Six strange MLB season oddities from 60-game 2020 schedule reveal

Six strange MLB season oddities from 60-game 2020 schedule reveal

Despite players and team officials around the league testing positive for the coronavirus in recent days, MLB released the full 30-team schedule for the 60-game 2020 MLB season on Monday.

The Giants will play in one of two games on Opening Day, facing the Dodgers from Los Angeles on July 23. The A's will play host to the Los Angeles Angels on July 24 to open up their 60-game slate.

MLB teams will play divisional opponents 10 times each for 40 games total, and four times each against the opposite league's geographical equivalent division (NL West-AL West) for 20 games total.

Here are some of the most unique schedule notes from this year's abbreviated MLB season.

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No Giants-Dodgers in September

It's an annual tradition. The Giants and Dodgers tend to have at least one series between the two in the game's final month, when teams are sprinting towards the postseason. These games develop a playoff-like atmosphere due to both teams generally fighting for postseason berths.

However, in this shortened schedule the Giants will get all 10 of their games with LA in before Aug. 31, which marks this year's adjusted trade deadline. So if the Giants magically somehow contend for the postseason in 2020, they won't have to face the Dodgers' gauntlet of a lineup down the stretch.

Uneven rivalries

Due to the limiting of each team's season series' against division rivals, series are unbalanced, with one team having significantly fewer home games than the other. For example, the Giants will play seven of the 10 contests against the Dodgers in LA, with just three coming at Oracle Park. In Oakland, the A's will play seven home games at The Coliseum against the Houston Astros.

Although there won't be fans at any of these MLB games in 2020, it will be strange having just three visits to San Francisco on the schedule for Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers. In fact, seven of the Giants' first 17 games will be at Dodger Stadium.

Always a chance

It's not over until it's over. That old adage will ring true for MLB in 2020, as for the first time in the league's history, no team will be mathematically eliminated from playoff contention before September.

With just 60 games, there is plenty of room for variance, and every team enters with a chance.

[RELATED: Giants 2020 MLB schedule: Three big takeaways from tough 60-game slate]

Extra off-day?

The Giants are one of four teams that will play on July 23, one day before the rest of the league. With the season being 60 games in 67 days (from July 23-Sept. 27), each team gets seven off days. 

But with one of those days being "Opening Night" for the Giants, Dodgers, New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, if you don't count that first day before Opening Day as a true day off, then San Francisco gets one extra day over the rest of the league.

It's the little things, folks.

Alternate sites

The ongoing pandemic forced the cancellation of a trio of international regular-season games (England, Mexico and Puerto Rico) in MLB scheduled for this season. But one neutral-site contest remains for 2020: the Aug. 13 showdown between the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals from Dyersville, Iowa, where the iconic baseball film "Field of Dreams" was filmed in 1989.

If you build it, they really will come. Even during a global pandemic.

Racking up the miles

Per usual, MLB teams on the West Coast are the most affected by the travel demands of professional sports. Four of the five AL West teams (A's rank fourth) fill out the teams traveling the most air miles, with the Los Angeles Angels being the lone exception.

The Milwaukee Brewers could multiply their total air miles this season by three and it still would be less distance than the Astros, Rangers and Mariners will go in 2020. 

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi explains worst-case scenario of calling Joey Bart up early

Farhan Zaidi hears your rallying cries begging for the Giants call up Joey Bart.

What's there to lose, right? Well, the Giants' president of baseball operations believes there's a lot to lose, and is doing everything in his power to make sure Bart's transition to the big leagues is as smooth as possible

"What we have to lose is putting Joey Bart on a career path that doesn't allow him to get the most out of his ability," Zaidi recently said to the San Francisco Chronicle's John Shea on the "Giants Splash" podcast. "What we have to lose is calling him up, maybe a little too early, having him struggle, having that impact his confidence and that's the last thing we want to do.

"Frankly, we'd rather be a little late on calling him up than a little early on calling him up." 

Bart, 23, is considered the second-best catching prospect in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft hit .278 with 16 home runs last season between Single-A San Jose and Double-A Richmond. He also missed multiple weeks after fracturing his left hand and then fractured his right thumb early on in the Arizona Fall League.

