Mr. Stats Notes: White Sox vs Red Sox makes for Mother’s Day treat


Hi, everybody, and a very pleasant good afternoon to you, wherever you may be.

As a lifelong baseball fanatic and long-time member of NBC’s baseball coverage (more on me later), I learned about baseball by listening to Vin Scully, with a radio in my ear at bedtime to hear his calls of Dodger games. Then, not even 15 years later, I found myself in the NBC booth with him and Joe Garagiola, feeding the Frick Award winners stats, stories and information well before the computer age.

I’ve been called “Mr. Stats” and throughout the course of this MLB Sunday Leadoff on Peacock and NBC, I look forward to using this column to tell some stories about the players, the team and the sport itself through the thing I know best: the numbers.

But first, I want to talk about reservations. You know, for Mother’s Day.  See, on Sunday, May 8 — Mother’s Day — the Chicago White Sox play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. The first pitch is scheduled for 11:35 am eastern. With major league games averaging 3:05 in April, that means the game should end around 2:45 pm. That leaves plenty of time to schedule an early Mother’s Day dinner on the east, or a Mother’s Day brunch out west.

Now, the White Sox and Red Sox haven’t gotten out of the gate quickly in 2022 — that would be an understatement — but the track is long and there is more than enough time to make up ground. Chicago manager Tony La Russa managed the Cardinals in 2011, when they came from 10.5 games back in late August to edge Atlanta for a wild-card berth on the last day of the season. And that year the Cards won the World Series. Chicago has suffered a ton of injuries, but they should remain in the hunt all season. They might need patience more than anything else.

The White Sox troubles really can, in large part, be explained by injuries to starter Lance Lynn and 3B Yoan Moncada and outfielder Eloy Jimenez. The Red Sox can’t use injuries as an excuse. Yes, they are missing ace starter Chris Sale — and there is no timetable for his return. But really, this team just hasn’t hit.

In 2021, Boston scored 829 runs (5.1 per game) and had an OPS of .777. In 2022, through May 3, the Red Sox were scoring just 3.5 runs per game, with an OPS of .631. This team will hit, eventually.  (Boston also has to find a reliable closer, but first things, first. Start hitting).

What I want to look at in this game are the shortstops. This is an era of marvelous shortstops. The best of the bunch may be San Diego’s 23-years old Fernando Tatis, Jr. who hasn’t played yet this season, recovering from a fractured wrist. There’s Tampa Bay’s 21-year old Wander Franco, and Toronto’s Bo Bichette is only 24. Francisco Lindor is an early MVP candidate, playing shortstop for the Mets. Trea Turner is in the middle of a powerful Dodgers lineup.  Former Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is starting to heat up for the Rangers; and former Astros shortstop Carlos Correa is getting hot for the Twins.

RELATED: 2022 MLB on Peacock schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games

There’s a Crawford that had a career season with the Giants last year (35-years old Brandon) and a 27-years old Crawford coming into his own with the Mariners (J.P.).

But two of the best shortstops—actually, three of the best if you count Trevor Story, currently playing second base for Boston—will be in Sunday morning’s White Sox/Red Sox game.

Xander Bogaerts has the right to opt-out of his contract after this season, and is playing like he deserves a big raise, whether in Boston or somewhere else.  He’s been among the league leaders in batting all season. And Xander is leading the majors in BAPIP (batting average on balls in play).

Both Bogaerts and Tim Anderson are ranked high in wRC+ (a rate statistic which attempts to credit a hitter for the value of each outcome, rather than treat all hits or times on base equally).

Tim Anderson is batting .313 with a .855 OPS.

Now, here’s the thing with Anderson. He’s near the top of the league in O-Swing%. He swings at everything. And he’s been connecting.

In his first 21 games, or 86 plate appearances, he has walked exactly…once. His BB% is just 1.2% (the MLB average is about 8.5%).

For that matter, Bogaerts walked just seven times in his first 95 plate appearances. And teammate Rafael Devers walked just two times in his first 103 plate appearances.

Which is why the Red Sox and White Sox have walked the fewest amount of times in major league baseball this year. The White Sox have walked only 51 times in their first 24 games.

