Mr. Stats Notes: Reds kick off action (as nature intended)


On Sunday morning at 11:35 am, the slate of baseball games starts in Cincinnati. It seems fitting, since a rite of spring when I grew up in the 1970s and 80s was that the first pitch of the season was thrown in Cincinnati.

The Reds in the early part of their history (and as one of the charter members of the N.L., that history goes back to 1876) always had their season start at home. In part, that was because Cincinnati was the southern-most city in the majors, and the weather was more likely to be conducive to playing. Other teams were very willing to give up the prestige of Opening Day for a home game later in the calendar.

Over time, Cincinnati became synonymous with Opening Day. Dignitaries, first-pitches, celebrations. On April 22, 1891, the first Opening Day parade was organized by Reds owner John T. Brush. The parade consisted of a marching band and two large horse-drawn wagons, called Tally-ho’s, which were occupied by the Reds and the opponent, the Cleveland Spiders.

Findlay Market made its first appearance at Opening Day in 1920. Opening Day became an unofficial holiday in Cincy. Once the Reds moved downtown to Riverfront Stadium in 1970, the parade headed down Race Street and turned on Fifth and went right through the heart of downtown Cincinnati. When Marge Schott purchased the Reds in 1984, she worked with the Cincinnati Zoo to include elephants in the parade that gave the event the feel of a circus.

There are 15 openers every season, and with money overriding tradition, Cincinnati no longer gets the first game of the season. It hasn’t since sometime in the 1980s.

But this Sunday on Peacock, they do kick off the slate of 15 games.

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

So much baseball history has taken place in Cincinnati. On May 24, 1935, the first night game in Major League history was played at Crosley Field. The Reds beat the Phillies, 2-1, before 20,422 fans. Now, there’s a morning game on a Memorial Day weekend 87 years later.

The Reds may not have a great team in 2022, but they have a great ballpark. Great American Ball Park bounds from Pete Rose Way to the Ohio River and from Joe Nuxhall Way to Heritage Bank Center. What a rich baseball tradition this franchise has! Nuxhall became the youngest player in the 20th century to appear in a Major League Game. On June 10, 1944, Nuxhall pitched at the age of 15 years, 10 months, and 11 days. He wouldn’t pitch again in the majors until 1952. And Pete Rose — a local kid from Western Hills, High School in Cincinnati — became baseball’s all-time hit king in 1985, at the age of 44.

The Reds honor their history, and that includes having another Cincinnati local, David Bell, as their manager. David is the son of former third baseman and current Reds front office executive Buddy Bell and the grandson of Reds Hall of Famer Gus Bell.

David Bell played 12 seasons in the major leagues (that’s nothing, his dad played 18 years and his grandfather — who passed away in 1995 — played 15 years). How rare is it for a family to have three generations of major league players? The Bells are one of Major League Baseball’s five three-generation families, along with the Boones, Colemans, Hairstons and Schofield/Werths.

David Bell played with Cleveland, St. Louis, Seattle, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. He wasn’t a superstar, but as his former Phillies’ teammate Dan Plesac told me Tuesday, “he was as solid as they come.”

On Sunday, he’ll be managing against the Giants, the team that he is best remembered for as a player.  Twenty years ago, in the 2002 season, Bell was San Francisco’s starting third baseman and played 154 games, while putting up 20 HR, 73 RBI, 82 runs scored, and an OPS of .762. You know, as solid as they come.

And then, Bell had a terrific series in the NLCS, batting .412 (7-17 AB) 1 HR in the five-game series against St. Louis. And in the World Series, his RBI single off Francisco Rodriguez in the bottom of the eighth inning won Game 4 and tied the series up 2-2. The Giants would be a few outs from winning that World Series, but it was not to be. Following that run to the World Series in 2002, Bell received the prestigious Willie Mac Award as San Francisco’s Most Inspirational Player.

The Reds and Giants play Sunday morning, a matchup that has taken place 2,108 times since 1900 (and will increase with Friday and Saturday’s games). On a Memorial Day weekend, is there anything more American than a baseball game — a day game in Cincinnati — with two storied franchises?

RELATED: Pederson hits 3 HRs, drives in 8 as Giants stun Mets 13-12

Best Time of Year to be a Sports Fan?

My good friend Kevin Dillon insists that this is the best time of year for a sports fan.  I argued October, but I am more of a football fan than Kevin. He loves baseball, loves the NFL Draft, loves the NBA and NHL playoffs.

But the conversation got me down a rabbit hole.

If you’re a sports fan like I am, the best two words are “Game Seven.” Yup, even better than “Opening Day” or “Play Ball”. There’s nothing better.

So far this spring, the NBA has had two Game 7s. The Celtics beat the Bucks 109-81, and the Mavericks beat the Suns 123-90.


However in the NHL, both Game 7s went to overtime. New York defeated Pittsburgh; and Calgary defeated Dallas.

Is that par for the course? Are Game 7s in the NHL more likely to go to need overtime (or double-overtime periods) than NBA Game 7s? How often do MLB Game 7s require extra-innings?

NBA: 145 Game 7s in history. Only 7 have gone to overtime. Only one has gone into double-overtime (1957 NBA Finals Boston 125-123 in 2 O.T.).

MLB: 59 Game 7s in history. Only 6 have gone to extra-innings. The longest was 12 innings (1924 World Series, when the Senators beat the Giants 4-3).

