Mr. Stats Notes: The Rock of Cleveland


It’s rare when a stadium corporate name hits just the right note, but in Cleveland, Progressive Field sounds—just right. It’s home to the Guardians, a first-year nickname for the Cleveland franchise, and one that has grown on me.

On Sunday morning, available on Peacock to stream, is the Athletics at the Guardians (or, if you prefer, the A’s against the G’s) at Progressive Field. A guardian by definition is “a defender, protector, or keeper.”  I love it. I admit that I didn’t at first. I wanted a nickname that was either rooted in history (the Cleveland Spiders) or one that would allow them to keep a certain superstar in the prime of his career (the Cleveland Lindors).

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

Cleveland hasn’t won a World Series since 1948, but they came as close as a team could come in 2016 without winning, losing Game 7 of the World Series. In 2017, Cleveland won 102 games.

The Opening Day payroll for Cleveland was $124 million dollars in 2017, $134 million in 2018; and $119 in 2019. But the last three years, the team has operated on a shoestring budget.

In 2020, Cleveland’s Opening Day payroll was 24th highest in MLB. In 2021, the $49.6 million dollar Opening Day payroll was 29th highest (or second lowest). This year, the $68.2 million dollar payroll is 24th highest in the sport.

And yet, manager Terry Francona and the front office have kept the team competitive. The last three seasons, Cleveland has won more games than they’ve lost.

Let’s look at how they’ve done that.

Jose Ramirez is one of the best players in baseball. He signed a club-friendly 7-year, $141 million dollar contract that runs from 2022-28.

Ramirez is among the major league leaders in OPS, SLG, RBI, and extra-base hits. As of Thursday morning, his 54 RBI is tied with Pete Alonso for the major league lead.

And the 29-year old has been one of the top performers since first appearing on the scene in 2014.

And he’s been consistent…except when he wasn’t.

In 2019, Jose Ramirez was healthy, and coming off a terrific season. But when the season started, he couldn’t buy a hit in April. Or May.  Or June.

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In 2018, Ramirez played 157 games, and put up 81 extra-base hits (38 doubles, 4 triples, 39 HR).  He scored 110 times, and drove in 105. His OPS was .939, and his OPS+ was 151. It was a natural progression, as his OPS in 2017 was .957 and his OPS+ was 145. He actually had 91 extra-base hits in 2017.

But in 2019, this is what Ramirez produced through June 12 (66 games played).

279 Plate Appearances


OPS:  .586

4 HR

21 RBI

Oh, sure, Ramirez fouled a pitch off his knee in spring training just before the start of 2019. But he was cleared to play. And that wouldn’t explain that Ramirez’ slump actually began in the second half of the 2018 season.

Jose Ramirez batted just .218 after the 2018 All Star Game, and slashed just .174/.315/.322 in 25 September games.

That means, around the middle of June in 2019, there was real questions as to whether Ramirez was an everyday player, much less a superstar. (By the way, Ramirez and his declining production was a rarity in 2019, when offense was booming).

And just as quick as he declined, he rebounded. Ramirez became one of the top sluggers in baseball. From July 1-August 24 of 2019, Ramirez batted .320 (57-178 AB), 35 extra-base hits in 46 games with 15 HR, 45 RBI. And then he broke his right hamate bone swinging at a pitch in Kansas City. He had surgery to remove the hook of the hamate in his right hand on August 26 with an expected rehab time of about six weeks. He was activated from the Injured List on September 24, just 30 days following surgery.

RELATED: José Ramírez, Guardians agree to 5-year, $124M deal

Even with that extended, unexplained slump, Ramirez has been one of the very best hitters in baseball for a long time. Beginning with the 2020 season, there are only three qualifiers with a higher wRC+. Those players are Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper, and Juan Soto. Ramirez is ahead of MVPs like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

You can use counting stats (Ramirez leads all major leaguers in RBI since the start of the 2020 season) or advanced stats. Jose Ramirez is just a beast.  Since the start of 2020, Ramirez leads all major leaguers with 12.8 WAR.

He always wanted to play for the organization.  And the organization didn’t turn their back on him when he slumped in 2019, or when it came time to step up to the plate and offer Ramirez some real cash. The ownership acted as Guardians, protecting the best interests of the organization and fanbase. And Jose gets to remain a Guardian, living and thriving in the city he has been with since signing as an international free agent with Cleveland in November, 2009.

What happened to the 2016 Cleveland team?

Terry Francona had an excellent pitching staff. The 3.84 ERA doesn’t look so great, until you remember it was 2nd in the A.L. and the ERA+ was 118. The staff gave up the fewest number of hits and struck out the most batters among the 15 A.L. teams that year.