Which is one reason this could be what I call a “Gary U.S. Bonds” game. It could be over by “A Quarter to Three” And on Mother’s Day, that’s not a bad thing at all.

RELATED: For Rich Hill, MLB’s oldest pitcher, family legacy transcends game

Elliott’s Note of the Week

The New York Mets are off to their best start since 2006. It’s also one of their best starts since 1986, the last time they won the World Series. But I have questions about whether their starting pitching will hold up. Max Scherzer is 37, Carlos Carrasco is 35, Chris Bassett is 33, Jacob deGrom when he comes back is 33, even Taijuan Walker is 29.

1986 Mets rotation:

Dwight Gooden 21
Ron Darling 25
Sid Fernandez 23
Bob Ojeda 28
Rick Aguilera 24

When the Mets went to the World Series in 2015, they had another set of babies in the rotation (Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and deGrom, anchored by 41-years old Bartolo Colon).

Philadelphia Phillies v. New York Mets

That being said, I can’t wait till Jacob deGrom comes back and shares the top of the rotation with Scherzer.  I know you’re thinking Mets manager Buck Showalter has never had a pair of Aces in his hand like this, but remember in 2000, Buck managed Arizona.  Showalter had 36-year old Randy Johnson and 33-year old Curt Schilling.

A Long Distance Lyle-er

Jordan Lyles pitches for the Baltimore Orioles, one of the worst teams in baseball. At one point in his career, Lyles was the youngest player in the major leagues. Unlike his contemporaries that have had long, illustrious careers dotted with All-Star Game appearances, postseason game heroics, or bold-typed league-leading numbers, Lyles takes the ball for also-rans.

In his first three seasons with the Astros, his teams lost 106, 107, and 111 games. If I remember correctly, the television ratings of the cable network broadcasting the Astros games those years were like the grade point average of the Delta House fraternity in Animal House: 0.0. But then, after the 2013 season, the 23-years old Lyles was traded to the Rockies for outfielder Dexter Fowler. I caught up with Walt Weiss recently, who managed Colorado at the time, and told me: “I was excited to get him, we needed him, we were thirsting for pitching…and he started out 5-0 before he got hurt.”

Weiss’ memory is pretty damn good. He was 5-0, and after two months his record was 5-1, 3.46 ERA pitching at Coors Field. After Lyles’ first three seasons in Houston (14-29, 5.35 ERA, and an ERA+ of 74—meaning he was 26% “worse” than a league average pitcher), it appeared he was on his way to stardom. And then he got hurt, came back two months later, and wasn’t effective. And the Rockies lost 96 games. Two more losing seasons in Colorado, and Jordan went to San Diego, where the team lost 91 games. Selected off waivers in 2018 by the Brewers from the Padres, Jordan pitched well in relief down the stretch but was left off the playoff roster. With a bad Pirates team in 2019, he was once again acquired by the Brewers for a stretch run. This time he was brilliant (7-1, 2.45 ERA in 11 starts), but the team lost a Wild Card game and his only postseason experience lasted less than three hours. The Brewers lost a late lead as Trent Grisham couldn’t make a play in the outfield, and Lyles didn’t get in the game.

Jordan signed with Texas, and pitched for bad teams in the shortened 2020 season and then a 102-loss team last year. In March, Lyles signed with Baltimore, for another, inevitable last place finish.

The only thing Jordan Lyles has ever led the league in is…Earned Runs Allowed (twice) and Home Runs Allowed (once). If you retired his jersey numbers, there wouldn’t be enough numbers left to field a team (he has worn uniform numbers 41, 18, 24, 27, 25, 31, 23, 24, and now 28.

Jordan Lyles has a career mark of 56-81, 5.19 ERA in nearly 1,200 innings of work.

That’s tough to do. It’s incredibly hard to make it to the Show. It’s even harder to stick around and stay in the Show. In 2021, following the Rangers’ loss to the White Sox, the team and staff honored Lyles for reaching 10 full years of major league service time. According to the MLB Players Association, fewer than 10% of players in baseball history have played for a decade or more.

One might wonder: how does he remain in the game? His career ERA is 5.19. His career ERA+ is 82, meaning he is 18% worse than an average player. Surely, teams want younger. Surely by now, teams want cheaper.

