What to Look for in the 2021 MLB Season
After a coronavirus pandemic-shortened 2020 major league baseball season, MLB is back with a full 162-game schedule in 2021. Roughly 15 games into the new season, we see that there are fans in stadiums across the country. The virus is still having an effect on the game, and there are a few surprises early in the season.
COVID-19 & Baseball
The coronavirus has postponed a few games including the season-opening series between the Mets and Nationals. Players continue to abide by league and state mandated protocol. Stadiums around MLB are allowing fans based on state guidelines. The Texas Rangers, for example, are allowing 100 percent capacity though fans are required to wear masks. At Yankee Stadium, 20 percent capacity is allowed for the at least the first 20 home games.
A handful of rules changes will affect the game in 2021. The universal DH, which was used last season, is out. National League pitchers will hit in NL ballparks. Interleague games will continue to use the DH in AL ballparks.
Two rules that were implemented in 2020 will continue this season. Doubleheaders will continue to be seven-inning games and the Extra-Innings rule will remain in play. At the beginning of an each extra half-inning, a runner will be placed on second base to start play.
Rosters will remain at 26 players and rise to 28 in September. There will be no limit on the number of pitchers on the roster. Teams will also be permitted a taxi squad of up to five players to take on all road trips. This will give teams reinforcements should a team be affected by the virus.
There is no question as to the favorite to win the 2021 World Series – the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 2020 champion is favored to repeat and the Dodgers are off to a great start in 2021. The Dodgers added Trevor Bauer to what was already the league’s best pitching rotation. L.A. started the new season 13-2 in their first 15 games.
The Dodgers division rival San Diego added some quality pitching in the offseason – Yu Darvish and Blake Snell – and will contend with the Dodgers in the NL West. Other NL teams to watch include the Mets, Reds, and Cardinals. Surprisingly, the Mets lead the NL East while three-time defending division champion Atlanta is currently last.
In the AL, it’s the New York Yankees that are favored to face the Dodgers in the World Series. Midway through April, the Yankees are last in the AL East while rival Boston is first at 10-4. The Los Angeles Angels have two-way player Shohei Ohtani back along with the best player in baseball, Mike Trout. The Angels are expected to be a playoff team in 2021.