The first full week of the 2023 MLB season is nearly in the books, and it’s been a wild one. A number of notable arms have went down, the reigning NL champions have yet to win a game, and the Angels are off to a scorching start. Now that we’re five days into the regular season, here are five key takeaways we have from the action so far.
The Rays Rotation Keeps on Ticking
Heading into action on April 4, the Tampa Bays Rays’ pitching staff owned the league’s best opponent’s batting average (.142) and ERA (1.00). Granted, it’s a small sample size — and it’s not like the Rays have faced intimidating teams thus far. Tampa swept the Tigers to start off the 2023 campaign, then beat the Nationals 6-2 on April 3. But, the pitching has nonetheless been impressive.
Rays start Drew Rasmussen threw six scoreless on April 3. LHP Shane McClanahan did as well on Opening Day, and fellow lefty Jeffrey Springs struck out 12 in his first start of 2023. Between those three, Zach Eflin, and Tyler Glasnow when he returns, Tampa is set to be a strong contender yet again.
Baserunnners Are Taking Off
The 2023 MLB season saw the introduction of bigger bases, a move designed to reduce injuries in the infield. But at the same time, bigger bags means less theoretical distance between bases and a bit of an easier path to getting a stolen base. So far, players have taken advantage of the new bases. Here’s a look at the stolen base figures after the first five days of the season in both 2022 and 2023:
- 2022: 64 G, 40 SB, 57 SBA (.63 SB/G)
- 2023: 65 G, 84 SB, 100 SBA (1.29 SB/G)
After the fifth day of the 2022 MLB season, just four players — Myles Straw, Luis Robert Jr., Jorge Mateo, and Travis Jankowski — had multiple steals on the season. In 2023, that number has jumped to 15. Mateo and Straw, alongside Cedric Mullins, lead MLB with four stolen bases.
Keep an Eye on the Wild, Wild (AL and NL) West
If there’s one thing we can take away regarding the AL and NL West divisions in 2023, it’s that we’re in for a wild ride. Let’s start in the NL West, where the Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies, and Padres all finished 2-2 after the first four games of 2023. San Francisco, meanwhile, sits at 2-2 on April 4 after the Giants blew out the White Sox in Chicago’s home opener. And in the NL West, the Rangers (29), Angels (27), and Astros (23) all sit in the top ten in total runs scored as of April 4.
The NL West will be a fight between the Dodgers and Padres, two teams loaded with stars. And in the AL West, a Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout-led Angels have shown a lot of promise thus far. Between Anaheim, a strong Mariners team, Texas, and the defending World Series champion in Houston, it’s quite possible that three teams in that division end up in the playoffs.
The Phillies Aren’t in Trouble, But…
It’s been a rough first four games for the Philadelphia Phillies. After the Phillies’ loss on April 3 to the Yankees, Philadelphia moved to 0-4 on the season and sit dead last in the Majors in team ERA (9.28) and WHIP (2.03). As far as the Phillies’ offense without Rhys Hoskins or Bryce Harper, Philadelphia has scored the fifth-fewest runs (12) in the Major, but sit in the middle of the pack in OPS (.772).
It’s too early to panic about the Phillies — particularly its lineup. There’s simply too much talent for this team to completely bottom out. However, poor showings from Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, and Taijuan Walker are not what Phillies fans wanted to see in the early goings of the 2023 season.
What About the Jays?
The Phillies aren’t the only playoff team from 2022 to get off to a poor start. Toronto is off to a 1-3 start in 2023, thanks to rough outings from Chris Bassitt and Jose Berrios. Berrios, in particular, is under the microscope after he posted the worst ERA in baseball last season among qualified pitchers. In his first start of 2023 against the Royals, Berrios struck out seven but gave up nine hits and eight earned runs against Kansas City on April 3.
The Blue Jays have premium talent in its lineup, as well as the rotation. But if the Jays want to meet or exceed expectations, that group will need Bassitt, Berrios, and Yusei Kikuchi to perform. Thus far, Toronto hasn’t gotten what it needs from its rotation — but again, it’s very early.