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The grind of a 162-game season can expose flawed teams and ensure the cream rises to the top, but there's more volatility that comes with a shortened schedule.
The fewer the games, the less time for top teams to pull away, and that opens the door for the second and third tier of contenders. Of those, here are a few that could benefit greatly from a shortened season.
The Athletics have a rotation loaded with potential, but questions about durability bring legitimate concerns as to whether they can keep pace with the Houston Astros over 162 games. A shortened season mitigates those doubts.
Sean Manaea pitched just 29 innings last season after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery the previous September, Frankie Montas was limited to 96 innings - still a career high for him - due to suspension, while injuries limited highly touted pitching prospects Jesus Luzardo (lat strain) and A.J. Puk (Tommy John) to a combined 23 MLB innings in 2019.
The A's might be the team that benefits the most from a shortened season, as it gives their young arms a much higher likelihood of sticking in the rotation throughout the duration of the campaign. The only thing that could hold Oakland back is pitching durability, and those questions seem a lot less significant in the case of an 81-game season.
Similar to the Athletics, the Rays have a lethal pitching staff facing their own durability concerns. But again, there are a few ways this shortened season could be a blessing for Kevin Cash's club.
Blake Snell has been battling an elbow issue throughout spring training and this delay could be exactly what he needs to get right without missing any time. The ace was limited to 107 innings last season with toe and elbow injuries. Tyler Glasnow, another Cy Young-caliber arm, has never pitched more than 124 innings in a season in his career (including minor league stats).
A shortened season gives these guys a higher likelihood of sticking in the rotation for the duration of the season, allowing the league's deepest pitching staff to realize its potential and possibly nip the New York Yankees to the top of the AL East.
In what might be one of the toughest divisions in baseball to call, every game could be the difference between finishing first and missing the playoffs all together. An abbreviated schedule puts an even greater emphasis on the three AL Central contenders to avoid any slip ups or prolonged slumps, which is why the delayed start to the year could prove so essential to the Indians, who were set to be without Mike Clevinger (knee) and Carlos Carrasco (elbow) to open the season. Now if baseball does return, Cleveland's rotation should have a clean bill of health.
In 2018, the Cubs held a five-game lead over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central at the start of September only to collapse down the stretch. In 2019, the Cubs led the division on Aug. 22 only to finish the season 13-16 and miss the playoffs.
There's no doubt this is a good baseball team, but in recent years, the Cubs haven't been able to maintain their composure through the grind of 162 games. In a short season, with the NL Central truly up for grabs, they won't have to.
On paper it would appear the Los Angeles Dodgers are untouchable in the NL West. Over 162 games, they probably are. But in the case of a 100- or 81-game season, the window of opportunity opens. The Diamondbacks have a potent lineup that will do its part, but the question is whether or not the rotation will pull its weight.
There are some excellent pieces to that staff, but consistency remains a concern. Madison Bumgarner has had an ERA above 4.90 in September in each of the last three seasons, Merrill Kelly faded down the stretch last year with a 4.94 ERA following the All-Star break, Luke Weaver has never pitched more than 136.1 innings in a MLB season, and young phenom Zac Gallen has only 80 big-league innings to his name.
If this staff can piece it all together, the sky is the limit for the Diamondbacks in 2020. And in a shortened season, their chances of doing so are exponentially higher.
Alex Moretto is a sports betting writer for theScore. A journalism graduate from Guelph-Humber University, he has worked in sports media for over a decade. He will bet on anything from the Super Bowl to amateur soccer, is too impatient for futures, and will never trust a kicker. Find him on Twitter @alexjmoretto.