Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association have been going back-and-forth on proposals about the pay and the number of games that could happen this season if we get baseball back. With ranges from 48 games up to 114 games, and more than a few numbers between, the question has been asked more than a couple of times – how many games makes the season a legitimate season?
Eno Sarris of The Athletic took a look at the difference in what a season of 80 games vs a season of 50 games could mean. There are a few different ways to ask and answer the question about the differences in a season. This one intrigued me the most, though, because to me it had more value: How many games does it take to know a team’s true talent?
That’s important because we play a regular season to find out who the best team is, right? Right. There is a whole lot of detail, some math, some graphs and charts – so be sure to check out the article (linked above) – and the conclusion is that around 60 games is where things really start to show the true talent level of a team in a season. Obviously as you begin to add games you get closer to the true talent level from there, but the data suggests that 60 is when you really start to see it.
After those details, the article dives into which teams would benefit most, or least, from a 50 game season versus and 82 game season. The Cincinnati Reds were among the teams that saw their playoff odds increase with the longer season, going from a 40% chance in an 82 game season down to just a 30% chance in a 50 game season. The Cubs, Brewers, and the Pirates saw better odds in a shorter season among the teams that would be in the National League Central. Cincinnati and St. Louis were both on the other side of the coin, with better playoff odds the longer the season goes.
The 2020 Reds were built to compete. The front office went out and made moves in the last 18 months to build one of the better rotations in the league and add two middle of the order bats to the lineup that already features one of the premiere sluggers in baseball (hello Mr. Suarez!). This was supposed to be their season after what feels like decades of struggle (it’s been less than a decade since the Reds made the playoffs, but 2020 has already lasted two decades). You never know what’s going to happen and that’s why they play the games. But the projections and expectations say that Cincinnati improves their playoff odds with more baseball being played. Everyone but the owners (or at least some of them) seems to want more baseball instead of less baseball – but that doesn’t mean we’re going to get it, either.