“I’m so proud of him. It’s hard — so, so hard, to be a pitcher in this game for as long as he’s done it,” said his former manager Weiss. Imagine Jordan Lyles — lasting longer than probably 95% of all pitchers — and doing it without great results. What an inspiration — staying in the game as long as you can.

Talking to Walt Weiss around the Braves batting cage, where Weiss serves as Brian Snitker’s bench coach, I reminded Walt of his rookie season of 1988. I told him it was my first season doing the World Series for NBC, and Joe Garagiola had told me to take it all in. Joe said he played in the World Series when he was a rookie in 1946 and thought he would make it back every year. Of course, he never did make it back. It was a lesson he preached to rookies on every World Series he covered as a broadcaster, and I asked Weiss about it. “I do remember Joe telling me that. It’s hard when you’re that young to have perspective. I was so spoiled, making it to the World Series my first three years. But boy did I learn. I hadn’t been on a World Series winner since 1989 until this past one with Atlanta.”

I love baseball, and people that spend their lives captivated by it. Maybe that’s why I root so hard for Jordan Lyles to keep hanging around. Lyles once played in the 2010 Futures Game, a game that featured Mike Trout among others.

Hey, it’s not like I don’t root for Mike Trout. But it’s easy to root for superstars. Sometimes, I root for the other guys fighting to keep their spot, fighting to stave off the inevitable to remain in the game as long as possible.

As Vin once said “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between an All-Star Game and an old-timer’s game.”

About the Author
I’m Elliott Kalb, and I’ve been a part of NBC’s baseball coverage for a long time, now. I travelled with NBC’s Game of the Week in the 1980s; I was part of the postseason coverage in the late 1990s, working with Bob Costas, Joe Morgan, and Bob Uecker. I produced the Baseball venue from several Summer Olympics, including the coverage of Team USA’s gold medal win from Sydney, Australia in 2000.

In any case, you can’t tell the history of NBC Sports and their baseball coverage without me. Don’t believe me? Check out the history section of NBC’s website, which details the storytelling and iconic moments of NBC Sports. There’s a picture of me giving information to Tom Seaver before the last game of the 1989 NLCS, which served as the final game of NBC’s MLB contract, ending 42 consecutive years of baseball on NBC.

I never completely left NBC Sports—even in my years covering baseball for other entities, mostly MLB Network. Which is why I’m—forgive me—proud as a peacock to be connected to NBC Sports and their baseball package in 2022. Going home is important in real life, as well as in baseball.

A Cubs vs Marlins matchup should evoke memories beyond Bartman


On Sunday morning, at 12:05 pm eastern, the Cubs will play the Marlins in a game that can be streamed on Peacock. The Marlins won only 69 games last year, and the Cubs won only 74. Neither the Fish nor the Cubbies have finished with a winning record since the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Both teams have gotten off to better starts in 2023 led by their new middle infielders:  Miami’s new second baseman Luis Arraez and the Cubs’ new shortstop Dansby Swanson.

There was a time — 20 years ago — that these franchises met in the 2003 National League Championship Series. When we look back on that series, we’re reminded that one very good thing about Arraez and Swanson is that their names are different. In the 2003 NLCS, the Cubs shortstop was Alex Gonzalez. The Marlins shortstop was also named Alex Gonzalez. One of them had a 16-year career, the other one had a 13-year career. The one that batted .125 (3-24 AB) in the NLCS wasn’t the goat. The one that batted .286/.333/.679 with 3 HR, 7 RBI and a 1.012 OPS in the series was the goat.

The one name that people remember in the Cubs’ collapse in Game 6 of that NLCS didn’t play any seasons in the majors. The one name everyone remembers was Steve Bartman. But for both teams, the path to get there and the games played in the Series itself involved so much more than Bartman.

Chicago was a charter member of the National League in 1876, when Ulysses S. Grant was the President of the United States. The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series since 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt was the President. The Cubs hadn’t even been in a World Series since 1945.

The Marlins were an expansion franchise in 1993, when the United States had a 47-year-old President named Bill Clinton. They won the World Series in 1997, the first Wild Card team to win the World Series.

