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10/27/2022

Heading into the 2022 World Series

Wow. What a year it has been. The 60 home run plateau was reached by an American Leaguer for the first time since 1961. Three rookies dazzled the MLB. We saw some players break out while others succumbed to injuries. And now we're left with the Philadelphia Phillies and Hosuton Astros squaring off in game number one of the World Series.

Nearly every team fell short of their ultimate goal. But the World Series showdown doesn’t define the entire story of the entire season. We’re looking to tell the big picture here. So, as the World Series gets ready to begin, we’re going to take a retrospective look at the 2022 season and look ahead to 2023. We hope you enjoy it!

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Major Events from the 2022 Regular Season

A Delayed Start To Opening Day

Due to the inability of Major League Baseball and the MLB Player's Association to come to a collective bargaining agreement by December 1st, 2021; a work stoppage (or lockout) ensued for MLB players. The lockout lasted all the way until March 10th, 2022 when the two parties finally came to an agreement. Due to the agreement not occurring till after the planned start of Spring Training, the regular season's Opening Day was delayed from March 31st till April 7th. It required some scrambling by MLB to ensure that an entire 162 game season was held in 2022, but Opening Day did occur and an entire regular season was played!

Three Rookies Dazzled

Each year, numerous rookies make their MLB debuts, but in 2022 we were lucky enough to have three specific players arrive in the MLB and establish themselves as stars that should be turning heads for many seasons to come...

Junior, the son of former MLB pitcher Bobby Witt Sr, certainly had the pedigree to become a star within professional baseball. And his 2022 season proved that his selection as Baseball America's 2021 Minor League Player of the Year was no fluke selection. After a slow start, Bobby's bat heated up and he finished the season with an even 20 long balls and 30 stolen bases to compliment his homer count. Kansas City fans would definitely love to see his short stop defense improve and for him to build a steadier eye at the plate, but nonetheless, we'll be hearing Big Time Bob's name for many seasons to come. Check out the video below to see Bobby's first Major League knock:

  • Julio Rodriguez - Seattle Mariners - Outfield

While Witt Jr definitely left himself some room for improvement, it is hard to say the same for Julio Rodriguez. After registering a 6.0 Baseball Reference WAR (i.e. he was rated to be 6 wins better than an average replacement player), you could argue that Rodriguez performed like a seasoned All Star. All in all, he knocked out 28 homers, slugged .509 and played above average defense all season. Fans noticed his dominance early on as Julio was selected to the American League All Star squad in 2022 and even received a couple of at bats in the Mid Summer Classic. It's fair to say that the future looks bright for Julio!

Jeremy has some similarities to Bobby Witt Jr as Pena is also the son of a former big leaguer, Geronimo Pena. As well, he had an offensive season that resembled Witt's quite closely. But Pena separated himself from Witt and Rodriguez by playing ELITE defense with his Rawlings glove at the most valuable defensive position on the diamond: Short Stop. As well, Jeremy is the only one of these rookies that will be participating in the World Series this fall. And he did his damage to ensure that the Astros would get there as he hit a game tying homer in Game 4 of the ALCS that tied up the ballgame against the Yankees. That homer kept Houston within striking distance and allowed the Astros to later capitalize on Yankee defensive miscues. Keep an eye out for number 3 of the Astros during the Fall Classic.

A Season Long Curtain Call for Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani, set MLB on fire in 2021 as he hit 46 home runs, knocked in 100 RBIs and ripped off 26 stolen bases. Oh yeah, he also had a 9-2 record on the mound, a 3.18 ERA, and a stellar 10.8 K/9. It all culminated as he was selected to be the 2021 AL MVP.

It seemed like we were probably going to be set up for relative disappointment regarding Ohtani's 2022 output. I mean who could repeat a season like that?

Well, many thought that the Great Ohtani was even better in 2022. And if some thought he took a step back at the plate, he took a major step forward as a pitcher as he lowered his ERA by almost an entire run, pitched 30+ more innings and averaged nearly 12 strikeouts for ever 9 innings pitched.

