The implementation of the new rules in Major League Baseball (MLB) led many to believe that there would be some shifts in the landscape of the league. However, it was hard to predict what has happened so far this season. Teams are outperforming their projections and players are playing well above their previous standards. There is so much variation in baseball that this isn’t very surprising, but strange nonetheless. Here are a few highlights to this strange MLB season so far.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are good?
Last year, the Pirates were one of the worst teams in all of baseball. They went 62-100 and that led to them getting the number one overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft. It’s a part of a rebuild that has been going on for a few years. Before the season started, it seemed like this was going to be another mediocre season for the team, but out of nowhere, they are tied for second best record in all of baseball and lead the National League (NL) Central Division. According to Baseball Reference, the Pirates are the ninth best hitting and pitching team in all of baseball. There are some not surprising reasons why they are good. Outfielder Bryan Reynolds is still hitting like crazy and Ke’Bryan Hayes is still playing elite defense. But then you also have guys like Jack Suwinski and Rodolfo Castro doing very well. There is also Andrew McCutchen who is turning back the clock in Pittsburgh and hitting 40% better than the average hitter. The pitching as a whole isn’t turning heads but it’s solid overall. Do I think they can sustain this? Probably not. Is it fun right now? For sure.
The Tampa Bay Rays are REALLY good.
I think a lot of baseball fans expected the Rays to be good this year because they are always good. Their development team has been very good at getting the best out of their players. I don’t think anyone expected them to start the season with a 14 game win streak to start the season. They are also the best hitting and pitching team in all of baseball. I think this is 100% sustainable as the Rays have some of the best analysts in the league.
Matt Chapman is the best player on the Toronto Blue Jays
Chapman has been underrated for a while. The guy gets extra base hits, strikes out and plays excellent defense. It’s not the best overall combination, but people have begun to underrate him because of his batting average. This year he’s showing everyone why he’s one of the best players in the league. He is 107% better than the average hitter and hitting .364. That’s absolutely crazy and I am all for it.
Jarred Kelenic is finally here
Kelenic was traded by the New York Mets to the Seattle Mariners in a trade that included Edwin Diaz. At the time it was a crazy trade because Kelenic was a rising prospect that looked like he was going to be the future of the league. That future took a little bit longer than expected as he struggled in his first two seasons in the MLB. This year though it seems like he has put it all together. He is now hitting 98% better than the average hitter with seven home runs, which is tied for sixth in the league. The wait has been worth it cause now the Mariners have two of the best young outfielders in all of baseball.
Juan Soto is terrible
As a Washington Nationals fan, I will always be a big fan of Soto, but what happened to him? He went from Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award candidate to a hitter that is 4% below average. Since going to the San Diego Padres, Soto has been mediocre, but this season is bad. He does lead the league in walks with 22, but everything else is just bad. I hope he can turn it around and cement himself back in the conversation as one of the best hitters in all of baseball.
Sonny Gray leads the league in earned run average (ERA)?
Minnesota Twins pitcher Gray has had an up and down career. Early on he showed flashes of greatness before becoming a completely different pitcher on the New York Yankees. He is a pitcher that lacks consistency. However, this year he appears to have figured it all out. Gray leads the lead in ERA at 0.62 and is pitching a whopping 601% better than the average pitcher. That is most certainly not sustainable, but a lot of other pitchers in the Twins rotation have been doing well this season so it’s possible something has clicked and he’s an elite pitcher again.
Too many aces are doing poorly
It’s still early in the season, but it’s worrying how poorly some ace starting pitchers are doing. You got guys like Sandy Alcantara and Lance Lynn pitching worse than the average pitcher. Alcantara won the NL Cy Young Award last year. There’s also Corbin Burnes, Aaron Nola, Alek Manoah and Logan Webb. I can keep going on, but all of these guys are Cy Young Award candidates each year and now they are among the worst starting pitchers in the league. It is possible the pitch clock has something to do with that or they are just off to slow starts. Overall, things will probably even out, but it still is sad to see how poorly these guys are doing this season.