While meetings playing out this week will go a long way toward deciding if a 2020 MLB season is played, we decided to explore what the proposed 82-game format could look like on the field -- and on a stats leaderboard page. Could someone really hit .400? Will a pitcher challenge Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA? Just how many stolen bases and RBIs will lead the majors?
Sure, logistical hurdles extend to the horizon before play can actually resume, with player and public health issues swamping any kind of on-field questions around the possible return of baseball for some kind of 2020 season. Still, last week we got an inkling of how a post-pandemic season might work for Major League Baseball.
From a purely baseball standpoint, here is where things reportedly stand:
• An 82-game season, beginning on July 4;
• Everyone gets a designated hitter;
• Rosters expand to 30 players, with a 20-player taxi squad;
• Team schedules are built around divisional play, along with interleague play against geographic counterparts in the opposite league;
• An expanded postseason, most likely including 14 teams.
Most baseball fans will take a season in any form at this point, but nevertheless, this is a lot to take in. In fact, an 82-game schedule -- of which 30 games would likely be interleague -- and a playoff format that barely eliminates half the teams, is not a great way to determine a champion. It would be the fewest games per team since the 1880s.
Nevertheless, you might notice that 82 is greater than zero, so if the final standings and the playoff bracket in 2020 take on a very NBA-like countenance, then so be it. It's time to embrace the strange! And we did exactly that by having Bradford Doolittle research MLB seasons past, run 2020 projections and join David Schoenfield in breaking down the individual stat side of a shortened season.
The Ted Williams Issue: Could someone hit .400?
Forecasted 2020 leaders: 1. Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (.323); 2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies (.322); 3. Howie Kendrick, Nationals (.316); 4. (tie) Luis Arraez, Twins (.310); J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (.310); Daniel Murphy, Rockies (.310).
The history: No one has hit .400 over a full season in baseball since Ted Williams hit .406 in 1941. No one has done it in the National League since Bill Terry hit .401 in 1930. However, there have been a few instances in which a player has enjoyed a mini-Ted season by topping .400 over 82 games.
82-game .400 hitters (Since 1945)
.476 -- George Brett, 1980 (team game numbers 45 to 126; played in 56 during stretch)
.427 -- Ichiro Suzuki, 2004 (76 to 157; played in 81)
.422 -- Ted Williams, 1957 (73 to 154; played in 67)
.418 -- Nomar Garciaparra, 2000 (5 to 86; played in 66)
.415 -- Wade Boggs, 1985 (69 to 150; played in 81)
.411 -- Tito Francona, 1959 (29 to 110; played in 68)
.411 -- Tony Gwynn, 1997 (9 to 90; played in 77)
.410 -- Tony Gwynn, 1994 (60 to 141; played in 57)
.410 -- Josh Hamilton, 2010 (51 to 132; played in 80)
.408 -- Larry Walker, 1997 (1 to 82; played in 79)
.407 -- Rod Carew, 1977 (9 to 90; played in 78)
.406 -- Rod Carew, 1983 (2 to 83; played in 63)
.404 -- John Olerud, 1993 (9 to 90; played in 81)
.404 -- Chone Figgins, 2007 (71 to 152; played in 65)
.402 -- Jeff Bagwell, 1994 (53 to 134; played in 58)
.402 -- Frank Thomas, 1997 (16 to 97; played in 69)
.402 -- Joey Votto, 2016 (80 to 161; played in 80)
.401 -- Roberto Clemente, 1969 (38 to 119; played in 79)
.401 -- Tony Gwynn, 1993 (59 to 140; played in 65)
.401 -- Todd Helton, 2000 (45 to 126; played in 82)
.400 -- Wade Boggs, 1983 (33 to 114; played in 79)
.400 -- Barry Bonds, 2002 (54 to 135; played in 68)
.400 -- Stan Musial, 1946 (39 to 120; played in 82)
.400 -- Ted Williams, 1948 (7 to 88; played in 67)
.400 -- Joe Mauer, 2006 (16 to 97; played in 73)
(Note: Based on a minimum of 254 plate appearances over 82 team games played. To avoid redundancies, only the best 82-game stretch in each player season is listed.)
