MLB Over/Unders we'll be watching for in '20

With a 60-game season, a DH in both leagues and an automatic runner in extra innings, the 2020 season will be unlike any we have seen before. And that’s OK.

So when it comes to the baseball season, it means we’ll have to do a little different math in our heads as we check the leaderboards — no player will crack 30 homers and no pitcher will throw 200 innings. Instead, we’ll be watching to see if someone can hit .400. Or perhaps a speedster will steal 20 or — gasp — 30 bases this season as teams know every win and therefore every run means more than ever before.

We got out our trusty calculator and looked at a statistical benchmark we’re going to be watching on every team. Some will be serious, others much less so, and still others will be things we’re just crossing our fingers and hoping to see.


Blue Jays: 10 HRs for Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Originally we were going to ask if Guerrero would play 10 games at third base, but the Blue Jays announced that he will play first and DH this season. So, like usual, we’ll look to his power.

The most-hyped arrival since Bryce Harper, Vlad Jr. bashed 15 home runs in a solid but not spectacular rookie season. But that just means he can take the next step to become one of the game’s premier sluggers this year.

Orioles: .200 batting average for Chris Davis

Last season started with Davis in the midst of one of the worst slumps in the sport’s history. Fans from opposing teams found themselves hoping he would sneak a ball through the infield because no one wanted to see one of the game’s best sluggers from 2012-16 look so lost at the plate.

After he ended his 0-fer with three hits on April 13, Davis spent the next month looking like his old self, leading some to think he would be the O’s All-Star representative. Unfortunately, Davis slumped again and finished the season with a .179 average and 12 home runs. But then he put on a show in an abbreviated Spring Training by batting .467 with three home runs in nine games. Can he top the Mendoza Line this year?

Rays: 13 times using the opener

Last season, the Rays led baseball by using the opener 35 times (down from 39 in ’18). With their primary opener Ryne Stanek (27 starts) now a Marlin, and with a shortened schedule, will the Rays pick up the pace? Or will they (gasp) play like a traditional team?

Red Sox: 4.00 ERA for Nathan Eovaldi

Eovaldi will never need to pay for a meal in New England after his legend-making relief appearance in the World Series. Unfortunately, last season was not the year Red Sox Nation dreamed of, as Eovaldi moved into the rotation and posted a 5.99 ERA.

With Chris Sale out for the season after Tommy John surgery, a lot of the Red Sox’s postseason hopes will rest on Eovaldi’s fastball.

Yankees: 30 combined HRs from Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton

There is not a more intimidating duo in the game than Judge and Stanton in the lineup together. Unfortunately, the two haven’t played together much the past two seasons. With both hopeful for Opening Day, could they put together the hardest-hitting one-two punch in baseball?


Indians: .900 OPS for José Ramírez

In 2017, and most of 2018, Ramírez was among the best hitters on the planet. Then, like in a horror film, something happened. He posted just a .637 OPS the last month of the ’18 season and had just a .652 mark at the All-Star break last year. But from there, as if Dr. Frankenstein’s electric switch were flipped, he was back. His 1.105 OPS in the second half would have been the third best in baseball with enough plate appearances in that time.

Royals: 20 SB for Adalberto Mondesi

Last year, Mondesi stole 43 bags (and hit 10 triples!) despite only getting on base at a .291 clip. That helped the Royals steal 117 bags, good for second best in the Majors. With a shorter season making every run worth a little more, will he get the green light even more often?

Tigers: 5 HRs for Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera is just 23 home runs away from 500, but age and knee injuries may be showing their effects. Last year, Cabrera remained a productive hitter thanks to his impressive batting eye and ability to make consistent contact, but he only hit 12 home runs.

He was recently spotted taking ground balls at shortstop, which has to be a good omen, right?

Twins: 100 HRs as a team

Last year, the Twins didn’t just break the single-season record for homers by a team, they demolished it. And then the Bomba Squad went and added Josh Donaldson to the group.

