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03/14/2023

Opening Day: 2023 Season Preview

What’s so special about opening day? 

Well, for one, it has the feel of the Kentucky Derby, a carnival and a Friday-away-from-the-office all wrapped up into one. 

More over, the smells of the ballpark come back to us: hot dogs, popcorn and fried handheld food. And if you're close enough to field, you might even get the whiff of baseball glove leather.

The smiles are bigger and the laughs are louder because we know that on the pitch of grass and dirt below us, our team is going to commence their six month voyage known as the baseball season. 

If your squad wins, it’s the icing on the cake of a beautiful day. But most of all, the beginning of the baseball season helps fulfill the hope of winter that warmth will return and the sun will shine again. For a day, it seems like anything is possible.

Opening Day 2023 offers as much promise as any in recent memory. Adjustments to the rules promise faster and more exciting games that will hopefully re-engage longtime fans, bring back last fans and greet new ones.

Let’s take a look at what we can look forward to for the 2023 baseball season!

 

JustBats History Of Opening Day

 

NEW RULES

  • Pitch Timer

    For the 2023 season, batters and pitchers are going to be on the clock. The following time restraints will be observed:

    -30 Seconds Between Batters
    -15 Seconds Between Pitches (With No One On Base)
    -20 Seconds Between Pitches (With Runners On)

    If a batter is not ready and alert to the pitcher when there are 8 seconds left on the pitch clock, the batter has a strike counted against them. And for the pitchers, they must begin their motion by the time the pitch clock has expired. If the pitcher violates that timing, he will be charged with a ball.

    In addition, pitchers will only be allowed to have 2 “disengagements” (disengagements are either a stepoff or pickoff) during an at-bat. If a third one is attempted, an out must be recorded or the runner will be granted the next base.

    To most fans, the Pitch Timer has been considered an overwhelming success as Spring Training games this year have had an incredible pace and are being completed much faster than Spring Training games in previous years. However, some could be disgruntled if their squad falls victim to a situation like the following during the regular season:

  • Defensive Shift Limits

    In 2023, there will be limits on how defenders can be placed throughout the field. Teams must now have 4 defenders on the infield dirt (or infield grass) and two must be on either side of second base.

    Will guys that have been defended with extreme infield shifts in the past see an increase in their batting average on the balls they put in play? It’s hard to say just from the Spring Training data. It is fair for one to wonder if managers and players are taking it easier in Spring Training. As well, is the large disparity of talent seen on the pitcher’s mound during Spring Training distorting how the numbers will shake out in the regular season? It'll be exciting to see what things looks like in the regular season!

    Don’t be surprised if you see a whacky shift that involves an outfielder being moved to act as a fifth infielder in the shallow outfield grass. Check out what former pro, Matt Antonelli, has to say about the outfield shift that has been employed against Joey Gallo during Spring Training:

  • Bigger Bases

    The final rule installment for 2023 is that bases will now be 18”x18” as opposed to the former size which was 15”x15”. With larger bases and pitchers being limited in their pickoff attempts, the conditions are lush for stolen bases to increase. And the data we’ve seen during Spring Training suggests that runners might be swiping bases at a higher clip than we’ve seen in recent seasons. As we mentioned in the Defensive Shift section above, it’s hard to tell if this trend carries forward into the regular season. But for the sake of exciting baseball, this writer is hoping that it will!

 

TEAMS TO WATCH IN 2023

  • Baltimore Orioles

    In 2021, the Orioles finished with 100 losses for the third time in four seasons (and that non-100-loss season was the shortened 2020 campaign).

    With the hope of young prospects arriving on the big league scene in 2022, there was certainly some optimism surrounding the team. However, I don’t think a record above .500 and a finish that left them only 4 games out of a Wild Card spot was expected.

    The 2022 Orioles were a surprise, but the 2023 edition plans to maintain and improve the excellence they showed in the second half of last season. Rookie of the Year runner-up, Adley Rutschman, will take his catcher’s mitt behind the dish where he stood out last season. He will be joined by fellow super prospect, Gunnar Henderson, at third base. The lineup looks to be solid for 2023, but the big factor will be how they pitch. Without any proven elite starters on the staff, it’ll be interesting to see if they can piece together what they need from the mound -AND- if top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez can arrive and dominate.

