Another new year and a new season. Our 31st season to be exact. It’s amazing to see where the game has evolved to in those 31 seasons. From the streets and driveways to a backyard ‘Field of Dreams’.
Now that the new year is here we can recap some changes and awards from our 2019 Winter Meetings. Very few rule changes happened but one that passed was the ability for fielders to cut down on more runs with plays at the plate where traditionally you either had peg the runner or nail the strike-zone in the air. Now any area of the black of the backstop can be hit to make an out for a runner going home which is reminiscent of many “zone-play” style Wiffleball leagues out there. We’ve always had an ability to change and adapt to what’s out there while majorly maintaining “us” when it comes to game-play. Other than that, everything remains intact.
The pitching rotation rules from 2017’s Winter Meeting have been implemented perfectly over the last two seasons, which had over 90% of the league pitching at least 5 innings and starting at least one game. To some this may seem low or an odd statistic but it’s a big change compared to five, ten, and even fifteen years ago. This was when teams had one starter and a spot starter who was often a closer. Primary starters then often pitched over 300 innings a year. There were even 500 innings pitched on a few occasions. But since preliminary rotation rules were put in, in 2008 and upgraded in 2017, we’ve had instances of teams having 4 pitchers pitch 35+ innings in a season giving pitchers a rest, involving other players to develop their pitching, and keeping the talented pitchers less exposed.
Two other announcements from 2019’s Winter Meeting were:
-Alen & Edin are new shipmates for the Bucs
-Diamondbacks become the 10th expansion team in league history
The 2020 Pirates roster will be composed of 2019 MVP and CY Young award winner Anthony Gadani, 2019 most improved player Kyle Girgenti, 2019 Gold Glove winner Edin Hadzimuratovic, and “The Neighborhood Hero” Alen Kalic who picked up his 100th homerun in 2019! They look to bring the Pirates their first title since 2015 and for Kyle and Edin, their first league titles. Gadani has 5 with three different teams and Alen got his first and only title with the Yankees back in 2016. It took him four seasons to get that first title before forming the Phillies at the 2017 Winter Meeting. The Phillies finished 40-74 in two seasons.
The Pirates look to be a squad with a consistent four-man presence, plenty of offensive capability, backed by their ace Gadani. They are projected to have their second above .500 winning season at 23-22 for a finish of second place according sabermterics. This seems just about right for them based off of the last couple of seasons. Projected stats have each player having over ten homers and over four wins on the hill with Gadani posting his third straight ten win season with a projected mark of 10-4. They all have 10+ homerun power and are super clutch with 6 walkoff hits last year combined with many more game-tying hits. Not to mention, they are no strangers to double-digit comebacks. Especially what the 2019 Pirates did with their 14 run comeback against the Dodgers in June. But, the key is pitching and keeping their strikeouts at the plate down in 2020. Gadani aside, which one of these players is going to have their breakout year in 2020? They have been mostly in the same place for the last couple of seasons however showing tons of improvement on all sides of the ball.
The “new guys” enter the league as the tenth expansion team in league history led by 2019 ‘Rookie of The Year’ candidate, Josh Howland. He is going to be a stud in 2020 after what he contributed to every team in 2019 and for what he did in the LCS in 2019 for the Yankees. In 2019 he hit 12 homers in the regular season in a short time, including 9 more homeruns in the postseason (led the league) and is expected to go above that in 2020 with 18 homers. You also have one of the most dominant pitchers in the league in the last four years in Dakota Jackson. He has gone under the radar with his quiet and cool style of play. He loves the game and he has a lot of fun playing it and brings experience to a sophomore majority team. He has posted 347K’s, 275.5 innings pitched, a 23-28 record, with 7 saves in the last three seasons. Definitely a CY Young candidate! While at the plate he’s had 24 homers in 122 games in that time. The combo of Howland and Jackson (HowJack) could minimally post 14 wins and 27 homers for the team in 2020.
It comes down contributions from Jack O’Riley and Jason Palatsky. Sure, another experienced player to slot in as a third starter for them would make them pack a serious punch. And they are actively looking for that arm. But you need to score runs in this league and that’s where these two come in. They will grow tremendously from 2019 and you can see them each having over 5 homeruns of power. Jason is the wildcard for pitching for the D-Backs. He showed he has stuff in 2019 even though it was very minimal. His capabilities were definitely held back from growing. But based on looks, pitching over offense for him looks to be his strong suit going into 2020 if he hones it in. Jack had clutch moments for the Pirates in 2019 but definitely needs to bring that and then some to the D-Backs in 2020. He will see way more pitchers and pitches in 2020 than he did in 2019 and with more at-bats and a spring training under his belt, he should step up this year. The team is projected to finish third over the Dodgers by one game! Although, with HowJack on the hill hitting their marks, they could hit the 20 win plateau easily.
