Overreactions from the First Two Weeks of the 2023 Season
Randy Arrozorena playing for the Rays
As Major League Baseball rolls into its third weekend of 2023, naturally overreactions and hot takes fill social media feeds and talk shows. So today we’re taking a look at some of those reactions and early trends and attempting to render verdicts.
Reaction: MLB’s new rules are working
Verdict: Not an Overreaction
Prior to this season, Major League Baseball implemented a sweeping set of rule changes designed to increase action, quicken the pace of play, and cut down on overall game lengths. So far, the results have been strikingly positive. First, the league chose to heavily restrict the defense’s ability to shift batters by requiring at least two infielders to be on each side of second base at the time of pitch. Second, MLB altered the bases to be 3 square inches larger than before in an effort to increase the success rate of stolen base attempts and to allow more room on bases for player safety. Finally, and perhaps most notably, the pitch clock went into effect this season. Now, there is a 30-second timer between batters, a 15-second timer between pitches when all bases are unoccupied, and a 20-second timer between pitches when bases are occupied. Pitchers are to be charged with a ball if a pitch is not delivered before the expiration of the timer, and batters are to be charged with a strike if they are not attentive and ready to hit by the 8-second mark of each timer.
How have these changes worked? League-wide batting average is up 16 points, stolen bases are up 30%, and the average game time is down by 31 minutes. Altogether, these numbers point towards these rule changes serving their ultimate purpose and likely indicate that the 2023 rule changes are here to stay.
Reaction: The Tampa Bay Rays are the best team in baseball
Tampa Bay remains undefeated at 11-0 and sits atop the American League East. The Rays lead the league with 83 runs scored, 14 more than the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers while having surrendered only 19 earned runs, the least in the league. Perhaps even more remarkably, the Rays have really only played one close game, which was Monday’s 1-0 win over Boston.
Obviously, the Rays will eventually lose, however, there is nothing fluky about their start to the 2023 season. Admittedly, the Rays have not played the strongest competition, having swept Detroit, Washington, Oakland, and Boston, however, they have handled those teams the way a good team is supposed to. However, Sportsbooks seem to be fading the early steam around Tampa Bay as DraftKings currently lists the Rays as only a slight favorite to win the American League East, the third choice to win the American League Pennant, and the seventh choice to win the World Series.
Reaction: The St. Louis Cardinals are in trouble
In contrast to Tampa Bay, the Cardinals have stumbled out of the gate in 2023 and find themselves in fourth place in the National League Central, looking up at even the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds. Despite the slow start, it is not time to write the Cardinals off just yet.
First, the Cardinals managed to catch the World Series favorite Atlanta Braves and division-leading Milwaukee in the first 10 games of the season, dropping 5 of 6 to those two teams. While their record might not show it, Cardinals hitters have been perfectly respectable thus far posting the league’s fourth-highest batting average, second-highest on base percentage, and fourth-fewest strikeouts. Cardinals pitchers, on the other hand, have struggled a bit thus far, pitching to the league’s 19th-lowest ERA.
Sportsbooks are yet to overreact to the Cardinals' slow start as DraftKings still lists St. Louis as the second choice to win the National League Central, slightly behind Milwaukee.
Reaction: The San Diego Padres burnt a lot of money this offseason
Verdict: Overreaction…for now
The San Diego Padres entered the 2023 season in win-now mode with owner Peter Seidler’s commitment to punching above their market weight. At last year’s trade deadline, the club made a huge splash in acquiring outfielder Juan Soto from Washington prior to inking him to a massive new contract. This offseason, the club brought in Xander Bogaerts on a huge new deal and expanded its payroll to nearly $250 million, the third highest in the league.
Early returns have not been positive for the Padres as the club sits a game above .500 and has posted decidedly average team batting and pitching statistics. All hope is not lost for San Diego as all-world shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. will rejoin the club in the coming weeks along with starting pitcher Joe Musgrove. The return of these two players and their potential reversion to form by others is reason enough to keep the faith with the Padres for the time being.