Corey Kluber is still an effective starter at 36 years old, now pitching for the Tampa Bay Rays. Kluber won a pair of Cy Young awards for Cleveland, but his final gift to the team was being traded to the Rangers for a young Emmanuel Clase, now the team’s closer. Don’t be blasé about Clase (clas-AY).  The 24-year-old has saved 10 games (in 12 save opps), with an ERA of 1.93 and a WHIP of 0.857.

Carlos Carrasco is still an effective starter, now pitching for the New York Mets. Cookie is 7-1 this year. In 2019, he overcame an in-season leukemia diagnosis and found the spirit to get back to a major league mound. In January 2021, he was traded along with Francisco Lindor to the Mets for four young players, including second baseman Andres Gimenez. Gimenez has been a godsend to the Guardians. In 24 Cleveland victories this year, he is batting .410 (34-78 AB) with an OPS of 1.171.

Mike Clevenger made his return from the Injured List last Sunday (right triceps strain) and looked real sharp for the Padres. That was his first outing since May 17. And that was only his third appearance following a long recovery from 2020 Tommy John surgery. Cleveland traded Clevenger to the Padres at the end of August, 2020, acquiring (among others) Josh Naylor and Cal Quantrill. Naylor has played well at first base. And since Quantrill became a regular member of the rotation in the middle of June, 2021, he is 11-4, 3.06 ERA in 30 starts.

For Cleveland’s 2016 staff, Trevor Bauer also played a major role. Bauer was traded to Cincinnati in the middle of 2019, a trade that brought back Franmil Reyes. Reyes hit 30 homers for Cleveland a year ago and is currently on the Injured List with right hamstring tightness. Bauer is currently suspended from baseball for two seasons under MLB’s domestic violence policy, a suspension which he is appealing.

Oh yes, there’s one reliever from that squad that is still on Terry Francona’s team. Bryan Shaw, who left for three years to pitch for Colorado and Seattle, but then signed back with Cleveland as a free agent before the 2021 season. That’s right, the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the World Series is still with the Guardians. (Flashback:  Shaw came into Game 7 in the top of the ninth, a 6-6 game, with two runners on base.  He got two huge outs, and stood to be the winning pitcher if Cleveland could have scored a run off Aroldis Chapman. They couldn’t do it. And in the top of the 10th, Ben Zobrist had a run scoring double off Shaw).

Now, Shaw’s walk-up music is “I’m Still Standing.” Not the Elton John version, the Taron Egerton rendition.

It’s perfect. Bryan Shaw is a Guardian. Like the lyrics of the song says, “And did you think this fool could never win?  Well look at me, I’m a-coming back again…”

You can strip away the best players on the team. You can cut the payroll down to the bottom of the league. The Guardians are still standing.

RELATED: How to watch Oakland Athletics vs Cleveland Guardians on Peacock

Elvis has more hits than Elvis

The Oakland Athletics don’t have many bright spots in 2022, but the play of shortstop Elvis Andrus has to be among them. Andrus, in his 14th season, and second in Oakland, came into 2022 off two bad seasons (OPS of .582, .614). This year, Andrus has an OPS of .675, and an OPS+ of 100. Not bad for a player whose career OPS+ is 86.

If you look at the bright side of things, Andrus is approaching 2,000 career hits (1,906) and 1,000 career runs scored (974). In fact, the only active players with more hits are 42-years old Albert Pujols, 39-years old Miguel Cabrera, 39-years old Yadier Molina, 38-years old Joey Votto, and 41-years old Nelson Cruz. Andrus is only 33.

If you look at the negative, only Pujols, Cabrera, and Molina have made more outs among active players.

I like to look at the positive, so I will say Elvis has more hits than any other Elvis, including Presley and Costello. Elvis Presley’s first hit was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Elvis Andrus’ first hit was a double in 2009 off Cliff Lee, then the reigning Cy Young award winner.

Early in his career, Andrus was asked if he was named after Elvis Presley. The answer is he probably wasn’t. Andrus’ father was named Emilio, and his mother was named Elvia. And all three of Elvis’ siblings have first names beginning with the letter E. His older brothers are Erikson and Erold and his sister is Emily. Andrus said once of his first name that, “I think it was the coolest name starting with an E.”

I beg to differ.

How to Watch Oakland Athletics vs Cleveland Guardians on Peacock

All-star Third baseman Jose Ramirez and the Cleveland Guardians host infielder Jed Lowrie and the Oakland Athletics from Progressive Field on MLB Sunday Leadoff live this Sunday, June 12 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., June 12 MLB Sunday Leadoff Pregame 11 a.m. Peacock
Sun., June 12 Athletics vs. Guardians 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.

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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.

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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!