NHL: 190 Game 7s in history. 45 have gone into overtime, with nine of them requiring 2 O.T., and several even longer (the 1987 Islanders-Capitals Game 7 needed 4 OT; the 1939 Semifinals between the Bruins and Rangers needed 3 OT).

So, lets look at the evidence. Almost 5% of the NBA Game 7s require an overtime period.  About 10% of the MLB Game 7s require extra-innings. And almost 24% of the NHL Game 7s have gone into overtime.

I decided to email and call the Game 7 expert, Mike Emrick. Doc has called a record 45 Game 7s in the NHL. And as a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan, he listened to part of the 1960 World Series Game 7 on radio (he listened during study hall, but when it was time for his last period Biology class, the professor wouldn’t allow it).

RELATED: Looking back at Doc’s final game, legacy in NHL

EK: All those Game 7s, all those memories, is there one that stands out?

Doc:  I think though the Caps Islanders Division Semifinal on Easter Eve/Easter Sunday in 1987 would be one since it went four overtime’s and is surrounding with some sidebar lore, too.  That year there was a Final Series that sent the best team I ever saw – the 87 Oilers – against the Flyers. And it went seven games. A fiery rookie goalie Ron Hextall and a coach named Mike Keenan, who actually cleverly got hold of the Stanley Cup and put it in the team’s dressing room before one of the crucial games to show his players what they could have their names on…against Glen Sather (GM/Coach) and the Hall of Famers – Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Fuhr, Lowe, Coffey. Bill Clement and I had the Game 7 (broadcast) on ESPN. And the Flyers scored first in Edmonton when Murray Craven scored from behind the goal line.  But…the Oilers just picked away, finally clinching it 3-1 in the third period on Glenn Anderson’s long goal on Hextall (who was the playoff MVP),

I believe my total of Game 7s was 45 but that one will stand out and it was the first Final Series Game 7 in the NHL since 1971 (so 16 years).

EK: Were you able to follow the end of the 1960 World Series Game 7, even with your teacher forbidding it?

Doc: Our classroom was right next to the study hall so we could occasionally hear reactions from next door. But I had no idea if it was from Yankee lovers or Yankee haters. Except for me, no one in rural Indiana was a Pirate fan. It wasn’t until the final school buzzer sounded at 3:21 pm that I learned my Pirates had won. Like my favorite announcer Bob Prince, I had no idea Bill Mazeroski had become a local hero…In 2016, when the Penguins had a chance to win Game 5 in Pittsburgh over San Jose and clinch the Stanley Cup, the first title IN TOWN, Mazeroski was in the house. But Pittsburgh lost that night and won the Cup in Game 6 out west.

EK: More pressure in a Game 7: a goalie, or starting pitcher?

Doc: (Former Pirates closer) Kent Tekulve would be a great one to ask. He would wear a Marc-Andre Fleury jersey to Penguin games. We often talked about it. He compared closers to goalies. I think starters have people behind them if it doesn’t go well. Goalies only have one more guy to back them up. Probably more pressure on goalies.

In kicking it around in a later phone conversation, I pointed out to Emrick that while starting pitchers lose their effectiveness the longer a game goes, goalies seemingly can go forever. He said, “Goalies are so well conditioned these days, and so well studied. Some of this is how genetically sound they are, and how sharp mentally. But generally, if a goalie is sharp through the first two periods, he’ll stay sharp. Exhaustion doesn’t really play into it too many times.”

Well, Doc would know.

And I know there are other “Winner-take-All” games in MLB and the other team sports; but they don’t carry the same cache as “Game 7”. In a long series, there are decisions and nuances that affect each piece of strategy in the ultimate game.

I remember how Cubs manager Joe Maddon needed so much from his closer Aroldis Chapman in the final three games of the 2016 World Series. Chapman expended 42 pitches to save Game 5. After a day off, Chapman had 20 pitches in a 9-3 blowout win to even the series. And in Game 7, Chapman blew a save opportunity in the 8th inning. Chapman had enough left to get three Cleveland hitters out in the ninth to send Game 7 into extra innings, but his 35 pitches prevented him from pitching the bottom of the 10th and saving Game 7. Little used Carl Edwards, Jr. and Mike Montgomery recorded the final three outs, albeit with some drama.

So as a sports fan, you can like any month best, and I’ll respect your opinion. I’ll just say this: baseball is good from the first sip of Opening Day — or the first pitch of a morning Sunday slate — to the last out of the World Series.  Especially when it’s extra-innings of a Game 7.

You know, when you can dream that the game will never end.

How to Watch Giants vs Reds on Peacock

Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds host Brandon Crawford and the San Francisco Giants from Great American Ballpark on MLB Sunday Leadoff live this Sunday, May 29 at 11:30 a.m. ET on Peacock. This week’s MLB Sunday Leadoff coverage begins with the pregame show at 11 a.m. ET on Peacock. NBC Sports’ Ahmed Fareed is the pre- and postgame host of MLB Sunday Leadoff and also serves as the in-game reporter.

How to Watch:

Date Show Time (ET) Platform
Sun., May 29 MLB Sunday Leadoff Pregame 11 a.m. Peacock
Sun., May 29 Giants vs. Reds 11:30 a.m. Peacock

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.

RELATED: Keep eyes on Alzolay to emerge as Chicago’s closer

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.

RELATED: Why the time is now to add Rangers’ Will Smith

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.

How to watch MLB on Peacock                           

Click here to sign up for Peacock and watch all 19 MLB games live on Sunday mornings!

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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!