2023 MLB season preview
⚙️ The set-up
Buckle up, because the MLB season is a lengthy one: The league’s 30 teams each play 162 regular-season games, beginning this afternoon and running through early October. The squads are evenly divided into two leagues — the American League (AL) and National League (NL) — which are further split into three divisions each: East, Central and West.
- Divisional matchups are crucial, but there won’t be as many of them this year. While Interleague games (AL vs. NL) were rare in years prior, a scheduling change will see each squad now play one series per season against every team in the other league.
As for the playoffs, last year marked the first time 12 teams competed in the postseason (up from 10 in prior years), with three divisional winners and three Wild Card teams from each league playing October baseball. The more the merrier.
⏳ The changes
Somebody call David Bowiebecause this offseason was all about changes. Starting with the rules, baseball games are about to be a whole lot faster, as MLB implemented a pitch clock for the 2023 season.
- Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw a pitch (20 seconds when runners are on base), while batters must be ready to hit at least eight seconds before the pitch clock expires. A pitcher violation results in a ball while a hitter violation results in a strike.
- Players have been
manipulatingadjusting to the new rules during Spring Training, and the games have certainly become shorter: through one week of exhibition games, the average length was down by 29 minutes compared to the 2021 regular season average.
And the pitch clock isn’t the only new rule. Other major changes, which were introduced to increase scoring and safety, include banning the defensive shift (aka how players lineup on the field) and the implementation of larger (pizza box-sized) bases. Delicious.
As for personnel changes, quite a few elite players traded jerseys this offseason. The most notable names include longtime Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander, who joined the spend-happy NY Mets; former Met Jacob deGrom, who’s now hurling for the Texas Rangers; and, ex-Boston Red Sox star shortstop Xander Bogaerts who stunningly signed with the San Diego Padres. New teams, who dis?
⭐ The superstars
Shohei Ohtani, pitcher and designated hitter (DH), LA Angels: The face of baseball, a unicorn, World Baseball Classic champion — he has many descriptors, but words fail to truly do Ohtani’s game justice. The two-way player is always must-see TV, and especially so in what could be his last season with the Angels before he hits free agency. Sho time.
Aaron Judge, outfielder, NY Yankees: All rise! Judge captivated the sports world during last year’s history-making chase for the single-season AL home run record, earning himself a shiny new contract with the Bronx Bombers in the process. Expect plenty more big slams in the Big Apple this season.
Mike Trout, outfielder, LA Angels: That’s right, the Angels boast two of the best players in the league. Unfortunately, three-time AL MVP and weather enthusiast Trout has struggled with injuries the last few years, but if he can stay healthy, he’ll certainly reel in more accolades.
👶 The young guns
Juan Soto, outfielder, San Diego Padres: If you’re drawing comparisons to Red Sox legend Ted Williams (aka “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”), you must be doing something right. Twenty-four-year-old Soto made the biggest midseason move last year, heading to Slam Diego to join the Padres.
Julio Rodríguez, outfielder, Seattle Mariners: The 2022 AL Rookie of the Year, 22-year-old J-Rod already helped the Ms snap their long-standing postseason drought last season, earning himself a massive contract extension to stick around the Emerald City through 2034. With plays like this? Worth every penny.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., first baseman, Toronto Blue Jays: After an MVP–worthy 2021 season, Vladdy had a slight dip in offensive production last year, but he made up for it with his glove, nabbing his first career Gold Glove Award. If he can put both skills together this time around? Watch out.
Fernando Tatís Jr., outfielder, San Diego Padres: One of the game’s brightest young stars, Tatís missed the entire 2022 season due to a fractured wrist and a subsequent 80-game suspension for using performance enhancing drugs.
- That punishment will last until the end of April, and he’s prepared to embrace the anticipated boos upon his return.
💪 Power pitchers
Sandy Alcántara, Miami Marlins: The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, Alcántara flies under the radar as the centerpiece of an ailing Marlins squad. But don’t let the lack of coverage lull you to sleep, the Sandman and last year’s 2.28 ERA are the stuff of nightmares for opposing hitters.
Justin Verlander, NY Mets: Age is but a number for Kate Upton’s hubby. The 40-year-old hurled his way to a third Cy Young Award last season, earning him a splashy contract with the Kings of Queens and reuniting him with former teammate and fellow flamethrower, Max Scherzer. It’s almost unfair.
Jacob deGrom, Texas Rangers: The longtime Met do-si-doed over to the Rangers in the offseason with the goal of competing for a World Series, but much of that opportunity will hinge on his health. deGrom’s impressive career has been littered with injuries, but when he’s available, he’s lights out, so cross your fingers the injury bugs stays away.
👀 Teams to watch
American League: Where else to start than with the defending champs? Even with injured shortstop José Altuve sidelined to begin the season, the Astros will likely blast to the top of the AL West, but could face a challenge from the upstart Mariners.
- Over in the Central, the Cleveland Guardians, fresh off last year’s surprising run to the AL Divisional round, are the overwhelming favorites to run it back again.
- And last but not least, the AL East just might be the most competitive division in baseball. The Yankees will be disappointed with anything but a banner, but the Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays are squarely in the mix.
National League: California knows how to party…and play baseball. As has been the case for the last couple of decades, the LA Dodgers are expected to top the NL West, but the newly reloaded Padres should keep things interesting.
- Similar to the AL, the NL Central is lacking in a major power. The St. Louis Cardinals will have to contend with some transition after slugger Albert Pujols’ retirement, leaving the door open for the Milwaukee Brewers to return to glory.
- Finally, the NL East is a true beast with three 2022 postseason squads — the reigning NL champion Philadelphia Phillies, Mets and Atlanta Braves — poised to contend once again. Sheesh.
📺 Tune in
The season opens with two games today at 1:05 p.m. ET —the San Francisco Giants vs. NY Yankees and Atlanta Braves vs. Washington Nationals — followed by 13 additional Opening Day contests. And then we get to enjoy daily baseball until July’s All-Star break. Stock up on peanuts and cracker jacks — it’s time to play ball!