Best 82-game batting averages
(Past five years)
.402 -- Joey Votto, 2016 (team game numbers 80 to 161; played in 80 during stretch)
.398 -- Jose Altuve, 2017 (39 to 120; played in 79)
.384 -- Jose Altuve, 2016 (36 to 117; played in 81)
.380 -- Ketel Marte, 2019 (67 to 148; played in 76)
.380 -- DJ LeMahieu, 2016 (72 to 153; played in 76)
Let's face it, even if it happened, no one is really going to stack up an 82-game .400 hitter against Williams or George Sisler or Rogers Hornsby or Ty Cobb. On the other hand, such a pursuit might not only add some spice to a weird season, but it might bring back some luster to a hallowed benchmark that has lost a lot of it.
Most fans of a certain age will remember the more recent .400 binges on the list. But if you're not old enough to remember how hot George Brett was in 1980, and how long he kept up the sizzle, this list gives you an idea of just how special that stretch was. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: The Mets' Jeff McNeil hit .388 in one sim season.
Batting averages have been going down, not up, in recent years, so even in a normal season, the conditions aren't ideal for a run at .400. The chances of it happening do increase with a shortened season, however. If it happens, it might more likely be a fluke pursuit than a logical one. Still, you'd expect it to come from a balanced hitter with good contact skills and a line-drive swing. Like McNeil. But others who might fit the description include Minnesota's Luis Arraez and possibly even White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal. Wouldn't that be a way to break into the majors! -- Doolittle
The bottom line: There are two issues in play here. First, can somebody do it? And if there is a chase for .400, will we care? After all, nobody even noticed when Votto hit .402 over 80 games in 2016. I think people will care. And I think it would easily become the biggest story of the season if somebody is hitting .404 with 21 games remaining. I also believe the debate that develops will consume sports and social media -- Jose Bautista's bat flip or the Mike Trout/Miguel Cabrera MVP debate will pale in comparison.
With Brad's data, we know 25 players have hit .400 over an 82-game stretch since 1946, which would suggest a one-in-three chance that it could happen. Except, as Brad points out, the lower averages in today's game make the odds much, much lower. McNeil and Michael Brantley are interesting candidates because they're not trying to launch fly balls on every swing. Batting left-handed helps and both have a high contact rate (Brantley was third best among qualifying hitters in 2019, McNeil 14th best). How about Christian Yelich? He hit .400 in July 2018 and .370 the last month of that season, and he has won two straight batting titles. He hit above .350 in three months last year. -- Schoenfield
What about winning the Triple Crown?
Players who project to rank in the top 25 of MLB in batting average, homers and RBIs: Nolan Arenado (.322-20-61); J.D. Martinez (.310-21-63); Christian Yelich (.301-19-53); Mike Trout (.292-23-53)
The history: In 2012, the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera snapped a 45-year Triple Crown drought by winning one in the American League. The previous occurrence also was by an AL player -- Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. There hasn't been a Triple Crown winner in the NL since Joe Medwick in 1937.
Pre All-Star break triple crowns
Mickey Mantle, 1956 AL (.371 AVG, 29 HR, 71 RBIs)
Hank Aaron, 1957 NL (.347 AVG, 27 HR, 73 RBIs)
Post All-Star break triple crowns
Ted Williams, 1947 AL (.370 AVG, 17 HR, 65 RBIs)
Frank Robinson, 1966 AL (.321, 28 HR, 66 RBIs)
Carl Yastrzemski, 1967 AL (.329, 25 HR, 65 RBIs)
Mike Schmidt, 1981 NL (.356, 17 HR, 50 RBIs)
Ken Caminiti, 1996 NL (.360, 28 HR, 81 RBIs)
Albert Belle, 1998 AL (.387, 31 HR, 86 RBIs)
Ryan Howard, 2006 NL (.355, 30 HR, 78 RBIs)
Christian Yelich, 2018 NL (.367, 25 HR, 67 RBIs)
While the sheer processing time needed to analyze seven-plus decades of 82-game stretches prevented us from coming up with a full list of 82-game Triple Crowns, using TruMedia, we did generate these lists of players who have done it for half-seasons -- before and after the All-Star break. Some of these players went on to actually accomplish the feat over a full season. Some did not. However, pay particular attention to Schmidt's post-strike performance from 1981. It is possible to emerge from a long layoff as hot as a pistol. Though you have to look closely at his career numbers to realize it, 1981 was as good as Schmidt ever was, and that's saying something. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich both won Triple Crowns in different simulations.