All eyes will be on Shohei when the Angels take the field for Opening Day in 2023!

7 New Faces in the Hall of Fame

On July 24th, the National Baseball Hall of Fame introduced seven new members. The men elected are below...

  • Bud Fowler, Executive
  • Gil Hodges, 1st Base
  • Jim Kaat, Pitcher
  • Minnie Minoso, Outfield
  • Buck O'Neil, Executive
  • Tony Oliva, Outfield
  • David Ortiz, Designated Hitter

The offensive accomplishments of every class are usually pretty obvious. We all know about David Ortiz's dramatics during Boston's 2004 World Series run that ended 8+ decade World Series drought for the Red Sox. And many fans know of Gil Hodges prowess with the bat that resulted in 360 career homeruns.

But many might know about the defensive acumen of pitcher, Jim Kaat. Kaat had a baseball career that spanned 25 seasons and he played nearly 13 of them with the Minnesota Twins. Jim was a defensive wizard on the mound as he earned 16 Gold Gloves during his career. It might be fair to say that paved the way for Greg Maddux to be known as a great defensive pitcher (as Greg eventually outearned Jim in Gold Gloves as he was awarded 18).

All Rise for Judge's 62 Homeruns

In the last 20+ years, baseball fans have become jaded when it comes to their relationship with home runs. The late 1990's and early 2000's brought tons of excitement as home run numbers swelled and long cherished records were broken. However, when it turned out that lots of those home run counts were boosted by performing enhancement drugs (PEDs), they were hurt and had a hard time celebrating home runs feats again. But with a stricter regimen in place for testing players for PEDs, it has become a little easier to cheer on a chase for history.

Before the 2022 season began, it had been since 1961 that an American League player had broken the 60 home run mark. And up to 2022, the only two players to do it were Yankees: Babe Ruth hit 60 in 1927 and Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961. Well, in 2022 another Yankee came along in form of Aaron Judge to challenge those numbers.

His April was nothing special regarding home runs, but a torrid 4 month stretch between May and August left him in striking distance of 60 home runs some September. He matched Ruth's 60 on September 20th and then a two week long frenzy began. He was under the watchful eye of New York and national media and even Roger Maris' family was following the team in hopes to see him tie and break their father's record. On September 28th he matched Maris' 61 with a bomb in Toronto and on the final day of the season, he hit number 62 in Texas. 

Aaron Judge Connects For Home Run Number 62

The American League Single Season Home Run Leaders:

  • Aaron Judge - 62 Home Runs - 2022
  • Roger Maris - 61 Home Runs - 1961
  • Babe Ruth - 60 Home Runs - 1927

That is some true Yankee dominance!

Pujols Eclipses Magical Number 700

Home run magic in the National League in 2022 was not just reserved for the American League. Albert Pujols, a Marucci man, joined back up with the Saint Louis Cardinals for one final season that would hopefully result in some magic. Most thought the magic would come in the form of a deep playoff run by the Cardinals in October.

Pujols season seemed to be an utter disappointment by mid season as his batting averaged dipped below .200 and he even considered the possibility of retirement at mid season. But something clicked for Pujols and he began an onslaught of pitchers. He hit 20 home runs after July 10th with the biggest one coming on September 23rd. On that night he actually hit two home runs. Number 699 came in the 3rd inning while historic 700 came one inning later in the 4th Inning.

His career total at the end of the season was 703 homers. And even though the Pujols couldn't will the Cardinals to a deep run in the playoffs, he still brought magic to St. Louis with his dramatic and inspired play during the 2nd half of the season.

New Faces Lead The Way On Defense

When discussing defense, it seems like the usual suspects always get brought up. Nolan Arenado has dominated the hot corner for the past decade. Andrelton Simmons put up some historic defensive seasons from 2013 to 2017.  And Carlos Correa has defended the short stop position with incredible consistency for his entire career.