The *returning champ Yankees got saved from an agreed divorce at the last possible second. It looks to be for the better, and it will bring the “core four” closer together. They are slotted to finish first in the league. Their keys are Ilyadis’ return from an elbow injury hidden late in the season in 2019, Zach Kean returning to strength on the hill and Murr’s consistency .
Kean is guaranteeing a return in the games played department which only makes him dangerous. He’s a veteran who flirts with .500 averages every single year and should have over 13 homeruns this season. With his projected 6 wins and a .470BA, it could be the starting support the Yankees need to take a title in 2020. He also wants to have a “return to power” season to close on that 200th career homerun.
Mike Ilyadis looks to bounce back on not winning the MVP in 2019 and what seemed like a slumping season for him. The ERA and walks were up on the pitching side, and the batting average and homers were down in the offensive department. Truth is, when Ilyadis is on, he is one of the best pitchers in the league and leads that Yankee team. It would be nice to see him return to 40+ homerun power, 12 wins, lower walks, and his MVP caliber power on three sides of the ball. This 20 year vet can do it all when his head is in it. There is reason for the almost 1900 homers, 600+ wins, and 12 rings.
Pat Lasch coming off of his best season in 2019 is slotted to do around the same as last year with 16 homers, 75RBI, a .427BA and the first base Gold Glove award. The Yankees couldn’t ask for much more out of him with an MVP type season with 22HR, 89RBI, and a .464BA. In 2020 the Yankees will look to him for a better average, and a few more innings on the hill which is where if he improves there, the Yankees have four arms to throw at anyone at anytime. He is definitely a majority of the glue for this team.
Then there’s Michael Murray. He holds the league’s best single-season ERA record in 2018 (0.38), has posted 10 wins the last two seasons, clubbed 10 homers in the last three years, and a hero of the 2018 WS title for the Yankees. The Yankees want that and more out of Murr in 2020. When he’s there, the Yankees are a different team. His attendance is spotty and it’s hard in this league and anywhere where you play 40, 50, and sometimes 60 games a year and a player is there only half the time. He is quoted saying “making a conscious effort of playing and showing up more.” Perhaps losing out on the 2019 CY Young award and never breaking more than 28 games played in a season has got to him. With the season ending sooner and him being available, he will definitely have the chance to pick up 10 wins, 100K’s, 20 homers, 75RBI, and a sub 1.86 ERA.
The team is also actively looking for an arm and are rumored to bring back John Marro has not played since the 2012 World Series. But we shall see how that pans out.
THE SOPHOMORE DODGERS! This is the most exciting team in the league. Yet, the law of averages, lack of extended data, and sabermetrics have not been kind to their team projections for 2020. Slotted to actually finish last behind the Diamondbacks! It just doesn’t seem to be them. If you go based off of their last 15-20 games in 2019, ROTY Ryan Huber wins 10 games this year, Donny (Dazzle) Chrysler wins 8, and Matt Askew picks up 6 (depending on starts) giving them 24 wins at the top of their rotation. Sprinkle in a couple of wins from either Joe Palatsky and Hunter Nauman (their only pitcher above .500 in 2019) and this team realistically wins 27 games in 2020 and they have the capability of winning 30! This would put them in second place on another projection chart.
Offensively, they need some improvement on the average side. Having a player or two with a .400 batting average in 2020 could boost them in the offense department. They have plenty of power, plenty of clutch formula to use, three studs in their rotation, and a good team chemistry. The beginning of 2019 was scripted perfectly. There were lots of growing pains as to be expected as is with any new team but it all turned around. They were 10-6 from July 30th till the end of the season. Ryan Huber was 3-0 in his final three games with a 0.33 ERA. Askew was 1-2 with a 0.65 ERA, and Donny was 3-0 without giving up a run with 35 K’s! With a season ending sooner (while maintaining a healthy dose of games at 45), they will likely have Joe for the whole year, Huber contributing at the plate and on the mound, and Dazzle dazzling on the hill. This leaves room for Askew and Hunter to be the sleeper cells that get the Dodgers in their first World Series after coming up a “a little roller” away from a date with the Yankees in 2019. They need to bounce back from that, grow, and move forward in 2020 to get to where they want to go.
With these numbers and figures, it is no doubt that this can be a special and one of the best seasons that we have ever had in 2020. There is a lot of excitement, milestones in sight, new rivalries, and a lot of returning players. More players will sprinkle in as the season progresses. With it, maybe another team that would add a new dynamic to the league with a wild card/play in game for the postseason between seeds 4 and 5. But until that happens, this is our season breakdown.......this includes +/- ratios in stats for all teams, comissioner picks, alternate projections, and best projections.
LCS 1: Yankees vs. Diamondbacks (Yanks win 3-1)
LCS 2: Dodgers vs. Pirates (Dodgers win 3-0)
WS: Dodgers vs. Yankees (Dodgers win 4-2)
For everything else Colonie Wiffleball, explore the rest of the site as we update it for the 2020 season. We have a ton of content on our Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube accounts, and stay tuned for more twists and turns before there is even a pitch in 2020! We cannot wait!