When Zaidi was the Los Angeles Dodgers' general manager, he faced similar decisions with calling up top prospects like Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager. Bellinger was just 21 years old when he made his MLB debut against the Giants in April 2017. Seager also was just 21 when he debuted in September 2015. 

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But Bellinger had 399 at-bats in Double-A and 78 more in Triple-A before he reached the big leagues. Seager had 228 in Double-A and 421 in Triple-A. Bart hasn't played a single game in Triple-A and only has 79 at-bats in Double-A. 

The goal is to make sure Bart follows a similar path as Bellinger and Seager. Bellinger won the NL MVP in just his third big league season. Seager won NL Rookie of the Year and already has been named to two All-Star Games. Those kind of accolades certainly are what Zaidi and Co. envision for Bart. 

With no minor league season this year, Bart is training at the Giants' alternate site in Sacramento. There, he's learning how to play first base and working on very specific aspects of his overall game. He isn't able to play in full games right now, but Zaidi believes he still is able to grow as a player. 

[RELATED: Zaidi, Giants reach key milestone with latest prospect trade]

"I still view him as getting important reps, because he's facing good pitching in Sacramento," Zaidi said. "We've got guys like Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez -- those guys are with the taxi squad right now -- but he had the opportunity to face those guys, as well as other guys who are Triple-A, big league pitchers.

"I think those are valuable reps." 

The Giants don't view Bart as someone who will just help them one day. They know he has superstar potential. And sometimes, that comes with a frustrating amount of patience.

How Giants' Austin Slater made adjustment to show early signs of breakout

How Giants' Austin Slater made adjustment to show early signs of breakout

For seven innings Monday night, the Giants were playing their worst game of the season. There was very little to be positive about, but in those final two frames, Austin Slater took a couple of swings that at least guaranteed the coaching staff would sleep a bit easier. 

Slater homered in the eighth and then kept the rally going with a single in the ninth. Both hits came off right-handed pitchers. Both went to right field. They had launch angles of 28 and 29 degrees, respectively. 

Slater has worked hard since debuting in 2017 to get the ball in the air more and take advantage of his natural strength, and he might finally be seeing consistent results. At the end of his Zoom press conference after a 6-4 loss, manager Gabe Kapler took some time to credit Slater for his pre-game work.

"When a player trains for the outcome that he had tonight, which is a home run to right-center field off a righty, I think it's worth noting," Kapler said. "Today in his batting practice session out on the field, we had the machine set up from an arm angle on the right side of a pitcher firing him fastballs. We were watching him in BP training for that moment, driving balls into the opposite field. 

"So when that practice session shows up into the game and rewards a player for that kind of high-level training and effort, I think it's worth noting. It's a good example for all of us to train at that speed and in a way that's pretty uncomfortable, and we can see the results translating."

Slater has three homers in the past three games, including two off Clayton Kershaw. He became the first Giant to homer off Kershaw twice in a game, but the shot off Josh James on Monday might have been more important to his development. 

The Giants know Slater sees lefties well. He's their leadoff hitter against them. But to avoid being a strict platoon piece, he'll have to do much better than his .238 average and .303 slugging percentage against righties last year. It's a very small sample, but Slater has five hits -- including that homer and a triple -- in 18 at-bats against right-handed pitching this season. He is doing damage against both, and doing it by driving the ball more. 

Slater's launch angle his first three seasons ranged from 1.6 percent to 3.4, with many of his hits coming on hard grounders through holes on the right side. He still doesn't pull the ball much, but this season that launch angle is 8.7 percent. He ranks 23rd in the big leagues and leads the Giants in percentage of batted balls that are barreled. 

The tools have always been there for Slater to be a good big league outfielder. He can play all three spots, has a strong arm, is a plus runner (he has four stolen bases already this year), and has a good approach at the plate. The biggest adjustment was driving the ball in the air, and early on, the signs are positive. 

[RELATED: Zaidi targeted Solano since Dodger days]

After taking Kershaw to dead-center twice on Saturday, Slater said it's been nice to see results. But he knew the work wasn't anywhere close to done. 

"That's still going to be an intention of mine, trying to get the ball in the air as much as possible," he said. 

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