But in 2022, three new players made statements in their quest to claim the crown as the best defender in all of baseball...

  • Ke'Bryan Hayes - Pittsburgh Pirates - Third Base

The son of former MLB journeyman, Charlie Hayes, Ke'Bryan has made it clear in parts of three MLB seasons that he and his Wilson glove is going to challenge Arenado for the title of "Best Third Baseman in Baseball". Just watch below as Hayes makes a play that you'll see run in baseball highlights for years to come...

In a season that left fans in the Mile High city wanting more, Brendan Rodgers was indeed a bright spot for the Rockies. Baseball Info Solutions rated Brendan as saving 22 defensive runs more than an average defensive player and he did it at one of the toughest fielder positions on the diamond: second base.

Typically, the more that a player strays from a single defensive position, the more their defensive production will suffer. However, Tommy Edman's 2022 season definitely broke the mold of the traditional defender. He split pretty evenly between Second Base and Short Stop (just over 600 innings at both positions) this season and was nails at both spots.  He can spell Arenado at Third Base if 'Nado needs a break and he can fill in for a handful of games in the Outfield too. The Cardinals are in great shape defensively as Tommy isn't set to become a Free Agent until 2026!

Postseason Storylines

Redemption For Harper

By signing with the Phillies prior to the 2019 season, he missed out on the Nationals' 2019 run through October that culminated in a World Series crown. In the 11 playoff games leading up to the start of the 2022 World Series; Harper has 18 hits, 11 of them have been for extra bases and 5 have been home runs. Bryce is certainly looking to will the Phillies through the World Series as well. A World Series ring would look really nice next to his Rookie of the Year Award and two MVPs.

Astros Back in Familiar Territory

Maybe even more impressive than Harper's tear through October is that the Houston Astros have once again found themselves playing the Fall Classic. This will be the fourth World Series in the last six seasons in which they've participated. They do it all: timely hitting, superb glove work from all positions and their pitching staff is first class. As well, they've been led the last three seasons by Dusty Baker. In 25 seasons of coaching baseball, Dusty has yet to win a World Series. Could 2022 be the year for Dusty?

Looking Ahead To 2023

A few interesting changes will be in store for MLB players and fans in 2023 when teams take the field on Opening Day. There will be three new rule features within the game...

  • Pitch Timers

To give games a faster pace of play, pitchers and batters will be on a timer. There will be a 30 second timer between batters. Between pitches there will be a 15 second timer when no one is on base and a 20 second timer when someone is on base. The timers have been used previously in Minor League Baseball and game times were improved greatly! Many will be hoping for the same within the MLB.

  • Defensive Shift Rules

Where there have essentially been no rules regarding how a team can shift their defensive players on the field, in 2023 there will be limits on how defenders can be placed throughout the field. Next Opening Day, teams must have 4 defenders on the infield dirt and two must be on either side of second base. MLB hopes that this will help spur more action on batted balls in play whether that be more base hits or more exciting displays of defensive athleticism from infielders.

  • Bigger Bases

Bases will now be 18 inches square as opposed to 15 inches square. This change should help to encourage more stolen base attempts and also keep runners and fielders further apart on close plays (i.e. think about a pitcher covering the first base bag when a grounder is hit to the first baseman).

Check out the video below from MLB that gives  an overview of the 3 new rules...

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Now you are locked and loaded for the 2022 Fall Classic to begin. Will Harper continue to mash? Is the Astros' Jeremy Pena the next huge star for the MLB? We may have an answer at the end of this Series.

And as always, if you ever have any questions while shopping for a new baseball glove or softball glove, be sure to reach out to us at JustGloves. We have a whole staff of Glove Experts standing by and ready to help. We hope you enjoy the rest of the 2021 MLB Playoffs.

We’re JustGloves, and we’re with you From Click to Catch!

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