In 2002, the Cubs lost 95 games and finished 30 games out of first place. It was the third time in four seasons Chicago had lost at least 95 games. Midway through the 2002 season, the team fired manager Don Baylor. Following the 2002 season, the Cubs hired one of Baylor’s close friends, Dusty Baker. Baker had just led the San Francisco Giants to the World Series. A poor relationship with the team’s managing partner, Peter Magowan, however, led to Baker’s departure. Dusty wasn’t out of work long – not even two weeks – before accepting the Chicago position.

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Baker’s Giants were so close to winning the 2002 World Series. The Giants led 3-2 in games and led Game 6 by a 5-0 score entering the bottom of the seventh. Scott Spiezio hit a 3-run homer in the seventh. The Giants — five outs away in the bottom of the eighth — couldn’t hold their lead and lost Game 6 and then Game 7 as well. Baker didn’t know it at the time, but that would be just the start of several heartbreaking finishes.

Dusty went from managing Barry Bonds to managing Sammy Sosa.

Baker took advantage of Sosa’s offense, combined with three outstanding arms (Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano) to win 88 games, enough to take the N.L. Central.

The Marlins started the 2003 season with Jeff Torborg as manager, but when the team got off to a slow start, he was replaced by 72-years old Jack McKeon.

The Florida Marlins got a kickstart from their new manager, the old McKeon, but they also were spurred by 21-years old Dontrelle Willis, who was called up May 9. The Marlins were 10-games under .500 on May 22 (19-29) but Willis became unstoppable. He was 9-1 after his win on July 13. He would start 27 games, and the Fish won 19 of them.

RELATED: 2023 MLB on Peacock Schedule

The Marlins were 75-49 under McKeon. The five starters — Carl Pavano, Brad Penny, Mark Redman, Josh Beckett, and Willis — started 143 games and combined for more than 890 innings. And the team had a catcher that made the entire pitching staff better.

Prior to the 2003 season, the Florida Marlins were one of the few teams to show interest in free-agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez. He was coming off 12 seasons as a workhorse catcher in Texas, and yet at 31 was only able to command a one-year, $10 million dollar contract with the Marlins, due to his herniated disks in his lower back and his balky knees. Was it worth it? Rodriguez made the most of his one season with the Marlins (including the postseason, he caught in 155 games and had 655 Plate Appearances).

And he was involved in nearly every big play or rally during the postseason. The Marlins were heavy underdogs against the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series. In the Marlins’ crucial 11-inning come-from-behind win over the Giants in Game 3, it was Ivan that drove in the winning run. In Game 4, I-Rod scored the tying run on a collision at the plate, then withstood a collision to tag J.T. Snow for the final out in the game (and series) after a perfect throw from Jeff Conine and an amazing catch from I-Rod.

And that set the scene for what happened in the NLCS between the lovable loser Cubs, and the out-of-nowhere Marlins.

Game 1: The Cubs were down 8-6 in the bottom of the ninth, when Sammy Sosa tied the game with a dramatic home run. But in the top of the 11th, Mike Lowell hit a go-ahead homer and the Fish held on to win 9-8.

RELATED: Playing Fast Ball in 2023 – Breaking Down New Rules Ahead of MLB Season

The Cubs won the next three games, 12-3, 5-4 (11 innings), and 8-3. All they needed was one win in the next three games to win their first pennant since 1945.

Game 5: Josh Beckett threw a shutout in the 4-0 victory. He went nine innings, giving up two hits, 1 BB, 11 K, and needing 115 pitches. He was brilliant after getting rocked in the series opener.

Game 6: Chicago held a 3-0 lead in the 8th inning of Game 6 before the Fish plated eight runs, behind two unusual circumstances. The first being the Steve Bartman play; and the other, often overshadowed, was the error on a potential double-play ball by the slick fielding Alex Gonzalez. 

In that fateful top of the 8th, the Cubs had a 95% probability of winning Game 6 and advancing to the Series. But the Curse of the Billy Goat was strong that night.

Mark Prior (now the pitching coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers) was on the hill for the Cubs and had retired eight Marlins in a row after getting the leadoff man in the 8th. But then Juan Pierre doubled, sending Luis Castillo to the plate. Castillo hit a foul ball that Cubs outfielder Moises Alou attempted to catch near the wall, but fan Steve Bartman deflected it. There was no fan interference called. If Alou had caught the ball, it would have been the second out of the inning.

