The historic 2020 Major League Baseball regular season ended with an exciting down-to-the-last-strike horse race in the National League and one last nasty slap in the face to the New York Yankees in the America League.
The Yankees certainly under-performed during the regular season, finishing up with a record of 33-27, a full seven games behind the AL East Division winning Tampa Bay Rays (40-20), and going 4-6 in the final ten games.
In the category of Frosting on a Nasty Cake, the Miami Marlins (31-29) closed out the 2020 season on Sunday by shutting out the New Yorkers 5-0.
This is where we traditionally compare team payrolls to further slap down the high revenue super-teams. So let’s get to it.
The Marlins’ 2020 payroll totaled $85.6 million, a mere 32% of the Yankees’ massive $265 million payroll. And for that immense boatload of gold, the Yankees won exactly two more games than Miami.
If pitching means anything (and actually, it’s just about everything) three teams bear close watching in American League playoffs.
The 2020 AL pitching staff WHIP leaders are the Cleveland Indians (1.11 WHIP), the Minnesota Twins (1.20), and the Tampa Bay Rays (1.22). Any one of these three teams can go through MLB’s best line-ups like Sherman through a goose.
Tampa’s powerful bullpen finished up third in MLB with a 3.65 ERA (the Dodgers’ bullpen put up a 3.45 ERA, and Oakland was second at 3.64).
Cleveland features three high-end starters in soon-to-be AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber (0.87 WHIP, 1.63 ERA in 77.1 IP), Zach Plesac (0.80 WHIP, 2.28 ERA in 55.1 IP), and Carlos Carrasco (1.21 WHIP, 2.91 ERA in 68 IP).
All backed up by 23-year-old rookie RHP Triston McKenzie, with a 0.90 WHIP in six starts.
On the National League side, it’s safe to say that MLB umpire Rob Drake will not receive an invitation to the SF Giants Christmas Party this December. Drake’s strike zone in San Francisco’s losing effort to make the 2020 playoffs last Sunday wavered between really terrible and possible criminal liability.
The 9th inning final at-bat of the Giants’ surprisingly positive season featured a called “strike three” by umpire Drake that was somewhere around hitter Austin Slater’s cleats.
The non-umpire automated strike zone can’t be put in place fast enough.
In that game the Giants came up one run shy, losing 5-4 to a Padre team that halfway through the game sat their best hitters down and, because of an injury, lost their DH and had to send several relievers to the plate in the final innings.
All of which brings to mind what you can control and what you can’t control.
The Giants can’t control the other team (no matter how hard they try), and they can’t control bad umpire calls.
What they can control is scoring runs and preventing runs. Both of which they failed to do throughout their four-game finale with San Diego, losing three of four games and falling out of the playoff picture.
And if you want to look back over the 60-game season for “what ifs”, look no further than the terrible base-running mistakes made by Giant runners and the abysmal fielding plays made by Giant defenders throughout the 2020 season.
This was a team that did not consistently pick the ball up and throw it in the right direction from day one. And the number of dropped and missed balls in the infield and outfield was historic. During the 7th inning of the September 19th contest against the Oakland A’s, two Giant outfielders dropped three different fly balls that hit their gloves.
But back to the good news.
San Francisco played way beyond expectations this season, which tells us that President of Baseball Ops Farhan Zaidi and Manager Gabe Kapler have the multi-dimensional ability to field a relatively competitive team even as they plow through the multi-season rebuild of the disintegrated Giants franchise they inherited.
And while we will see a number of very talented emerging MLB teams blooming over the next several seasons, the Giants have something to build on and tons of money to spend as the fifth most valuable MLB team in the game today ($3.1 billion, per Forbes.com).
Which will be extremely helpful.