Key Takeaways from the First Quarter of the MLB Season

Key Takeaways from the First Quarter of the MLB Season

The 2023 MLB season is already making history with the pitch clock implementation, but its impact on the overall game remains to be seen and has yet to be much of a distraction. On the positive, it has resulted in shorter game times and fewer extended matches, making the season’s first quarter more enjoyable.

While the focus has been on this change, several other noteworthy developments have emerged. Let’s delve into the key takeaways from baseball’s opening quarter.

1. The Mets Struggle

Despite a high-profile spending spree and the buzz surrounding MLB bets on the Mets, the team is in a significant setback. With the highest payroll in the league, they currently hold a 21-23 record, third place in the National League East.

Injuries have played a role, but the team’s lack of improvement raises concerns about their performance relative to the massive investments made during the off-season. However, with the introduction of three wild card spots in each league, the Mets still have a chance to secure a postseason berth.

2. Yankees Battling Injuries, Concerns

At 25-20, the Yankees are holding their own, especially considering injuries to key players like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. However, because of the Rays’ electrifying start and the Blue Jays and Orioles’ play, the Yankees currently trail by eight games in the American League East and in fourth place.

Notably, the Yankees have achieved this despite two starting pitchers, Luis Severino and Carlos Rodón, yet to appear this season. They still have the potential for a strong comeback once their roster is fully intact. The season is young, and they are still right in the middle of the Wild Card race.

3. Diverse Approaches to Winning

Six teams with winning percentages above .600 have demonstrated different methods for constructing successful rosters. The Rays, with the 28th-ranked payroll, rely on a blend of analytics, scouting, and their own brand of magic. At 32-12, they have been among the best stories in baseball.

The Orioles, with the 29th-ranked payroll, have seen success with cost-effective homegrown players. The perennial powerhouse Dodgers, with the fifth-highest payroll, maintain a strong record while focusing on building a solid pitching staff alongside Clayton Kershaw.

The Rangers invested heavily in free agency, while the Braves have excelled in player development and retaining talent. The Blue Jays combine international scouting, the MLB Draft, and strategic spending.

4. The Return of Stolen Bases

These have made a comeback this season, albeit not as explosively as predicted. The stolen base increase can be attributed to the base enlargement and limitations on pitcher pickoff attempts.

Esteury Ruiz of the Athletics has been a standout, with 18 stolen bases in just 42 games, projected to finish with close to 70 steals this season. The league has not witnessed a 50-steal season since 2017, and a 70-steal season hasn’t occurred since 2009.

Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves has also shown remarkable speed with 17 stolen bases following his return from injury.

5. Catchers Adapt to Base Running Threats

Catchers initially struggled to control base running threats at the start of the season, but they have since adjusted. The success rate of stolen base attempts has gradually declined from an 86.1 percent rate in the opening days to 76.3 percent in May. While this is still an improvement for runners, the trend of increased success rates for base stealing over the past two seasons continues.

6. Free-Agent Signings Present Challenges

Many of the high-profile signings this off-season have faced obstacles. Injuries have limited the contributions of players like Edwin Díaz, Carlos Rodón, Justin Verlander, and Jacob deGrom.

Meanwhile, Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Andrew Benintendi, and Xander Bogaerts have struggled to perform despite their health. It’s essential to recognize that some players may eventually live up to their contracts. Still, the reality is that the salary structure often leads to players reaching free agency past their prime years.

7. Evaluating the Disappointing Deals

A few free-agent moves from the off-season have raised eyebrows. After experiencing failed contract negotiations with the Giants and the Mets, Carlos Correa eventually signed a substantial deal with the Twins. However, he is currently enduring the worst season of his career and has even acknowledged the fans’ disappointment with his performance, given the size of his contract.

The situation in St. Louis has been equally chaotic. The Cardinals attempted to replace their legendary catcher, Yadier Molina, with Willson Contreras, a former All-Star from the Cubs. However, Contreras’s defensive downgrade seemed to unsettle the team, leading to a series of confusing decisions by Manager Oliver Marmol.

Reports emerged suggesting Contreras would transition to designated hitter and outfielder roles, only for the team to retract those statements and reinstate him as the starting catcher. The lack of clarity surrounding the situation has caused frustration for Contreras, whose contract extends until 2027, potentially exacerbating the issue.


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Shukla K

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