What might leaderboards look like in a 60-game MLB season?

With the 2020 MLB schedule finally released, the projection systems now will have a better idea of what to expect in the 60-game sprint. For those that participate in fantasy baseball or daily fantasy sports, the projections come in handy, especially in a small sample size season like 2020. Even with that data, it may be helpful to get a good idea of how a 60-game season could look numbers-wise using 2019 performance to gauge what the results could look like.

But which 60 games should we look at? There are arguments for two approaches.

Rust-based: We could look at last year’s first 60 games, which would cover late March until early June. Pitchers are ramping up from spring training, and hitters are playing full games for the first time since the previous September.

Climate-based: Part of what may be “rust” is actually “trying to hit in cold weather,” but there will be no snowflakes to be found here. The first 60 games of 2020 will be played in quite different conditions. What if we chopped up 2019 numbers using the 2020 time frame, which is July 23 to September 27?

Fortunately, we have room to do both.

First 60 games/66 days: March 28 to June 3, 2019

WAR Leaders (FanGraphs):

Breakdown: No surprise at three of the four leaders. Both Bellinger and Trout went on to win their respective league’s MVP awards. Scherzer, who had a 3-5 record in the first 60 games, finished third in the NL Cy Young voting.

The surprise is Boyd as he barely edged out Lucas Giolito (2.6 WAR) in the first 60-games. Boyd was sharp out of the gate in 2019 with a 5-4 record and a 3.01 ERA/2.83 FIP. Giolito had an 8-1 record and better ERA/FIP totals at 2.54/2.69. Neither finished in the Top-5 voting at the end of 2019, but Giolito did receive enough votes to place sixth. Boyd had a 5.51 ERA in the second half of 2019, fading from the race.

Other first 60-game hitting leaders:

Other first 60-game pitching leaders:

PERTINENT: Let’s poke at the White Sox’s 2020 schedule

Now let’s look at the last 60 games/66 days of the 2019 season. When looking through this prism, we see new faces leading the majors.

Same time frame as 2020: July 23 to September 27, 2019

WAR Leaders (FanGraphs)

Further Review: Five qualifying starting pitchers had sub-2.00 ERAs. deGrom and Verlander did take home the Cy Youngs in 2019. Still, the other three pitchers joining them were Gerrit Cole, Mike Clevinger, and Jack Flaherty. Amazingly, Flaherty had a 1.00 ERA with a 3.3 WAR. Those numbers would have seriously challenged deGrom for the Cy.

Rendon finished the regular season hot in 2019, and that level of performance carried into the postseason. Over in the American League, it would have been a great debate who was more valuable between Bregman and the former White Sox Semien.

Other hitting leaders using same 2020 timeframe:

Not listed above is Nelson Cruz. Using the same time frame as 2020, Cruz would have won the American League Triple Crown, leading the league in home runs (20), RBIs (56), and batting average (.367).

If there is a 2020 season (and with the way COVID-19 testing is going, that is a big if), we could see new faces leading the majors in statistical categories. Will anyone hit .400? Doubtful, but there might be a hitter who gets to the .360’s. There hasn’t been any news about the ball itself changing, so if you’re the betting type, you might want to picture the home run leader clearing 20 in 2020.

For the White Sox, Tim Anderson led the AL in base hits with 81 while hitting .363, and Abreu once again had 50 RBIs to finish in the AL top five. Eloy Jiménez hit the most home runs with 13. Yoan Moncada only played eight games in August due to injury, which impacted his final numbers but not the slash line (.331/.370/.571).

If Giolito, Anderson, Abreu, Jimenez, and Moncada, along with the offseason additions (Grandal, Edwin Encarnación, Dallas Keuchel), produce at a high-rate in the small sample size season of 2020, White Sox fans should see their names towards the top of leaderboards, which is a nice change of pace.

As for win-loss records, the Chicago White Sox were 29-31 in their first 60 games of 2019. They went 25-35 from July 23 to Sept. 27, 2019. Lineup and rotation depth issues shouldn’t be as much of a factor this time around, so maybe the White Sox can finally start seeing their name toward the top of the standings.

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Josh Nelson
Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson is the host and producer of the Sox Machine Podcast. For show suggestions, guest appearances, and sponsorship opportunities, you can reach him via email at josh@soxmachine.com.

