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10/25/2023

Heading into the 2023 World Series

It's been a year! Groundbreaking rules were ushered in with some success (and some frustration). We said goodbye to a legend who spent over 20 seasons at baseball's highest level. And the game's brightest star suffered a huge injury right as he was preparing diving into free agency this offseason.

Now we're left with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers squaring off in the Fall Classic.

Nearly every team fell short of their ultimate goal. But the World Series showdown doesn’t define the entire story of a 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 2023 season and look ahead to 2024. We hope you enjoy it!

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Major Events from the 2023 Regular Season

The Pitch Clock + Shift Restrictions

The pitch clock and other rule changes for 2023 have been well documented by many different outlets. We even wrote about their introduction in our Opening Day Preview from the beginning of the season. The main purpose of these new rules was to make games move at a faster pace and encourage more action (i.e. less homers, walks and strikeouts). 

Regarding the pace of games, the inception of the Pitch Clock was an astounding success. MLB reported that games in 2023 were completed on average in just under 2 hours and forty minutes. They commented further that this was the quickest average game time in nearly forty years. It also appeared that MLB attributed the quicker games to their best attendance numbers since 2017.

However, according to J.J. Cooper of Baseball America, the shift restrictions (mainly that you must have two infielders on each side of second base) were not as successful in their implementation as the pitch clock. A hope was that shift restrictions would allow for batting averages to increase. Thus promote more action. However, MLB hitters batted under .250 for a fourth consecutive season. In brief, Cooper believes that the velocity at which pitchers can throw these days (average 4-seam velocity in the MLB has increased in each of the past 16 seasons) is just too much for hitters to consistently hit at higher averages.

Rookies Dazzled

Each year, numerous rookies make their MLB debuts, but in 2023 we were lucky enough to have two specific players arrive in the MLB and leave lasting impressions.  These stars that should be turning heads for many seasons to come...

  • Elly De La Cruz - Cincinnati Reds - Third Base/Shortstop
  • When you look at Elly De La Cruz's end of the season numbers, you're not going to be too wowed by his final ledger (to be fair...he only played about 2/3 of the season). However, it really is the way that he plays the game and his raw tools that gets him on this short list of rookies. On August 27th, the Reds were playing the Diamondbacks and a ball was hit to deep center off the wall. The Reds' centerfielder got the ball to De La Cruz (playing short that day) and he proceeded rip a 99.7 mph throw from shallow center to cut down the Diamondback's Corbin Carroll (a rookie sensation himself) at home plate trying for an inside-the-parker. You need to check out this play here:

  • Gunnar Henderson - Baltimore Orioles - Third Base
  • On May 21st of this season, Gunnar was batting .192 and had an OPS of .685. To put it simply...he ended the season better than he began. After that day in May he hit to an OPS of .848 for the remaining 109 games of the season. And even though his Baltimore squad bowed out quickly from the 2023 postseason, it wasn't due to lack of production from Gunnar. He hit .500 in the ALDS series against the Rangers and even added a homer. His offensive turnaround overshadowed the complete vice grip he had on third base from a defensive perspective all season. We'll be looking forward to seeing how Gunnar continues to handle the hot corner in Baltimore...territory manned by Oriole legends like Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Manny Machado.

Two New Faces in the Hall of Fame

On July 23rd, the National Baseball Hall of Fame introduced two new members. The men elected are below...

  • Fred McGriff, First Base
  • Scott Rolen, Third Base

When you think of baseball in the 90's and 2000's, you have to think of this pair of players.

If the squad you supported was playing in the American League or National League, there was a good shot that you got to lay eyes on Fred McGriff as he played multiple seasons within both leagues (this was when there was a stricter division between the AL and NL). And oh yeah, he parked close to 500 homers in his career as well.

Meanwhile, Scott battled in Philadelphia putting up great numbers during the late 90's and early 2000's. However, a trade to the Cardinals in 2002 made him a hero in St. Louis as he feasted on Detroit Tiger pitching in the 2006 World Series. This played a huge part in bringing St. Louis their first title in over 20 years.

Farewell To Mighty Miggy

For many young fans, they don't know baseball without Miguel Cabrera. 

That's because he has been playing in the MLB since shortly after he turned 20 years old in 2003. He was with the Marlins that season and was intrumental in the effort to bring the World Series trophy to Florida that season.

The National League Championship Series from '03 was highly documented as the Cubs melted down over the course of the series' seven games. This only further added to the agony of their fans (up to 2003, the Cubs had not won a World Series since 1908). Miguel Cabrera was a huge force for the Marlins in that series as he hit .333 with 10 hits (3 of those hits being homeruns).

Miguel came to the Detroit Tigers in 2008 and truly made himself a household name from 2009 to 2016. This was an 8 year stretch that saw him collect nearly 1,500 hits and register a batting average of .330. And in 2012, he also became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 to win a Triple Crown (i.e. lead your league in batting average, homers and RBIs).

Cabrera's dominance over American League pitching started to subside during his final handful of seasons in the MLB. However, he always retained his fun-loving way of playing baseball. His smile will certainly be missed in 2024 following his retirement at the culmination of this past season.

New Faces Lead The Way On Defense

When discussing defense, it seems like the usual suspects always get brought up. However, this season saw Nolan Arenado's domination of the hot corner dissipate.  As well, Carlos Correa's case study in consistency at shortstop seemed to close. Both defenders still played their defensive positions at an above-replacement-level clip according to Baseball Reference, but it allowed other defenders to get some spotlight this season.

