OK, Opening Day is just about here. So here are 23 guesses for the 2023 season.
No. 1: By June, maybe earlier, we’ll stop worrying about the rule changes.
Sure, the new rules — the pitch clock, the shift ban, the limit on throws to first, even the bigger bases — will be the big story for the first few weeks. All of us will complain about every automatic strikeout because the batter wasn’t ready and every automatic ball because the pitcher didn’t begin his windup in time and every at-bat that feels rushed compared to recent years and pretty much everything else.
But, I really believe this, assuming MLB doesn’t back down: These rules will make the games more enjoyable to watch. They’ll be faster-paced. They’ll feel more balanced. And they will remind many of us of the way they played baseball 20 and 30 and 40 years ago. I think this is the part that hasn’t been fully appreciated: This is how they used to play, fast, loose, a shortstop playing where the shortstop plays, etc. When I hear friends my age talk about how they don’t like the pitch clock because the game needs time to breathe, I ask: Did you not like the way they played baseball in 1984? In 1992? In 1978? Just give it a chance.
I think once everybody gives it a chance, people will like it. I’ve been wrong a million times before. But that’s what I really think.
No. 2: Trea Turner will win the National League MVP.
I’ve been on this train for a little while now, and then Turner (don’t forget he’s on the Phillies now) had the awesome WBC, which only convinced me more. I mean, this isn’t exactly going out on a ledge — it looks like Turner is the No. 4 or No. 5 betting choice in Vegas behind Juan Soto, Mookie Betts, Ronald Acuña Jr. and maybe Fernando Tatis Jr. (even though he’s going to miss the first 20 games of the season for the suspension).
No. 3: Patrick Corbin will lead the league in losses for the third straight year.
Washington. Blech. This team won the bleeping World Series in 2019, I mean, that’s barely five minutes ago, and by 2021 they were one of the worst teams in baseball, and in 2022 they WERE the worst team in baseball and this year they will again be the worst team in baseball. “We don’t rebuild in Washington, we reload,” Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.
Then again, last June Rizzo also said, “We are not trading Juan Soto … We are not interested in trading him. I guess the world just doesn’t believe it, but that’s our position.” And to be fair to him, it was a full eight weeks before they traded Soto.
Yes, sure, they did get a haul of prospects for Soto and maybe it all will work out some years in the future. Maybe. For now, though, they’re astonishingly bad and poor Patrick Corbin seems destined to become the first pitcher since Phil Niekro to lead the league in losses three straight years. Here are the longest streaks of leading the league in losses:
4 straight years: Pedro Ramos, 1958-61; Phil Niekro, 1977-1980.
3 straight years: Murry Dickson, 1952-54.
2 straight years: Red Ruffing, 1928-29; Bobo Newsom, 1934-35; Roger Craig, 1962-63; George Brunet, 1967-68; Steve Arlin, 1971-72; Patrick Corbin, 2021-22.
No. 4: Someone is going to steal 60 bases. Ah, let’s be bold. Someone’s going to steal 70 bases!
Nobody has stolen 60 bases in a season since Dee Strange-Gordon in 2017. Nobody has stolen 70 bases since Jacoby Ellsbury in 2009. But with the new limit on step-offs and the slightly shorter distance between the larger bases and perhaps a few more singles because of the new ban on the shift, it does feel like there’s a chance for someone to steal a bunch of bases this year. Trea Turner? Maybe.
But I’ll be keeping an eye on