If they kept up last year’s pace, they’d hit around 113 dingers in a 60-game season, so 100 should be easy — right?

White Sox: 10 earth-shaking bat tosses from Tim Anderson

Last year, Anderson turned in a career year as he hit .335 to win the AL batting crown. Though there’s reason to worry that it’s unsustainable beca — I’m just kidding. For as good as Anderson is when it comes to what is measured on the field, he’s even better when it comes to bat flips.

There are your garden variety bat flips and then there’s what Anderson does. He’s even bat tossing during scrimmages against his own team, so we can’t wait to see what he does against the opposition.


Angels: .400 batting average for Trout

There is seemingly nothing Trout can’t do. Every time you watch him in the Angels’ lineup, you know you’re witnessing history. Though he hit only .291 last season — the lowest of his career in a full season — he led the American League in OBP for the fourth straight season.

If anyone could hit .400 in a 60-game stretch, would you really bet against Trout?

Astros: 111 strikeouts for Justin Verlander

Last year, Verlander struck out precisely 300 batters — the first time in his career he reached that mark — as he and Gerrit Cole combined to be the first teammates to each K 300 batters since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling on the 2002 D-backs. Though it will be physically impossible for Verlander to reach the mark again, if he strikes out 111 batters, he would be on pace to pull it off in a full season.

A’s: .247 batting average for Khris Davis

In an affront to scholars and the way random numbers work (and perhaps in an ode to the opening scene from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”), Davis hit .247 every year from 2015 through ’18. Though he hit just .220 last year, he was hitting .247 after playing 65 games. Can he pull it off in a 60-game season?

Mariners: 8 home runs for Kyle Seager

The shortened season will likely end the criminally underrated Seager’s streak of eight straight seasons with at least 20 home runs. He would need to hit eight in a 60-game season to be on pace for 20, so let’s all agree that if he hits eight or more, his streak remains intact, capisce?

Rangers: 3 bunt hits for Joey Gallo

Were you expecting something to do with his prodigious power? With teams employing extreme shifts against Gallo — at times utilizing a four-man outfield — Gallo bunted for three hits last season. Since he played in just 70 games last year it’s an almost perfect comparison.


Braves: 5 jaw-dropping moments (of wonder or exasperation) for Yasiel Puig

Unfortunately, baseball cards don’t keep track of how often Puig has either blasted home runs in crucial situations or found himself in the center of meme-worthy brawls. He is Newton’s Third Law: For every laser-beam throw to nail a runner on the basepaths, there’s a moment where he forgets to run them.

We’ll set the line at five of these moments — both good and bad — and look forward to the Braves being one of the most exciting teams with Puig, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. in the lineup.

Marlins: An 11-HR, 15-SB season for Jonathan Villar

Last year with the Orioles, Villar came six home runs shy of a 30/40 season — something that has only been accomplished 19 times in big league history with Mike Trout being the last to pull it off in 2012.

Always a streaky hitter — following his breakout 2016 season, Villar was a below-average hitter the next two years before last season — will he be able to get on the 30/40 pace in a shortened season?

Mets: 10 wins for Jacob deGrom

OK, sure, this probably can’t happen since deGrom would make only 12 starts if he appeared once every five games (and it’s not guaranteed he’ll be ready to start Opening Day), but the best pitcher in the National League is due for some better luck. After winning just 10 games in 2018 and 11 last year — both Cy Young Award-winning seasons — it’s only fair that deGrom will reach double-digit victories in a shortened season.

Nationals: 1.000 OPS for Juan Soto

Only 21 years old, Soto has already become a superstar — and a World Series-winning one at that. Soto topped a .900 OPS in his two big league seasons before he could ever order a beer with his dinner. This could be the season where he breaks the decimal point.

Phillies: 15 HRs for Bryce Harper

Since hitting 42 HRs in his MVP Award-winning season in 2015, Harper hasn’t reached the 40-homer club since. Though he came close the past two years, hitting 34 and 35 respectively, can he get on pace to do it in 2020?