If there is any improvement left in Bellinger's game, such as maybe cutting down on the swing and miss, then anything is possible. Especially when you factor in the possibility of plate appearances with Mookie Betts on base. As for Yelich, he came close to ending the NL's Triple Crown drought in 2018 and after winning back-to-back batting titles, he's on the very short list of players who could accomplish the feat. -- Doolittle
The bottom line: This one obviously feels more likely than a .400 hitter, since Yelich gave it a good run in 2018 and Cabrera actually accomplished the feat. Brad's .322 projection for Arenado feels a little high to me as he has never hit that high in a season, but he does have three home run titles and two RBI crowns and hit a career-high .315 last season. I'll offer Rafael Devers, who hit .311 with 32 home runs and 115 RBIs in 2019. He loses Mookie Betts hitting in front of him, but he's in his age-23 season and could convert some of those 54 doubles into home runs. And we can't ignore Yordan Alvarez, who hit .313 with 27 home runs and 78 RBIs in 87 games. He's in the middle of a great lineup with plenty of RBI opportunities and even hit .307 against lefties. -- Schoenfield
So how many home runs might lead the league?
Forecasted 2020 leaders: 1. (tie) Joey Gallo, Rangers; Mike Trout, Angels (23); 3. Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees (22); 4. (tie) Pete Alonso, Mets; J.D. Martinez, Red Sox; Nelson Cruz, Twins; Cody Bellinger, Dodgers (21).
The history: We've seen epic, sustained home runs streaks more frequently over the past quarter century or so. While no one is going to challenge Barry Bonds' single-season home run record, is it at least possible that we might end up with a homer leaderboard that wouldn't look out of place in, say, 1985?
Best 82-game home run totals
42 -- Sammy Sosa, 1998 (team games 50 to 131; played in 78 during stretch)
41 -- Mark McGwire, 1999 (79 to 160; played in 77)
40 -- Roger Maris, 1961 (38 to 119; played in 81)
39 -- Barry Bonds, 2001 (1 to 82; played in 75)
38 -- Mark McGwire, 1996 (23 to 104; played in 77)
38 -- Albert Belle, 1995 (64 to 145; played in 80)
38 -- Giancarlo Stanton, 2017 (61 to 142; played in 81)
38 -- Sammy Sosa, 2001 (50 to 131; played in 82)
38 -- Sammy Sosa, 1999 (56 to 137; played in 82)
37 -- Reggie Jackson, 1969 (15 to 96; played in 82)
37 -- Mark McGwire, 1998 (1 to 82; played in 76)
37 -- Jim Thome, 2001 (41 to 122; played in 78)
Best 82-game home run totals
(Past five years)
38 -- Giancarlo Stanton, 2017 (team games 61 to 142; played in 81 during stretch)
34 -- Brian Dozier, 2016 (74 to 155; played in 82)
33 -- Eugenio Suarez, 2019 (81 to 162; played in 79)
32 -- Carlos Gonzalez, 2015 (53 to 134; played in 78)
32 -- J.D. Martinez, 2017 (79 to 160; played in 73)
32 -- Mike Trout, 2019 (45 to 126; played in 77)
31 -- Matt Carpenter, 2018 (45 to 126; played in 81)
Will they be using last year's baseballs? Will pitchers be ahead of the hitters, or vice versa, or neither? Home run rates have gotten to the point that hoping for a 40-homer hitter in what amounts to a half-season is more than wishful thinking. If the aforementioned conditions are right, our 2020 leaderboard might not look all that unusual. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: In one offensive-fueled projection, Cody Bellinger's Triple Crown season featured 36 homers, which turned out to be just one more than Washington's Juan Soto. But the high mark belonged to the Royals' Jorge Soler, who mashed 39 homers in one of the simulations.
