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Weird stat watch: All the firsts that only 2020 MLB rules could provide

Mark Townsend
·Yahoo Sports Contributor
·6-min read

The 2020 Major League Baseball season will always be remembered for its unique circumstances.

It will also be remembered for its statistical oddities.

With less than one week in MLB’s 60-game season remaining, we’ve been provided with a smorgasbord of weird stats and stat chases that would not be possible in a normal season. Throughout the month of September, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of these more interesting, unexpected and unusual stats that are in the process of defining MLB in 2020.

Here are some stats and odd happenings that stick out this week, and others we’ve been closely monitoring.

Working overtime

Miami Marlins outfielder Starling Marte has been MLB’s busiest player this season. If Marte plays in each of Miami’s final six games this week, then he will have appeared in 62 games ... in a 60-game season.

That unusual feat became possible when Marte was traded to Miami by the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 31. Marte appeared in 33 of Arizona’s 35 games before the deadline. Because the Marlins had eight early-season games rescheduled after a team-wide COVID-19 outbreak, they will play 30 total games in September. So far, Marte has played in 22 of 23.

Since MLB expanded to a 162-game schedule in 1961, only six players have played in at least two games more than the regulated schedule. The last was Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Frank Taveras, who played in 164 games in 1979.

Dodgers legend Maury Wills played in 165 games for the Dodgers in 1962 because of multiple tiebreaker games. That’s the most games one player has played in one season. Wills was voted NL MVP.

Extra-inning madness

Speaking of overtime, because of this season’s unusual circumstances MLB has overhauled its extra-inning format. In 2020, every extra inning has started with a runner on second base in order to increase the odds of runs being scored, thus limiting games from going too long. As a result, countless firsts that had never been possible before have now been achieved.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Edwin Rios watches his two-run home run against the Houston Astros during the 13th inning of a baseball game Wednesday, July 29, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Los Angeles Dodgers' Edwin Rios watches his leadoff two-run homer sail out to beat the Astros in the 13th inning in July. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Here’s a look at some of the weirdest.

Leadoff two-run homer: The Dodgers and Astros are bonded by history again. On July 30, Dodgers' rookie Edwin Rios hit the first leadoff two-run homer against the Astros in the 13th inning. Los Angeles won the game, 4-2.

Leadoff sacrifice fly: The Dodgers make history a lot because they win a lot. On Aug. 15, “ghost runner” Chris Taylor started the 10th inning with a stolen base. That allowed Max Muncy to drive him home with the winning run by merely hitting a fly ball. Angels’ pitcher Keynan Middleton took the loss despite retiring the only batter he faced.

Two-batter, three-out inning: On Aug. 1, the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Rays sent two batters to the plate in the 11th inning and made three outs. Mike Zunino struck out and Manuel Margot lined into a double play against Orioles right-hander Travis Lakins, who also won the game on Pat Valaika’s walk-off single.

Eighth-inning walk off: More weirdness came when MLB and the MLBPA agreed to make all doubleheader games in 2020 seven innings long. For example, on Aug. 30, the Yankees walked off the Mets in the eighth inning of a seven-inning game. Entering the seventh inning, the Yankees had a 0.2 percent chance of winning before plating five runs to force the extra frame. This came two days after the Mets, who were playing as the home team at Yankee Stadium, walked the Yankees off their own field.

(In)complete games

Prior to the season, the Yahoo Sports MLB crew pondered what a compact season with limited preparation time would mean for starting pitchers. More specifically, we tried to predict how many total complete games we thought would realistically be thrown under the highly unpredictable circumstances.

Our guesses ranged from 0 to 20 complete games.

As of today, the answer is 26.

Once again, we clearly underestimated how unique baseball would be in 2020.

We made our guesses with nine-inning games in mind. Then 2020 threw some more curveballs that necessitated seven-inning doubleheaders. Once that happened, it moved the goalposts and redefined what “going the distance” would mean.

This season, throwing a complete game comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. In fact, of the 26 complete games previously noted, only 13 have been true nine-inning outings. Another 11 have been six or seven-inning complete games as part of doubleheaders. The other two came on opening night when Max Scherzer (six innings) and Gerrit Cole (five innings) were credited with complete games in a rain-shortened game.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s 13 complete games and 13 incomplete complete games. This race might go down to the wire.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - SEPTEMBER 11: Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Indians delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the game at Target Field on September 11, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Indians 3-1. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
At this point, the question is which type of history Cleveland ace Shane Bieber will make with his final numbers. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Shane Bieber Update

He’s still pitching great and still chasing history. It’s just a different piece of history.

Previously, we were watching to see if Bieber could challenge Bob Gibson’s 1.12 ERA in 1968, which remains the modern era standard. After allowing three earned runs over 7 2/3 innings in Thursday’s victorious start against the Detroit Tigers, Bieber’s ERA sits at 1.74.

That ERA chase isn’t happening, but now we’re on strikeout watch after Bieber fanned 10 in his last outing.

Bieber is Cleveland’s scheduled starter Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox. If the Indians are facing a must-win situation, he could also start Sunday’s season finale against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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