Instead, there was a meltdown of epic proportions.

Prior threw a wild pitch to walk Castillo and send Pierre to third. Ivan Rodriguez singled in a run, to cut the Chicago lead to 3-1. And then Miguel Cabrera reached on an error by Alex Gonzalez. Derrek Lee doubled in two runs to tie the game and send Prior to the showers. The Marlins would eventually score 8 runs in the inning on just 5 hits.

Dusty, in hindsight, should have replaced Prior after the Pierre double, and almost certainly after the 9-pitch walk to Castillo. Would it have mattered? Who knows?

The Marlins won Game 6 by a score of 8-3.

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And in Game 7: The Cubs led 5-3 after 4 innings. But in the top of the fifth, Cubs ace Kerry Wood faced Ivan Rodriguez with 1-out and 2-on. Rodriguez doubled in a run. He would later score the go-ahead run in the inning on Derrek Lee’s base hit.

Josh Beckett came in the game in the bottom of the fifth, just two days after his 115-pitch shutout. He pitched four scoreless innings, giving up just one run and one hit (a homer off the bat of Troy O’Leary). The Marlins added runs in the 6th and 7th; and won the game 9-6 to advance to the World Series.

People should remember Ivan Rodriguez and Beckett and Derrek Lee and Miguel Cabrera when they think about that series. Instead, they are reminded of Bartman, the symbol of the “bad news Bears (Cubs)”.

The fates were (eventually) kind to the Cubs and their fanbase in 2016; and to Dusty Baker in 2022.

As for the Marlins, they should be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their World Series title.

But it’s almost a whisper. Maybe it’s because the two genuine Hall of Famers on that squad (Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera) barely played for the Marlins. Ivan played 20 of his 21 seasons elsewhere; and Miggy played the last 16 of his 21 seasons in Detroit.

Even in 2003, the fans in South Florida were not that into this team. The attendance was 1.3 million, 15th most among the 16 NL teams that season.

The Marlins and Cubs will always be connected to that October series in 2003. You can blame a fan — or a Curse — or give credit to a gutty team, the Florida Marlins.

How to watch Cubs vs Marlins on Peacock

Date Show Time (ET) Platform
Sun., Apr. 30 MLB Sunday Leadoff Pregame 11:30 a.m. Peacock
Sun., Apr. 30 Cubs vs. Marlins 12:05 p.m. Peacock

Playing Fast Ball in 2023: Breaking Down New Rules Ahead of MLB Season


Baseball has always occupied most of my brain cells from April through October. In 2022, the last four games of the World Series were played in November — including a no-hitter in Game 4 and one of the most compelling Fall Classic games you could ever hope to see in the Astros’ 3-2 victory in Game 5. And just 139 days later, on March 21, the World Baseball Classic final produced Team Japan’s 3-2 victory in a legendary matchup that culminated with Mike Trout striking out against Shohei Ohtani.

In Game 5 of the World Series, the Astros held on because of defensive plays made by first baseman Trey Mancini (smothering a lined shot off the bat of Kyle Schwarber that stranded the game-tying run at third base and preserving Houston’s one run lead) and outfielder Chas McCormick (who robbed J.T. Realmuto with a sensational leaping catch at the wall in right center).

Those two defensive plays were baseball at its best and show how exciting the game can be when the ball is put into play.

And that’s why I’m so excited about the 2023 season. Baseball has new rules that will put more action (great defensive plays, stolen bases, doubles, triples) in the games. And it will create a crisper game that takes all the dead moments out.

RELATED: When is the 2023 MLB Opening Day?

Overview of new rules for 2023 MLB season

The three new rules involve:

  1. The use of a pitch timer (pitchers have 15 seconds with bases empty, 20 with men on base…before the Timer reaches zero, the pitcher must begin the natural movement associated with the delivery of the ball to the batter)
  2. Shift restrictions (two infielders must be positioned on each side of second base; and all four infielders must have both feet within the outer boundary of the infield), and…
  3. Bigger bases (it’s a safety issue, but also decreases the distance between bases, hopefully igniting more stolen bases).