The simulations capture the state of the game pretty well. When every regular in baseball is expected to go deep on a somewhat regular basis, it seems highly likely that we'll have a 30-homer hitter this season. We just don't necessarily know whom it will be. The forecasts, which express an average projected season, can identify the most likely candidates. But these simulations capture the uncertainty and the promise. The list of hitters who had at least one 30-homer sim season: Jorge Soler, Cody Bellinger, Paul Goldschmidt, Juan Soto, Mike Trout, J.D. Martinez, Franmil Reyes, Pete Alonso, Yordan Alvarez, Freddie Freeman, Mike Moustakas, Will Smith, Nelson Cruz, Francisco Lindor, Gleyber Torres, Christian Yelich, Danny Santana, Max Muncy, Hunter Renfroe, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Keston Hiura. -- Doolittle
The bottom line: I'm going back to Alvarez, who terrorized pitchers in his partial season last year. I know a lot of people are expecting regression from Alonso and while 53 over a full season would have been asking too much, I like Brad's projection of 21 for him (or a 40-homer guy over a full season). Eloy Jimenez didn't make Brad's list above, but I'm curious to see what he can do as a sophomore. He hit 31 in 122 games last year, including 25 over his final 84 games. If he can improve the approach, watch out. -- Schoenfield
Are we doomed to have a double-digit RBI champ?
The history: Hi Myers of the Brooklyn Robins led the NL with 73 RBIs in 1919, the lowest total for a league leader during the modern era. Given the 82-game schedule, that record would seem to be in jeopardy.
Most RBIs in 82-game stretch
100 -- Vern Stephens, 1949 (team games 40 to 121; played in 82 during stretch)
99 -- Walt Dropo, 1950 (20 to 101; played in 82)
96 -- Juan Gonzalez, 1998 (1 to 82; played in 82)
96 -- Gil Hodges, 1953 (36 to 117; played in 81)
96 -- Juan Gonzalez, 1996 (61 to 142; played in 79)
96 -- Ken Caminiti, 1996 (77 to 158; played in 82)
95 -- Sammy Sosa, 1998 (38 to 119; played in 78)
95 -- Ted Williams, 1949 (9 to 90; played in 82)
Most RBIs in 82-game stretch
(Past five years)
82 -- Freddie Freeman, 2019 (team games 57 to 138; played in 82 during stretch)
82 -- Giancarlo Stanton, 2017 (81 to 162; played in 80)
81 -- Nolan Arenado, 2017 (63 to 144; played in 80)
80 -- Anthony Rendon, 2019 (53 to 134; played in 82)
80 -- Josh Bell, 2019 (6 to 87; played in 81)
Yes, the all-time list is amazing. During one 82-game stretch during the American League's remarkable 1949 season, Boston's Vern Stephens drove in 100 runs. Then the very next year, Boston's Walt Dropo just missed duplicating the feat. Oh, and Ted Williams chipped in with 95 RBIs in an 82-game stretch in 1949. We only researched back to the end of World War II, but it's worth noting that when Hack Wilson set the RBI mark of 191 in 1930, he finished the season by driving in 101 runs over the Cubs' last 82 games. He had one stretch of 104 RBIs in 82 games. Not sure that says much about what will happen in 2020 but one thing you can say: It's not impossible for a player to drive in 100 runs in 82 games. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: Paul Goldschmidt and Nelson Cruz both had a 90-RBI sim season.
The bottom line: Well, I guess I'm all in on Yordan Alvarez for 2020 ... and beyond. With George Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman hitting in front of him, nobody is likely to get more RBI chances (although those three drive in themselves quite a bit). I'd go with Rendon as my No. 2 pick. He's likely to hit third behind David Fletcher and Mike Trout -- two high on-base guys -- and as we saw last season and during the playoffs, he loves hitting with runners on base, one of those guys willing to shorten his swing a bit and go for the RBI hit instead of always swinging for the fences. -- Schoenfield
With stolen bases declining, how few will it take to lead the league?
Forecasted 2020 leaders: 1. Adalberto Mondesi, Royals (22); 2. Trea Turner, Nationals (18); 3. Mallex Smith, Mariners (17); 4. Jonathan Villar, Marlins (16); 5. (tie) Dee Gordon, Mariners; Ronald Acuna Jr., Braves; Starling Marte, Diamondbacks (14)
The history: The Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. led the NL with 37 steals in 2019, the fewest by a league leader since Luis Aparicio of the White Sox led the AL with 31 in 1962. Still, that's nowhere near the low-water mark for the modern era: In 1950, Boston's Dom DiMaggio led the AL with just 15 thefts.
