After a protracted winter, the crack of the bat and pop of the glove have lastly returned. All Main League Baseball gamers have reported to spring coaching camps, and baseball followers can as soon as once more really feel the excitement of one other season simply across the nook. Much more thrilling: The 2021 MLB season is scheduled to be a full 162 video games, in contrast to 2020’s abbreviated 60-game season.
Spring coaching video games––which begin on Feb. 28––will provide the primary style of baseball motion in 4 months. And after one other busy offseason of trades and free agent acquisitions, everybody is raring to see which groups and gamers hit it out of the park (and which of them strike out). Listed here are 5 storylines that we’ll be following carefully this yr.
Can the Dodgers Change into the First Repeat World Sequence Champs in Two A long time?
After seven consecutive seasons of playoff heartbreak, Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers lastly broke by in 2020 and received the World Sequence. Can they do it once more? Not because the New York Yankees received three straight between 1998 and 2000 has there been a repeat World Sequence winner. But when there’s a group to snap this two-decade dry spell, the 2021 Dodgers are it.
The Dodgers not solely retained most of their key place gamers––together with star shortstop Corey Seager and MVP outfielders Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger––however additionally they made an enormous offseason improve by signing 2020 Nationwide League Cy Younger award winner Trevor Bauer. Including Bauer to an all-star pitching workers that already options gamers like Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, and David Worth is borderline unfair. It’s a protracted season and there’ll undoubtedly be twists and turns, however not less than on paper, the Dodgers are poised to make a severe run at going back-to-back.
Will the San Diego Padres Reside as much as the Hype?
About 120 miles south of Dodger Stadium lies the most important impediment standing in the way in which of a Dodgers World Sequence win––the San Diego Padres. 2020 was a breakout yr for the Friars: They completed the 60-game season with a .617 successful proportion and received their first postseason sequence since 1998. Past gathering Ws, the group, fueled by dynamic younger shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr., shortly established itself as one of the thrilling golf equipment to look at.
This offseason, the San Diego entrance workplace doubled down on their success and put the Dodgers on discover. The group added a trio of frontline beginning pitchers together with Blake Snell, Yu Darvish, and Joe Musgrove. Moreover, they locked up their 22-year-old star shortstop with a whopping 14-year, $340 million contract. Mix these offseason strikes with a really gifted roster––don’t neglect about former Dodger Manny Machado––and we’re set for a West Coast duel between two high groups. Buckle up.
The American League’s Broad Open Battle for Supremacy
Whereas many baseball specialists put the Dodgers and Padres on the high of the heap within the Nationwide League, the American League is a a lot more durable name.
Even so, the AL East as soon as once more looks as if the favourite to supply a World Sequence contender. The New York Yankees are in an excellent place after including DJ LeMahieu and Corey Kluber to their already deep roster. Nevertheless, they’ll need to prevail over the analytics-based method of the Tampa Bay Rays (the reigning AL champs) and the highly effective bats of the Toronto Blue Jays, who added George Springer this offseason.
The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox within the AL Central may additionally make a run, together with the Houston Astros within the AL West. Shedding Springer was a blow to the Astros, however they nonetheless have sufficient roster firepower and expertise for a shot on the title.
A New Baseball
Residence run counts have skyrocketed over the previous few seasons and even prompted a number of high-profile pitchers to complain about juiced baseballs. Whereas MLB officers would by no means admit that that they had deliberately modified the baseball, the stats appeared to show in any other case. After growing dwelling run counts every year, the latest 162-game season (in 2019) noticed the ball go away the yard 6,776 instances––a brand new report.
This has led to a big shift within the sport. There was sizable progress in strikeouts, walks, and residential runs, and that has led to longer video games with much less motion. To fight this home-run-or-bust method to batting, MLB introduced it could be “deadening” baseballs for the 2021 season. Groups have been informed this adjustment would imply a ball hit over 375 ft would fly about one to 2 ft shorter than earlier than. Time will inform whether or not this effort will make a dent in dwelling run counts or have an effect on how the sport is performed, however it is going to be monitored carefully because the season progresses.
The Return of the Followers
There’s no getting round it: The 2020 MLB season was awkward. Watching groups play in entrance of cardboard folks was very unusual. The silence after game-winning dwelling runs? Even stranger. However now that the COVID-19 vaccine rollout has begun, groups and followers alike are hoping for extra life in ballparks throughout the nation in 2021.
As soon as the common season begins on April 1, fan attendance shall be topic to native pointers. For groups that do enable followers, they must promote tickets to pods of followers and preserve these teams bodily unfold out.
Because the vaccine turns into extra broadly accessible, there’s hope that attendance ranges shall be allowed to extend. And if the 2021 MLB season concludes with some sense of normalcy, that shall be a giant win for the game—and for all of society.
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