Every Spring we watch pitchers dominate hitter in Spring. Sure there are your wind blown homeruns in Bradenton but for the most part, the main hurdle pitchers face is getting stretched out.
Hitters on the other hand take time to get their timing down. To catch up to the pitching in other words. It’s why we so often have premature conversations about pitchers competing for Cy Young awards early on. Remember how great Jeff Locke looked that one half season? How about James Macdonald? Sure, they pitched great but five to seven starts we’re early on against cold bats who eventually found their way.
This season a batter who plays every game and has the average 4 at bats can expect roughly 250 total.
Leo Mazzone former pitching coach for the Braves used to tell hitters in his club after about 200 at bats we’ll see what type of season you’ll have. Well that luxury won’t be here in 2020. With the expanded rosters and compressed schedules many will be lucky to have more than 200 let alone use it to any benefit.
This season is all about a hot start. Last season we watched the Pirates come out with the pitching staff looking like world beaters while the bats were ice cold, as the calendar flipped to May the roles reversed. That’s a nice two month window into just how this could go for any number of teams.
It means we can’t just look at the rosters and assume this guy hits .300 or this dude is going to get a shot as the lead off hitter. Giving someone a shot is a stretch of games, a number of at bats and giving someone a month to try to work through something, provided they have no track record, would be like punting on half the season should you pull the plug.
For young players it won’t be much more than the cup of coffee call up in which they need to prove themselves quickly or go back to riding the bus. So, it’s not about pressure they’ve never experienced, it’s more about dealing with pressure they haven’t felt since they made it happen the first time.
Some players will react well others won’t, that’s as obvious a statement as there is, this is sports after all. But the environment is ripe for a team with no real expectations to come out on top. That doesn’t mean I’m picking the Pirates to win it all but the separation from top to bottom figures to be thin.
Even the Mighty Dodgers will deal with the effect I’m talking about, and while they have many more players with track record they also have more reason to be frustrated if it doesn’t show itself early.
Don’t bet on the Pirates, but don’t bet against them either, anything can happen this season and that much plays out every year as the season begins. This one just doesn’t leave room for the cream to rise to the top when everyone figures their game out.