Mr. Stats Notes: The Bryce Harper/Juan Soto matchup


On Sunday morning, the Philadelphia Phillies play at Washington in a game that can be streamed on Peacock starting at 12pm ET. It’s a great chance to check in on two of the premiere talents in the game, Bryce Harper and Juan Soto.

Harper is the reigning National League MVP, coming off a season that he slugged .615 and had an OPS of 1.044.

Harper’s slugging, OPS, and OPS+ is a touch higher this year. Still not 30 years old, his career .920 OPS and OPS+ of 144 puts him in the stratosphere of players. Entering Thursday, Harper is batting .364/.444/.675 with 6 HR, 19 RBI over his past 20 games.  And this weekend, Bryce will bat against a Washington pitching staff that has allowed the most home runs in baseball.

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While his offensive production is still there, he has been limited to being a designated hitter due to his strained right elbow. To say the Phillies need him in the outfield is an understatement.

There’s one thing missing from Bryce’s resume. He hasn’t played in the postseason since joining the Phillies in 2019. Harper has played in four postseason series, and his teams are 0-4.

Worse, the team he left — the Nationals — won the World Series in 2019, the first season after his departure.

One of the main reasons Washington won the World Series was the play of then 20-years old Juan Soto. Soto was second in 2018 in the Rookie of the Year voting to Ronald Acuna, Jr. Soto finished second in the N.L. MVP voting last year to his former teammate Harper.

Juan Soto’s production has fallen this year, and for a good reason. There is absolutely no reason to pitch to him, and let him beat you. He leads the majors in walks. By a lot.  Entering Thursday, Soto had been walked 52 times (pace of 130).  The Nationals’ Kyle Schwarber is second in MLB with 40 walks.

Soto remained out of the lineup for the second game in a row on June 15 after he banged his right knee on the corner of the dugout bench on June 13. What a frustrating season.

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

Maybe the Washington Nationals figure out how to surround Soto with talent, and find the resources to keep him long-term. It is hard to forget how important he was to the 2019 championship. In the World Series against Houston, Soto batted .333 (9-27 AB) with 3 HR, 7 RBI, a .741 SLG and 1.178 OPS.  He had 20 total bases in the seven games. His fifth inning homer off Justin Verlander put the Nats on top in Game 6. He got on base three times in Game 7.

Bryce Harper has never appeared in a World Series. He has never appeared in a Championship Series. Before the 2019 season, he signed a whopping 13-year, $330 million dollar contract. At signing, it was the most lucrative contract in baseball history.

While Harper is committed to Philadelphia for the rest of the decade, Soto avoided arbitration by signing a $17.1 million dollar contract that takes him through 2022.

Maybe it will be Soto that will sign the most lucrative contract in baseball history. For now, the two old teammates will see each other this weekend in D.C.

It must be frustrating for both to see division rival Atlanta win the 2021 World Series. It must be so frustrating to see the Mets jump out on top in 2022 and have the resources to spend whatever it takes to win.

Both are marvelous talents, and they’ll be on display Sunday. And the Phillies have won 11 of 13 after Wednesday afternoon’s victory over the Marlins. Fangraphs has the Fightin Phils’ chances of making the playoffs at slightly more than 35%.

And the Phillies even have a 2.5% chance of winning the World Series.

It would be nice to see Bryce on the biggest of stages. It seems like he’s been around forever.

It’s Father’s Day baseball…and we’re giving you…a tie.

One player averages a HR every 18.16 at-bats for his career. The other player averages a HR every 17.25 at-bats.

One player has a career OPS+ of 140.  The other player has an OPS+ for his career of 137.

The first player is Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero.  The second player is his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

When Vlad Jr. finishes his career, there is no reason to think his offensive numbers will look much different than his dad’s, who was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018 in his second year of eligibility.

A tie for Father’s Day.

And what a tie!

RELATED: Father’s Day Gifts 2022: Best ideas for the Sports Fan Dad from Golf to Electronics

Vladimir, the father, was born February 9, 1975 in Nizao, Dominican Republic, where Guerrero played baseball barefoot as a youth, using a stick for a bat and lemons wrapped in rags for balls. There was no roof over his head for awhile, literally, the result of a hurricane blowing the roof off his family’s small home, leaving seven family members sharing two beds in a tiny room.  According to Dan Le Batard’s 2002 feature article in ESPN: The Magazine, the family drank from puddles.