  • New York Mets

    The 2022 Mets were nothing if not exciting. I mean who can forget the craze created by Edwin Diaz’s epic 9th inning entrances:

    They made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and then proceeded to keep the baseball spotlight on the borough of Queens as they courted the best pitchers and position players during the offseason. 

    The lineup is nails. Francisco Lindor is a bonafide superstar and will be rocking his Rawlings REV1X glove at shortstop this season. They have a top prospect in catcher Francisco Alvarez. And they have gritty role players like Jeff McNeil who’ll do anything to spray a hit and get on base.

    On the pitching side, Jacob deGrom left for Texas. But they created another two-headed monster to headline their starting rotation when they signed Justin Verlander to join Max Scherzer on the bump at Citi Field. It’s World Series or bust for the 2023 edition of the Mets!

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH IN 2023

  • Gunnar Henderson

    In baseball, you want your best talent to have the capability to play positions up the middle of the field (C, P SS & CF). And the Baltimore Orioles have to feel incredibly blessed to have top prospects at many of these positions. At catcher, they have Adley Rutschman. At pitcher, they have Grayson Rodriguez. And with the potential to shine at shortstop in the future, they have Gunnar Henderson.

    Gunnar arrived at Camden Yards late last summer to help the squad as they vied for an American League Wild Card spot. They came up four games short, but it was not due to lack of help from Gunnar. He hit like a salty vet as he demonstrated an ability to get on base while even knocking 4 balls out of the yard for homers. He is currently blocked from playing his natural shortstop position by defensive stalwart Jorge Mateo. But even while playing away from his familiar defensive position, he proved he proved his infield glove could pick it at third base. Gunnar looks poised to state his case for becoming the AL Rookie of the Year in 2023.

  • Kodai Senga

    Shohei Ohtani came from Japan in 2018 and quickly took the big leagues by storm. The excitement with Ohtani was obvious as he was the first player since Babe Ruth to be a true force from both the pitching mound and in the batter’s box.

    Kodai Senga was signed from Japan this offseason by the New York Mets and he won’t be starring in the Mets batting lineup, but he will be pitching.

    When Ohtani arrived in 2018, he brought with him five seasons of pitching experience in Japan’s highest professional league. In that time, he earned a 2.55 ERA. Kodai comes to the Mets having spent 11 prior seasons pitching in the same league as Shohei. Kodai pitched to the tune of a 2.59 ERA over those seasons. ERA certainly doesn’t tell the entire story of pitching, but it does look like Kodai Senga could pitch at a level that some would say is similar to how the Great Ohtani pitched during his time in Japan. The big question now is if Senga's Japanese success will transfer over to the big leagues in the United States.

    Senga is older than Ohtani by a little over a year. And he has thrown over 400 more innings than Ohtani has thrown in his career. Does that make him more susceptible to injury? Who knows. But think about if we could have an Ohtani vs Senga matchup of starting pitchers in the All Star game. Yeah, that seems awesome!

 

A 2023 WORLD SERIES PREDICTION...

Do we dare say it…yes, we dare! We’re going to predict a Subway Series taking place in New York City amongst the Yankees and Mets.

As we’ve covered in this article, the Mets have gone all in with a star studded batting lineup, a fearsome duo at the head of their starting rotation and an absolute stopper for a closer.

With the Yankees, you have to wonder how long they can be kept out of the World Series. As a franchise, they’ve won 27 World Championships, but they haven’t been back to the Classic since they won it in 2009. If they do it this year, it’ll have to be willed by Aaron Judge, his Chandler bat and his Rawlings glove. But to help him should be a quartet of starting pitchers in Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino and Carlos Rodon. It’ll take everything they have, but we think they can squeak in.

In the Classic, we see Verlander and Scherzer of the Mets turn into the Schilling-Johnson duo of the ‘01 Diamondbacks that bewildered the Yanks in the World Series. The Mets will outlast the Yankees in 7 games. Verlander and Scherzer will share the World Series MVP award.

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You're now ready to take in the 2023 baseball season! But if you're left with questions surrounding the status of your current glove or your potential new baseball glove, then be sure to give our Glove Experts a shout. They can be reached on phone at 866-321-4568, through email via experts@beapro.com or by live chatting right here.

 
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