Brewers: 2 HR robberies by Lorenzo Cain

Last year, Cain robbed five home runs. Now, this isn’t really much of a repeatable skill, as it depends both on his speed and leaping ability, and the opponents hitting wall-scraping home runs in his general direction. So, opposing batters, do us a favor and let Cain go full Spider-Man again.

Cardinals: 6 HRs for Tyler O’Neill

O’Neill just may have the biggest muscles in the Majors — and that’s saying something. With Marcell Ozuna now on the Braves, O’Neill is set to be the Cardinals’ starting left fielder. The outfielder hit five home runs in exactly 60 games last season — making this an easy benchmark.

Cubs: 3.00 ERA for Craig Kimbrel

Nothing went right for Kimbrel last year. Coming off a World Series title with the Red Sox, the closer joined the Cubs late and didn’t make his debut until June 27. He posted a 6.53 ERA — only the second time in his career that he had an ERA above 3.00 — and he blew three saves in 16 chances for the lowest conversion rate of his career. It would seem a bounceback is in order for MLB’s active career saves leader.

Pirates: 15 HRs for Josh Bell

The Pirates haven’t had a hitter hit 40 homers in a season since Willie Stargell cracked 44 in 1973. That’s right — even the homer-crazy ’90s and the launch angle revolution hasn’t helped the Pirates top the mark.

Josh Bell came close last year as he crushed 37 dingers, but it was a tale of two halves. The first baseman hit 27 in the first half and just 10 in the second. Which version will show up in 2020?

Reds: 1 infield popup for Joey Votto

There may be no hitter with a better batting eye and more thoughtful approach at the plate than Votto. That’s partially why he so rarely hits a popup on the infield. Last season was the first time Votto had ever popped up to the first baseman.


D-backs: 1 plate appearance for Madison Bumgarner

With the DH in both leagues this season, Bumgarner is far less likely to pick up a bat — and he doesn’t seem thrilled. Considering the Giants once used him in place of the DH, and his final appearance with the Giants was as a pinch-hitter, the D-backs might decide it’s in their best interests to get him to the dish at least once.

Dodgers: 15 games at three different positions for Max Muncy

No team treats fielding positions as mere suggestions more than the Dodgers, and the power-hitting Muncy is one of their greatest tools. While less-loaded teams would happily install Muncy at first, the Dodgers had the infielder split his time at first, third and second last year. Will they keep doing that in 2020?

Giants: 1 pitching appearance for Pablo Sandoval

“Let Pablo pitch!” is the resounding cry heard on every street in San Francisco. (Fine, that’s a small exaggeration.) Still, when the Kung Fu Panda takes the mound — as he has each of the past two seasons — nothing makes Giants fans quite so happy.

He’s been seen warming up on the bump during Summer Camp, so perhaps he’s already in the team’s bullpen plans?

Padres: 15 HRs … or 15 errors for Fernando Tatis Jr.

Tatis Jr. was everything we hoped he could be and more at the plate in 2019, smashing 22 home runs in only 84 games.

Unfortunately … his defense needed a little work. Tatis committed 18 errors and was on pace to easily lead the league had he played a full season. While many of the errors came because he was trying to turn certain hits into outs, it’s something the Padres will be hoping he works out this season.

Rockies: 5.00 team ERA

In 2018, the Rockies seemed to have finally figured out that whole pitching in Coors Field thing as a rotation of homegrown starters helped lead the team to a 4.33 ERA — the fourth lowest in team history.

Things fell apart last year as Kyle Freeland went from receiving Cy Young Award votes to posting an ERA over 6.00, and reliever Wade Davis allowed nearly a run per inning. The team’s 5.56 ERA was the third worst in franchise history.

Will 2020 prove last season was a mirage, or will Coors Field remain a pitcher’s nightmare?

Michael Clair writes for He spends a lot of time thinking about walk-up music and believes stirrup socks are an integral part of every formal outfit.