RELATED: MLB clarifies rules to allow pitch clock delays

Let me explain why the rules are necessary by using the Astros’ combined no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series. In that nine-inning game, there were 18 half-innings. In 17 of those half-innings, there was no score and barely any action. Batters were .089 (5-56 AB) in the game, save for the top of the fifth, when the Astros went 5-7 AB with a sacrifice fly and scored five runs.

Four Astros pitchers needed 141 pitches to complete their combined no-hitter and the game took 3:25. It’s remarkable: the Phillies’ batters faced 141 pitches, and put exactly 13 in play (four groundouts, nine flyouts). For comparison, let’s examine the only other no-hitter in World Series history. Don Larsen needed only 97 pitches to throw his perfect game, and only went to three balls on a hitter just once. The time of that game was 2:06.

Houston starter Cristian Javier also threw exactly 97 pitches—but he only worked the first six innings. Javier faced 20 batters, and struck out nine of them, while walking two. He was masterful, but the nation watched a game of “pitch and catch.”

Impact of the pitch clock in 2023

The average time of a major league game in 2022 was 3:07, down slightly from the year before. Baseball’s new rules should bring that down about 25 minutes, which is significant. Call me crazy, but you shouldn’t be able to hard boil an egg in less time than seeing “batted ball events” in a major league game. The pitch timer will fix things and bring a better pace to the game. The pitch timer worked in the minor leagues. The pitch timer has worked in Spring Training.

RELATED: Which teams are best bets to make World Series?

Will the new tempo speed up some of the slowest workers last year? You bet. According to StatCast Baseball Savant 2022 Leaderboards, relievers Jonathan Loaisiga, and Giovanny Gallego each had a Pitch Tempo of 25.8 seconds with the bases empty, with Kenley Jansen right behind at 25.6 seconds. That measures the median time between pitches. The MLB average with bases empty was 18.1 seconds. For added context, StatCast labeled any pitch thrown after longer than 30 seconds to be “Slow.” Jansen was “Slow” on 22.3% of his pitches last year with no one on base. Loaisiga was “Slow” on 21.2% of pitches with bases empty. And Gallego was “Slow” on 20.6%. With runners on-base, Gallegos was “Slow” on 58.2% of his pitches, Jansen 57.4%. Now, this is not measuring the same timing as the MLB pitch timer. But it’s an example of needing pitchers to pick up the pace.

Keith Hernandez in his 2018 Memoir, I’m Keith Hernandez, writes on Page 131:

Three hours for an average game is not good for baseball…The game was meant to be played at a faster clip, and if it is allowed to slow down further, I fear baseball will become a bore: a tedious exercise of managers and general managers trying to micromanage every second of the game. Why do they do it? Because the game, like everything else, has gotten so hyper-analyzed that those in charge…mitigate risk at the expense of the game’s pace….

While baseball was never meant to be played at a frenetic pace, there is, again, a rhythm to it, and with all the stopping and starting—from the batters stepping out of the box for days on end; to pitchers, particularly relievers, who take an eternity between pitches; to 3-2 counts ad nauseam…that rhythm is under siege.”

And the pitch timer will not only cut time but increase action. Will there be some controversial violations? Yes! Will a batter be called for a third strike to end a game merely because he wasn’t in the plate quick enough? Yes! Will a pitcher be charged with a ball that walks in a run to end a game, because of a pitch timer violation? Yes! I hope so. It will create chaos and controversy and it will become part of the game.

Don’t NFL teams get charged with penalties for not being ready in time? Yes, sometimes in crucial junctures of postseason games.

The number of violations per game has gone down with each week. Baseball saw that happen last year in the minors. Baseball saw it this spring, when there were more than 2 violations per game the first week, and gradually the average has been cut in half.

And no one in MLB is trying to play “gotcha” with anyone. MLB sent what is expected to be the final series of clarifications on the new rules before the season starts. There are seven points to the memo, mostly involving the pitch timer. Basically, the clock will no longer be immediately reset when a batter is brushed back or swings so hard he loses his footing and/or helmet. When PitchCom malfunctions, teams should now be able to address that without an automatic ball being called or having to use a formal mound visit. If a pitcher dashes to cover first base and needs additional time, he’ll have it.