Most stolen bases during 82-game stretch
79 -- Rickey Henderson, 1982 (team games 2 to 83; played in 82 during stretch)
76 -- Rickey Henderson, 1983 (65 to 146; played in 72)
73 -- Vince Coleman, 1986 (28 to 109; played in 79)
69 -- Lou Brock, 1974 (74 to 155; played in 81)
67 -- Tim Raines, 1981 (1 to 82; played in 78)
66 -- Rickey Henderson, 1980 (80 to 161; played in 82)
65 -- Vince Coleman, 1985 (8 to 89; played in 78)
Most stolen bases during 82-game stretch
(Past five years)
48 -- Billy Hamilton, 2016 (53 to 134; played in 73)
42 -- Billy Hamilton, 2015 (1 to 82; played in 74)
37 -- Jonathan Villar, 2016 (29 to 110; played in 80)
36 -- Billy Hamilton, 2017 (17 to 98; played in 75)
35 -- Trea Turner, 2017 (1 to 82; played in 68)
The game has changed since the days of Rickey and Raines. Billy Hamilton (the 21st century one) might have been a throwback base thief but just doesn't get on base enough. Last year's big league leader was Seattle's Mallex Smith, with 46. As you can see, there have been many, many instances in which a player has exceeded that full-season total in 82 games. In fact, Hamilton did it just a few years ago. However, it doesn't seem like the game is in a place where that could happen in 2020. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: Adalberto Mondesi stole 33 bases in one sim, four more than any other player in any other sim season.
In fact, despite all the randomness of a short season playing out repeatedly in simulated reality, Mondesi tended to lead the majors in steals most seasons. So does that make him a sure thing? We leave that for you to decide. The real thing to root for is that baseball's move toward station-to-station play progresses to the point that DiMaggio's 15-steal low really does come into play. -- Doolittle
The bottom line: Ugh. The stolen base is dead. Long live the stolen base. The one thing limiting Mondesi: That .291 OBP, thanks to an abysmal 132/19 SO/BB ratio. He could be a great base thief, but he simply doesn't get on enough to take advantage of his speed. He's probably still the favorite to lead in steals, although I wonder if Turner will run a little more this year as the Nationals look to score runs in different ways without Rendon. I'll be curious to see if Acuna remains aggressive on the bases. Without the goal of a 40/40 season to push him, he might run less. -- Schoenfield
A 1.12 ERA is a sacred number in baseball. Could someone beat it?
The history: Even in this era of souped-up power hitting, baseball's aces have managed to post sub-2.00 ERAs now and again. The Mets' Jacob deGrom (1.70) and the Rays' Blake Snell (1.89) both did it just two years ago. Still, since the dead ball era ended, no one has approached the mystical 1.12 figure Bob Gibson put up in 1968.
Best 82-game ERAs
(Since 1945; minimum 82 innings pitched)
0.53 -- Bob Gibson, 1968 (team games 48 to 129; 137 innings pitched during stretch)
0.86 -- Kris Medlen, 2012 (69 to 150; 93 IP)
0.87 -- Al Benton, 1945 (2 to 83; 93 IP)
0.88 -- Jake Arrieta, 2015 (79 to 160; 123 IP)
1.01 -- Luis Tiant, 1968 (3 to 84; 143 IP)
1.05 -- Dick Radatz, 1963 (10 to 91; 85 IP)
1.08 -- Chris Young, 2007 (23 to 104; 91 IP)
1.09 -- Roger Clemens, 1990 (78 to 159; 98 IP)
1.10 -- Harry Brecheen, 1945 (66 to 147; 98 IP)
1.12 -- Josh Johnson, 2010 (16 to 97; 112 IP)
1.12 -- Clayton Kershaw, 2014 (65 to 146; 129 IP)
Best recent 82-game ERAs
(Last five years, minimum 82 IP)
0.88 -- Jake Arrieta, 2015 (team games 79 to 160; 123 IP during stretch)
1.16 -- Hyun-Jin Ryu, 2019 (29 to 110; 108 IP)
1.21 -- Zack Greinke, 2015 (12 to 93; 111 IP)
1.22 -- Jack Flaherty, 2019 (81 to 162; 111 IP)
1.22 -- Clayton Kershaw, 2015 (81 to 162; 125 IP)
1.25 -- Kyle Hendricks, 2016 (78 to 159; 93 IP)
1.35 -- Jacob deGrom, 2018 (16 to 97; 106 IP)
1.43 -- Michael Fulmer, 2016 (38 to 119; 100 IP)
1.43 -- Jacob deGrom, 2015 (38 to 119; 106 IP)
Gibson's 1968 season should have been chronicled by Homer, not Harry Caray. It truly was the stuff of mythology. During the height of it, the stretch noted above, he gave up eight earned runs over 15 starts, winning 14 of them. The other game was a no-decision in which he went 11 innings in an eventual loss to the Cubs. Remember just a few years ago when Jake Arrieta turned back the pitching clock to 1908? He still didn't approach what Gibson did. No one is likely to this year, either. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: Julio Urias, the Dodgers' No. 4 starter, posted a 1.27 ERA over 18 outings in one simulation.
