We start with our preview of the 2020 MLB season. However abbreviated, and however shaky the runup, baseball is back! And it looks … pretty similar to how we thought it would look. Our model favors the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees in the American League (with Sara’s beloved Minnesota Twins close behind), and the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals lead the National League. While we’ve lost the luxury of a long season, in which a single game doesn’t matter quite so much, we are excited by how close the race for the playoffs might be all the way to the end. At least on paper, the Dodgers are the favorites, with a 20 percent chance to win the World Series, and we’re all excited to see what kind of a difference Mookie Betts will make for them. But the potential for something wild to happen is also high, and it would only take a string of eight or nine wins to boost a team that looks bad now into playoff contention. Everyone remains skeptical of the Mets’ chances, though, so at least we still have some constants.
Next, we welcome FiveThirtyEight contributor Bria Felicien to take us through the highs and lows of the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup. The quarterfinals of the tournament saw a number of upsets, including the absolutely loaded North Carolina Courage being denied by the Portland Thorns and their stacked bench of incredible goalies. In fact, the goalkeepers have really been the stars of the tournament, with keepers like Kailen Sheridan, Jane Campbell and Britt Eckerstrom keeping pace with the USWNT’s starter, Alyssa Naeher. Now that the Courage have been eliminated, Bria is just rooting for some goals and some drama. But the success of the Challenge Cup — not to mention the just-announced addition of a Los Angeles-based team — pretty much ensures that the league will serve up more of both.
Finally, FiveThirtyEight senior visual journalist Anna Wiederkehr joins to explore the wild world of Fastest Known Time trail running — which is exactly what it sounds like. Big city races are off the cards for 2020, which helps explain the explosion in runners trying to clock the fastest known time traversing everything from the Appalachian Trail to the road through Central Park. There’s a staggering amount of logistics and planning — and potentially water purification — involved in trying to record an FKT, but it’s proved to be a great way for endurance athletes to stay fit during the pandemic.
What we’re looking at this week: