MLB 2021: What to Expect

While this season won’t be totally typical, expect it to feel familiar once more.


Ethan Maher, Staff Writer

Opening Day is on the books, but the Major League Baseball season still has a long way to go. Based on what we’ve seen on opening day and in spring training, here’s what I predict we can expect for the season moving forward.

Opening Day Summary

On April 1st, 26 MLB teams took the field and duked it out. The only 4 teams that did not play were the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles (due to rain), and the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets (due to coronavirus testing issues). Some notable results include the Seattle Mariners beating the NY Giants with a walk-off walk in the 10th (after a late-game comeback), the Houston Astros pummeling the Oakland Athletics 8-1, and Philadelphia’s own Phillies defeating the Atlanta Braves 3-2 in extra innings (go Phillies!).


How Fox Sports will use virtual fans created in Unreal Engine to fill empty stadiums in MLB broadcasts - The Verge

The big question for many is whether there will be spectators in the stadium or not due to the ongoing pandemic situation. The short answer to this question is yes—all games on Opening Day were in front of fans. However, attendance is limited at each ballpark at about 25% of max capacity for each stadium (though this varies among them). In fact, Fenway Park, the home of the Red Sox, was even acting as a COVID-19 vaccination center. This will likely stop soon, as the season pulls into swing and more fans begin attending. For the rest of the season, we can expect fans to be attending games, and will probably see an increase in attendance as more are vaccinated (except in Texas, where the Rangers allowed 100% attendance on Opening Day).

Rule Changes

Brewers announce 2021 regular season scheduleAs many of us remember from last year, the season was delayed and ended up being shortened to a 60-game season (compared to the normal 162-day season, that’s a big difference). In addition, the playoffs were expanded to include 6 extra teams. Both of these 2020 rule changes have been eliminated for the 2021 season, which is returning to normal in terms of length and playoff size. On the other hand, some coronavirus-induced rules will remain in place—for example, double headers will still only be seven-inning games, and teams may have an extra squad of five players in case of injuries or COVID-issues on their main roster.

Teams to Watch : Rico MLB Los Angeles Dodgers La Logo' Small Static Decal, One Size : Sports Fan Decals : Sports & OutdoorsOfficial San Diego Padres Website |

The Yankees, Blue Jays, and Astros are all projected to score loads of run per game — all of them >5.3 (according to Fangraphs). The Astros, as previously mentioned, are already living up to expectations and scored 8 or more runs in their first three games (in the first time that’s happened since 2014). But the favorite to win the most games in the regular season, and to possibly win the World Series, is the Dodgers. Unlike the Astros, however, they are off to a rough start and lost to the Rockies 8-5 in their Opening Day game. In my opinion, the top team to win it all this year will be the San Diego Padres, who beat the AZ Diamondbacks 8-7 on Opening Day. Their top players, like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, will be strong enough to push them to the World Series.