This is not at all meant to knock Hyun-Jin Ryu, but if he could put up a 1.16 over a half-season last year, then Urias is capable of doing the same thing in a shortened season this year. The Dodgers have a proud history of pitchers getting historically hot for months at a time. Just to summon a few Dodgers pitchers who have done just that: Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Orel Hershiser, Clayton Kershaw and Ryu. It's a Dodger tradition. -- Doolittle
The bottom line: This would be fun and I would say a 1.11 ERA is more likely than a .400 hitter -- not that it's very likely, but we have seen some extended dominant stretches from various pitchers in recent seasons. DeGrom would be my pick as the best candidate, although the Mets don't project as a good defensive team, which would hurt his chances. Gerrit Cole probably allows too many home runs (29 last year) to challenge this mark. Put it this way: Over 100 innings, a pitcher can allow just 12 earned runs to post a 1.08 ERA. So it has be a guy who keeps the ball in the park. (Charlie Morton had the lowest home run rate among starters in 2019.) -- Schoenfield
How many wins will it likely take to lead the league?
Forecasted 2020 leaders: 1. (tie) Justin Verlander, Astros; Gerrit Cole, Yankees; Lance McCullers Jr., Astros (8); a whole bunch of pitchers with 7 (Note: Doolittle does not project pitcher wins in his system; forecasts used here are based on the Steamer projections from FanGraphs.)
The history: According to the ghost of Old Hoss Radbourn, who started 73 of 112 games -- and won 60 -- in 1884, anything less than a 30-game winner would be a disgrace. On planet Earth, however, there were five starters who tied for the league lead with record-low 14 wins during the clipped 1981 season. That record may be in trouble.
Most wins over an 82-game stretch
18 -- Denny McLain, 1968 (team games 10 to 91; 176 innings pitched)
17 -- Vida Blue, 1971 (1 to 82; 173 IP)
17 -- Hal Newhouser, 1946 (1 to 82; 163 IP)
17 -- Bobby Shantz, 1952 (10 to 91; 170 IP)
17 -- Dave Ferriss, 1945 (10 to 91; 184 IP)
17 -- Bob Feller, 1946 (10 to 91; 185 IP)
17 -- Steve Carlton, 1972 (58 to 139; 185 IP)
17 -- Don Newcombe, 1956 (67 to 148; 154 IP)
17 -- Frank Lary, 1956 (73 to 154; 176 IP)
17 -- Robin Roberts, 1952 (73 to 154; 179 IP)
17 -- Jack Sanford, 1962 (79 to 160; 150 IP)
Most wins over a recent 82-game stretch
(Past five years)
14 -- Chris Sale, 2016 (1 to 82; 120 innings pitched)
14 -- Jake Arrieta, 2015 (74 to 155; 125 IP)
14 -- Rick Porcello, 2016 (74 to 155; 123 IP)
13 -- Luis Severino, 2018 (1 to 82; 118 IP)
13 -- Clayton Kershaw, 2017 (10 to 91; 119 IP)
13 -- Chris Tillman, 2016 (13 to 94; 115 IP)
13 -- Hisashi Iwakuma, 2016 (35 to 116; 107 IP)
13 -- Gerrit Cole, 2015 (5 to 86; 112 IP)
13 -- Zack Greinke, 2015 (65 to 146; 120 IP)
McLain actually had a couple of different stretches with 18 wins over 82 Detroit games in 1968, the season he won 31 games to become possibly the last-ever hurler to reach that mark. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: That sim season above where Urias posted 1.27 ERA over 18 outings? He won 17 of those starts.
