It is once again time for me to take my annual wild ass guess at what to expect for this 2023 season in Major League Baseball. You long time readers know my record at picking the winners is about the same percentage as your pet goldfish so please do not take any of these picks to your local betting establishment.
2023 will be another season of changes as MLB tries to get any fan under the age of fifty to watch the game. They have decided that it is better to ruin a perfectly fine game in order to get the loyalty of a group that has the attention span of a celery stalk. For the real fans they have once again given us the middle finger and said we don't care about you. In spite of the Herculean efforts of Commissioner Rob Manfred to destroy a perfect sport, the game continues to be exciting and engaging.
A few rule changes to be aware of for this season.
Pitch Clock: The only big sport remaining that didn't have a clock now has one. Teams will be given 2:15 seconds between innings to get ready to play. Visits to the mound will be :30 from the time anyone starts walking out. Pitchers and batters will have :15 seconds between pitches with nobody on base, :20 with runners on base. The batter must be in the box and ready to hit with :08 left. Violations by the pitchers will cost them a ball or balk depending on the situation. Violations by the batter will be an automatic strike. Mound visit violations will result in a ball.
Shifts: Infielders will no longer be allowed to shift beyond their side of the infield. So no longer will the first, second, and third baseman, or shortstop, be allowed to cover the right side of the field. Same if they want to shift to cover the left side, only two players on each side of second base. Also, teams cannot switch their shortstop and second baseman on a batter to get a better fielder to cover his pull side. Teams can move an outfielder into the short field position but that opens up an entire field for he batter. Confused yet? It gets better.
Bases: The bases have been enlarged by about 30%. Baseball feels that this will increase steals and result in fewer injuries with close plays at bases. This will not be the reason for either but whatever.
Pickoffs: Pitchers will be allowed to throw over to a base in an effort to pick off a runner twice. If they decide to do it a third time and they don't pick the runner off he is given the next base. This is what will result in more steals. When you know he can't throw over again it allows you to take a huge lead and steal the base easily.
Timeouts: Pitchers can disengage from the rubber once and batters can call one timeout. If they do it a second time it results in either a ball for the pitcher and a strike for the batter.
Those are the main rule changes to be aware of. Rule changes instituted last year still stand.
Onto the game itself. There will be some new teams in the post season this year as the baseball landscape is changing. Some teams that were expected to be favorites to win have suffered some key injuries and will struggle this season. I'm talking to you Houston, who has lost Jose Altuve for at least two months. And you New York Mets who lost their closer Edwin Diaz until after the All-Star break.
There will of course be more injuries as the season rolls along that will change the dynamics of the season but based on what I know today, here are my predictions.
DIVISION AMERICAN NATIONAL
East Toronto Philadelphia
*New York Yankees *Atlanta
Baltimore New York Mets
Tampa Bay Miami
Central Chicago White Sox St. louis
Detroit Chicago Cubs
Kansas City Cincinnati
West Seattle San Diego
*Los Angeles Angels *Los Angeles Dodgers
Texas San Francisco
(* = Wild Card)
Wild Card NYY def. LAA LAD def. ATL
SEA def. CLE PHI def. MIL
LDS TOR def. NYY SD def. PHI
CWS def. SEA STL def. LAD
LCS TOR def. CWS SD def. STL
World Series SD def. TOR (4-2)
Now for my really wild ass selections. Individual awards.
Cy Young: Luis Castillo of Seattle in the AL and Zach Wheeler of Philadelphia in the NL.
MVP: Shohei Ohtani of the Angels in the AL and Nolan Arenado of the Cardinals in the NL.
Rookie of the Year: It will be a two person battle in both leagues. Gunnar Henderson of Baltimore and Anthony Volpe of the Yankees in the AL will do battle while Corbin Carroll of Arizona and Jordan Walker of St. Louis in the NL fight it out.
HR Leader: Aaron Judge of the Yankees wins the AL crown and Austin Riley of Atlanta wins the NL title.
RBI Leaders: Vlad Guerrero of Toronto in the AL and Pet Alonso of the Mets in the NL.
Batting Title: Tim Anderson of the White Sox has a comeback year in the AL while Ronald Acuna has a comeback year in the NL.
Stolen Bases: Cedric Mullins of Baltimore in the AL and Trea Turner of Philadelphia in the NL both win big.
Managers: John Schneider of Toronto in the AL and Bob Melvin of San Diego in the NL are the very deserving winners this year.
Well there you have my picks. If you're a fan like me you cannot wait for the season to start tomorrow. It should be a fun ride.