You know, common sense will dictate.

RELATED: 2023 MLB on Peacock Schedule: How to watch, live stream Sunday morning baseball games online

These new rules (pitch timer, shift restrictions, bigger bases) represent the biggest changes to the rules since 1973 and the beginning of the designated hitter in the American League (In 1972, A.L. pitchers batted .145 with .366 OPS and hit 22 HR all year. In 1973, DHs hit 20 HR in April alone, and batted .238 with .657 OPS).

Baseball was always loathe to change rules, but in the last few years they have incorporated changes that have improved the game. In 2022, they made a rule to benefit Shohei Ohtani, tweaking the designated hitter rule. That tweak stated that if a team has its starting pitcher in its lineup as the DH and pulls him from the game, the player can remain in the batting order even after he leaves the mound.

Shohei had 666 Plate Appearances last year, thanks in part to the new rule.

It sounds simple to adjust rules that allow the sport to showcase its stars and their athleticism. I give MLB all the credit in the world for making it happen.

Because of deep analytic departments that have grown exponentially, defenses have learned how to defend where the ball is likely to be hit. Shifts have increased every year against left-handed batters. Last season, MLB teams positioned their infielders in an overshift (more than two fielders on one side of second base) on 55% of plate appearances against left-handed batters.

Left-Handed Batters OPS

2022:   .697
2021:   .653
2020:   .723
2019:   .764
2018:   .736
2017:   .760

Some players that will likely see their slash line improve greatly with new rules:

Trent Grisham, Padres
Joey Gallo, Twins
Anthony Rizzo, Yankees     

Trent Grisham should benefit from a host of things this year. He took forever to get into the batter’s box and should be more locked in this season. The shift restrictions should help him, as he batted only .184/.284/.341 a year ago with a .231 BABIP. And less divisional games in pitcher’s parks in LA and SF should also help Grisham.

Like Grisham, Gallo can’t help but improve upon woeful numbers. He batted .160 last year. And Anthony Rizzo is coming off a terrific season, but his .216 BABIP is indicative that defenses knew how to play him. Rizzo batted .292 in 2016 and .293 in 2019. He batted .224 in 2022. Watch that batting average skyrocket.

RELATED: Now 40, Justin Verlander still looks strong this spring for Mets

Some players that will likely see their stolen bases improve greatly with new rules:

Tommy Edman, Cardinals
Trea Turner, Phillies
Myles Straw, Guardians

The bigger bases mean there is slightly less distance to cover, and I fully expect that stolen base percentage in the majors (75% a year ago) will go up (especially since pitchers will be limited in pickoff throw attempts). The three players I think will benefit were pretty damn efficient with the old bases, leading the majors in w/SB (Weighted stolen bases by Fangraphs). Edman was 32-35 in steals a year ago. Turner was 27-30. And Straw was 21-22. And now, they’ll have a bit of an advantage. Trea Turner has had seasons where he stole 43 and 46 bases; and with the prolonged absence of Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, the Phillies will not hit nearly as many home runs and may need Turner to steal additional bases.

One more bold prediction for 2023

Despite the fact that only one player last year stole more than 40 bases (Miami’s Jon Berti, 41), it is my feeling that we will see a new member of the 40/40 club (a player hitting 40+HR and stealing 40+ bases) this year. The exclusive club has only four members. Jose Canseco in 1988, Barry Bonds in 1996, Alex Rodriguez in 1998, and Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

This year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. (41 HR, 37 SB in 2019) does it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phillies’ Trea Turner (after his performance in the World Baseball Classic, the $300 million dollars the Phillies agreed to pay him may turn out to be a bargain) gets to 40/40. And if Shohei Ohtani wanted to join the 40/40 club, I’m sure it would be attainable.

There are so many great storylines that will emerge in 2023. So many depend in part on which teams are best prepared to adjust and take advantage of the new rules.

The very core of baseball is time and rhythm. It should be a beautiful rhythm. Baseball is back, for the start of the 148th season since 1876. For the first time, baseball is on the clock.

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Be sure to check out NBC’s Circling the Bases Fantasy Baseball podcast for the latest baseball analysis, injury news, and storylines surrounding the 2023 MLB season!