at any point of single season in live-ball era – 96 by Hack Wilson, Chicago Cubs, July 26-September 27, 1930. Finished 1930 with MLB single-season record 191.

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