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I would lean toward the fast starters benefitting from the shortened season.

On another note (maybe this has already been answered), I thought players who opted-out this year were still guaranteed full pro-rated salaries. This doesn’t seem to be the case. Are they (David Price for example) voluntarily waiving pay? What am I missing?

Eagle Bones

My understanding was they only get paid and get service time if they (personally) had a medical condition that put them in the “at risk” group. If they did not, they were forgoing salary and service time.


I thought the wording was “at-risk or immediate family high risk” or similar. Seems like that could exempt most players (cancer survivors, family members who are cancer survivors, elderly family living in the home, pregnant wives, etc.)

Jim Margalus

Bob Nightengale reported that, but it turned out he got it wrong.

Players who live with or are regularly in close contact with individuals at high risk also could sit out, but would not automatically receive pay and service. The union attempted to carve out that requirement but ultimately the league balked, likely fearing potential loopholes.

The story goes on to say that teams can decide to pay players if they want, or players can go on a couple of leave lists to at least get one check.


Thanks for the clarification, Jim.

I believe Jeff Passan crunched some numbers around a month-and-a-half ago that amounted to MLB and the players basically fighting over $300 million, or 10 mil a team. Ironically, after all the opt outs, half of the teams would have been better off playing more games than currently slated.

As Cirensica

I have not empirical evidence to say this, but I think the “climate base” approach will be more reliable. Many Latin American players just dislike playing in the cold. Notice how some Latin names start to show up in the “climate based” list. But most obvious is the fact that hitting output increases when the weather gets hot. Also, pitchers dominate when the weather is colder.

John SF

More recent research has shown that when you remove the weather effects though, pitchers actually start the season stronger than hitters (who eventually catch up).

But we don’t know why!

You frequently hear people say it has to do with rhythm / timing / preparation— but I would argue we don’t have any research to support that beyond the qualitative and anecdotal.

For example, here’s a counter hypothesis— I’m not actually saying I believe this, just demonstrating how confounding the variables are— MLB hitters are extremely superstitious compared to the general population. And hitting is extremely mental/confidence-based compared to most sports. What if seeing barreled balls die on the warning track in April puts them in a funk, but having not-perfectly-struck balls float into the bleachers in the summer air gives them a confidence boost?

I don’t think anyone knows if hitters or pitchers will have the advantage over 60 August/September games— but probably one or the other will have a significant advantage.

I’ve seen a lot of speculation that pitchers will have a big advantage because they have been able to keep throwing bullpens this whole time, but the batters haven’t been able to face much live pitching.


In a 60 game season, the odds must be pretty high for someone hitting 0.400

Ted Mulvey

Fangraphs had an article on that very topic last week!

The money quote from a sample of 20 hitters (then extrapolated to all hitters): “If you take those 20 hitters, the odds of one of them hitting .400 this year is around 1-in-50, and if we use all hitters, we end up with around a 3% chance that somebody hits .400 in 2020.”

John SF

I think it’s pretty interesting that TA7 isn’t projected in the top 20 batting averages this year, despite leading all of baseball in that stat last year.

Sure, a 399 BABiP with a 335 AVG is due for some regression. But it’s also not more than 10-30 points out of his career BABiP-to-avg ratio, and between Timmy’s speed and hard-hit-rate you might expect him to carry if anything a bigger BABiP split than that.

Can you think of any other stat where leading all of baseball might not even get you on the top-20 leaderboard projection for the next year?

Maybe pitcher wins or losses. Maybe RBI.

Ks? Saves? HRs? Doubles/Triples? Outfield assists? GIDPs? WAR? FIP? None of those would ever work that way.

John SF

Holy Cow. Bellinger was on basically an 11 1/2 WAR pace through 60 games last year. That was pretty special.

John SF

Considering how much better Lopez pitches in the 2nd half last year, and how much better Eloy and Moncada hit those months, and how Anderson just kept raising his already high bar to close out the year— we sure had trouble cobbling together wins.

Bummer was still great, but Colomé regressed. Herrera actually got better, but that couldn’t save us from bullpen depth issues. And of course, once Giolito was injured our starting rotation was basically held together with twigs and duct tape.

All those Detwiler starts probably didn’t help either. I’m just glad we won that final series against Cleveland when it mattered to knock them out of the WC.