Vladimir, the son, was born March 16, 1999. At the time, the new father was establishing himself as one of the brightest stars in the game, albeit for a bad Expos team. Vlad would finish his Hall of Fame career in 2011, having earned more than $125 million dollars playing in the majors.

The father didn’t have enough money for a bat or ball. The son was born, figuratively, on third base.

Earlier this season, on April 13, Vlad had a signature game against the Yankees in New York.  He went 4-4 AB, including three home runs and a double in a 6-4 victory.

Vlad Senior never did that to the Yankees. But oh boy, could he be a pain to the Bronx Bombers.

Vlad Senior played playoff games against the Yankees in 2005, 2009, and 2010. All he did in the 17 postseason games vs. New York was bat .324. He batted .333 in the Division Series in 2005 for the Angels that eliminated the Yankees. He knocked in 3 runs in the clinching Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS for the Rangers that eliminated the Yankees. He batted .370 (10-27 AB) with a HR and a .985 OPS in the 2009 ALCS, a series the Yankees won.

The Yankees once had to contend with Vladimir Guerrero, an unconventional five-tool player that was electrifying. And now, they have to face his son — in the same division.

RELATED: Manoah, Guerrero power Blue Jays to 11-1 rout of Orioles

When it’s all said and done, I’m not sure there will be much to differentiate between Vlad the father and Vlad the son.

A Father’s Day tie.

Look at the other great father/son combinations in MLB history. Usually, one is much better. On the Blue Jays, infielder Cavan Biggio is in his fourth season. No one would ever confuse the back of his baseball card with his father, Craig Biggio.

Bobby Bonds was a tremendous player (OPS+ 129), but not close to his son Barry (OPS+182).  Even if you discount (or throw out entirely) everything after 1998, Barry was far superior (OPS+ 164 through the 1998 season).

Ken Griffey was a very, very good player, but not close to his son Ken Griffey Jr., along with Barry Bonds the best player in the 1990s.

Dante Bichette had a very good career, which might have been even better if not for injuries.  In 1995, he finished second in the MVP vote to Barry Larkin. Bichette slugged .630 and hit 40 HR that season.  Of course, 31 of the 40 homers came in Coors Field. That season, Dante slugged .755 at home with a 1.153 OPS and slugged .473 with an OPS of .802 on the road. Last year, the Jays’ shortstop Bo Bichette hit 29 home runs. Bo’s power is down this year, and it seems unlikely that he’ll ever hit 40 in a season.

The only father/son combination that each had a 40+ HR season in their career besides the Guerrero’s were the Fielders. Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder each had a 50 HR season.

Prince Fielder had 50 HR in 2007. Cecil had 51 HR in 1990.

Toronto had a winning April (14-8), a winning May (14-12), and a winning June so far (9-5).  They may not catch the Yankees for the division, but they’ll almost assuredly be a playoff team.

And if the Yankees have to contend with Vladimir Guerrero again in the postseason — this time, the son — then look out New York.

Not all major league players have fathers that played in the big leagues. Obviously, most don’t.  The Phillies’ shortstop Didi Greorius grew up in Curacao. Both his older brother, Johnny, and his father played baseball for the Curacao National Team.

Some fathers don’t play baseball, but pass on their love for the game. The Phillies Rhys Hoskins is from Sacramento, and his father Paul grew up a huge Willie Mays fan.

Not every man or woman working in baseball has a father that is skilled or passionate about the game.  My own dad, Lenny Kalb, is a man of many, varied interests, but baseball is not one of them. He did think it was important to introduce me to the game at a young age. And when he took me to my first game — at Dodger Stadium — probably in the summer of 1970 — it was soon after he and my mom took my siblings and I to Disneyland for the first time. Entering the gates of Dodger Stadium, I had one thought that has stayed with me for all these years. “Why on earth do they call Disneyland the ‘Magic Kingdom.’

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

How to watch the Philadelphia Phillies vs Washington Nationals on Peacock

  • When: Sunday, June 19
  • Where: Nationals Park in Washington D.C.
  • Time: 12:00 p.m ET (live coverage begins at 11:30)
  • Live Stream: Watch live on Peacock

Father’s Day is here and NBC Sports has you covered with gift ideas for this year

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.

How to watch MLB on Peacock                           

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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!