Sadly, it seems likely that we'll be lucky to get even a double-digit winner. For one thing, we don't know how long it will take teams to settle into a regular rotation after the long layoff and a quick ramp-up to actual play. Even if a team goes with a five-man rotation and skips the fifth pitcher now and again, the 18 starts Urias got represents a likely high-water mark. Obviously to match McLain, even if you got that many starts, you'd have to win them all. That's just not a strong possibility in today's two-times-through-the-order game. But Urias almost did it in an alternate universe, so you can't say it's impossible. Much more realistically, we're probably going to be looking at a record low for a wins leader. -- Doolittle
The bottom line: Well, I've had Urias on my sim team for years now, waiting for his breakout season. Maybe this will finally be it! Actually, I might pick a teammate of his to lead MLB in wins: Walker Buehler. Good young pitcher who just needs a little more consistency, but with a great lineup and defense behind him. I guess the Dodgers are so good they might not need to push their starters very hard. Cole is the other obvious choice, going to a powerful Yankees team on the heels of his dominant 2019 season. (Remember, he's riding a streak of 16 consecutive regular-season wins.) -- Schoenfield
And what about the strikeout leaderboard?
Forecasted leaders: 1. Gerrit Cole, Yankees (141); 2. Max Scherzer, Nationals (133); 3. Jacob deGrom, Mets (125); 4. Justin Verlander, Astros (122); 5. Trevor Bauer, Reds (121).
The history: Strikeout rates are at all-time highs and keep going up with every passing season. The fewest strikeouts by a league leader during the modern era was the two-way tie in the AL's 1942 season between Boston's Tex Hughson and the well-traveled Bobo Newsom, then with the Senators. Both hurlers struck out just 113 that season. That seems like one record that should withstand an 82-game campaign.
Most strikeouts during an 82-game stretch
228 -- Nolan Ryan, 1977 (team games 6 to 87; 181 innings pitched during stretch)
213 -- Sandy Koufax, 1965 (80 to 161; 189 IP)
207 -- Nolan Ryan, 1972 (74 to 155; 168 IP)
206 -- Randy Johnson, 1999 (60 to 141; 148 IP)
204 -- Nolan Ryan, 1974 (79 to 160; 178 IP)
203 -- Randy Johnson, 2001 (56 to 137; 128 IP)
200 -- Nolan Ryan, 1973 (68 to 149; 166 IP)
Most strikeouts during a recent 82-game stretch
(Past five years)
178 -- Chris Sale, 2015, (team games 39 to 120; 121 IP during stretch)
176 -- Corey Kluber, 2017 (59 to 140; threw 126)
176 -- Max Scherzer, 2017 (9 to 90; threw 127)
175 -- Gerrit Cole, 2019 (81 to 162; threw 109)
174 -- Chris Sale, 2017 (10 to 91; threw 120)
168 -- Chris Sale, 2019 (21 to 102; threw 105)
166 -- Chris Sale, 2018 (20 to 101; threw 113)
165 -- Max Scherzer, 2018 (1 to 82; threw 114)
165 -- Trevor Bauer, 2018 (20 to 101; threw 120)
165 -- Justin Verlander, 2019 (67 to 148; threw 112)
Remember, we're talking about roughly a half-season here. Think about that, then look at what Ryan did in 1977. During that stretch, Ryan started 22 games, going 12-8 with a 2.77 ERA. He threw 11 of those games on three days of rest, completing seven of them and going 10 innings in another one. He had one streak of 90 strikeouts over seven games, reaching double digits in whiffs in each of them, topped by a 19-strikeout masterpiece. He truly was one of a kind. -- Doolittle
Embrace the strange: Nothing too bizarre emerged here; Max Scherzer's 183 whiffs in one run of simulations was the high-water mark.
While the simulations didn't know about the lack of preparation time for pitchers across the big leagues, and the lack of a chance to build up their pitch counts, big league managers will be all too aware. They'll also be equipped with massive bullpen staffs. So if the hitters' collective timing is off, we could see some huge strikeout totals -- for the hitters, and the teams as a whole. It seems unlikely that any one pitcher will get enough innings to approach what alternate reality Max Scherzer did here. -- Doolittle
The bottom line: Cole is the clear favorite here. You have to worry a little bit about Scherzer's health given the way his season ended in the World Series, although the extra time off could help. And don't sleep on Tyler Glasnow, who averaged 11.3 K's per nine innings last year in 12 starts and was healthy in spring training and working on a new splitter and changeup. -- Schoenfield