In 2023, two new players introduced themselves to professional baseball as faces we should recognize on defense for seasons to come...

  • Kyle Isbel - Kansas City Royals - Outfield

With JustGloves being a proud Kansas City Company, this might be a homer pick...but we're sticking to it. Isbel plays an absolutely incredible defensive centerfield, especially considering that he has to cover the cavernous Kauffman Stadium outfield. Sadly, few folks outside of the Royals fan base get to see his wizardry in the outfield. His highlights are hard to come by, but we found one below...

  • Gabriel Moreno - Arizona Diamondbacks - Catcher

With the retirement of Yadier Molina at the culmination 2022 season, the MLB was left with the need for a new face of defensive excellence behind the plate.

Enter Gabriel Moreno.

Moreno was traded from the Blue Jays to the Diamondbacks before the 2023 season began and he only played in 111 games this season. However, he also accumulated the best Defensive WAR rating for an individual MLB defender according to Baseball Reference. And oh yeah, he's been instrumental in Arizona's successful effort to make the World Series for the first time since 2001.

 

Postseason Storylines

Bomb City In Philadelphia...It Wasn't Enough

The Phillies knocked out 24 long balls during their run through the the 2023 postseason. The face of their power display this October is undoubtedly Kyle Schwarber who belted out 5 in the National League Championship Series (NLCS) alone. Despite having excellent power numbers throughout the past two seasons, Kyle's full 162-game value is often curbed by poor defense and high strikeout numbers. However, it's hard to deny his impact in short postseason series' where his ability to go deep at any moment outweighs any mistakes in the outfield or strikeouts at the dish. 

Despite the longball display of the Phillies, the Diamondbacks were pesky enough to extend the NLCS to a full seven games and take that final game playing small ball. Ketel Marte threw Arizona on his back at the plate during the Championship and helped the Diamondbacks endure every haymaker blow that Philadelphia tried to throw their way.

The American League Title Runs Through Texas

It took seven games, but the Texas Rangers were able to outlast the Astros in the American League Championship Series (ALCS).

The Astros have participated in every ALCS since 2017 and advanced to the World Series in five of those seven tries. As the ALCS began, we knew a Texas-based team was going to be the American League representative in the World Series. And with Texas' series win, that makes it 6 out of the past 8 seasons in which the American League has sent a Texas team to the Fall Classic.

The Rangers did it while riding the hot bat of Adolis Garcia during the Wild Card, Division and Championship series. He absolutely romped in the Championship series as he drove in 15 runs in seven games. We'll see if his bat continues to stay hot...

 

Looking Ahead To 2023

With what team will the game's biggest star take the field on Opening Day 2024? Can Baltimore navigate it's deep pool of talent and compete for the World Series next fall? Will a basement dweller from 2023 have a winning record next season. Learn more below...

  • Shohei Ohtani's Free Agency

The craziness of Shohei Ohtani's impending free agency has already captured a lot of headlines and he'll officially be allowed to sign five days after the completion of this season's World Series.

The Angels held onto him at trade deadline this past season in the hope that him and Mike Trout could create some magic in the second half. Ohtani ended up tearning his UCL which took him off the mound and eventually even out of the batter's box. He has now had his UCL repaired for the 2nd time. The Associated Press reported that Ohtani expects to hit in the '24 season and pitch in the '25 season. But questions are still abound.

Will he be as effective on the mound? Should he even pitch any longer? What will he look like in a non-Angels uniform?

Things are about to get wild...

  • Jackson Holliday's Arrival In Baltimore

Baltimore is going to have a problem in 2024. But of all the problems you could have, it is of the best variety...a log jam of top tier talent on the left side of the infield. Gunnar Henderson, Jorge Mateo and Julio Urias all have proven they can play shortstop, third base or both as part of a division winning squad. However, the arrival of Jackson Holliday (son of former MLB star, Matt Holliday) during the 2024 campaign seems imminent. It'll be interesting to see how Baltimore's manager, Brandon Hyde, sorts through his abundance of riches. Click below to hear Jackson's dad, Matt, discuss when he knew Jackson was going to have a shot at being a big time propsect...

  • Will A Second Division Team Rise In 2024?

Arizona, Baltimore and Texas all lost 100+ games two seasons ago. However, all three found themselves competing in the postseason in 2023. Could we see the three 100 game losers from this past season make steps forward in 2024? 

The Royals, Athletics and Rockies all suffered over 100 losses in 2023. However, all three teams seem to have reasons to look forward with some optimism.

Royals - They acquired Cole Ragans from the Rangers at the trade deadline and he won the MLB Pitcher of the Month award for August. 

Athletics - The A's brought up 2B Zach Gelof late in the year and he finished the last two months of the season putting up power numbers from the plate and defending his position well.

Rockies - They should have the middle of their infield ready to roll for next season when 2B Brendan Rodgers (2022 Gold Glove Winner) returns for a full a season alongside SS Ezequiel Tovar who put up a Gold Glove-worthy campaign at shortstop this season.

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Now you are locked and loaded for the 2023 Fall Classic to begin. Will the Diamondback's Ketel Marte keep punching hits throughout the Fall Classic? Are the Rangers ready to keep the Commisioner's Trophy in the state of Texas? We'll have an answer at the end of this Series.

A big thank you is in order to Baseball Reference. In addition to being this writer's favorite site to browse, they were incredibly helpful with pulling the statistics that went into this blog post.

And as always, if you ever have any questions while shopping for a 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 2023 MLB Postseason.

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

 

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