With the baseball season already a month into the game, it’s time to take a look at some surprises as the 2023 MLB season begins.
Although the season is young, we thought we’d offer our analysis of the season so far. In particular, we want to explore the things that we didn’t expect at this point in the season.
Surprises at the start of the 2023 MLB season
Obviously, based on preseason predictions and positional rankings, we had an idea of how the 2023 MLB season might play out. Of course, it’s the nature of baseball that things don’t go as planned.
Just to be clear, there is no guarantee that these trends will last all season. But with a month of baseball ahead of us, let’s look at the 10 biggest MLB surprises to start the 2023 season.
Tampa’s total dominance
We’ve grown accustomed to the Rays being good over the past few years, but Tampa starting the year 13-0 was certainly one of the biggest early-season MLB surprises of 2023. Of course, the fact that they’ve beaten the Tigers, Nationals, A’s defeated , and Red Sox in those 13 games somewhat diminishes what the Rays have achieved.
But even against bad teams, 13 straight wins in the big leagues is no easy feat. Note that all but two of those wins came with a margin of at least four runs, so it’s not as if they had to win many close games. It’s not like Tampa leveled off that far after that start. The Rays finished the game at home on April 14-2 with a nearly +100 run difference, making it clear that they are the standout team in the major leagues this year.
Orioles look real
Elsewhere in the AL East, the Orioles proved themselves a surprise team at the start of 2023 by appearing like a legitimate playoff contender. In fairness, Baltimore fired a few warning shots last year before fading late.
But after a strong April, the Orioles appear poised to take another big step forward in 2023. The surprising thing is that they looked just as good as the Yankees and Blue Jays, meaning Baltimore is the second best team in the AL East. Before the season, even the most optimistic Baltimore fans didn’t think it was possible.
The White Sox disappoint again
A few years ago, the White Sox seemed poised to contend for AL Central titles for many years to come. But they were a huge disappointment last year and are on track to do the same this season.
What’s surprising is how quickly the White Sox have faltered. Chicago went on a double-digit losing streak in late April, sending the White Sox to bottom of the division. While it may come as no surprise that the White Sox couldn’t keep up at the top of the division, there was no telling they would fall behind so quickly or look so inept in April.
First Place Pirates
It may still be early in the season, but it’s still hard to reconcile the fact that the Pirates are at the top of the NL Central a month into the season. They’re certainly one of the biggest MLB surprises to start the 2023 season.
While they’ve had one of the best farming systems in baseball for the past several years, the Pirates have also lost at least 100 games in consecutive seasons. Just participating in winning the division would be a huge leap in a year.
Also keep in mind that the Pirates haven’t won a division title since 1992, when Barry Bonds won the MVP award for the Pirates, then playing in the NL East. So far, it’s no coincidence what makes Pittsburgh a team that can compete in the future.
Slow start for the Cardinals
While the Pirates shocked baseball with the leadership of NL Central, the Cardinals were equally surprising for different reasons. St. Louis was the clear division favorite early in the season. However, after the first month of 2023, they are in last place.
The team didn’t pitch as well, but they also looked like the worst offensive team in the division. No one should write St. Louis off just yet, but it’s certainly surprising to see a team like that stumbling out of the gate.
Diamondbacks jump ahead
We know ahead of the season that the Diamondbacks would be a young and exciting team to watch. However, few people would have predicted that Arizona would lead the NL West for most of April.
The D’Backs got off to a hot start, maintaining a slight lead over the Padres and Dodgers in the first month of the season. Whether the D’Backs have staying power is of course another question. But Arizona’s start was promising.
Mediocre NL West
Despite a quick start in April, the Diamondbacks couldn’t pull themselves that far from their NL West rivals. That’s because the entire division sank into mediocrity in the first month of the season.
Both the Padres and Dodgers were expected to be the National League powerhouses this season. But both have been hovering around the 500 mark so far.
Neither seems like an exceptional team, even though they have far more talent than most other MLB teams. Meanwhile, the Giants are striving for mediocrity after a disappointing start to the season. Like the Diamondbacks, they certainly failed to capitalize on the slow starts of the Dodgers and Padres, which has turned the entire division into a haven of mediocrity.
Padres can’t hit
The most shocking part of the season so far is how bad the Padres have been offensively. They started clicking in late April while enjoying the altitude in Mexico City. But for most of April, Xander Bogaerts was the only hitter who lived up to expectations. Juan Soto endured what might have been the worst month of his career, while Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim also had terrible starts to the season.
No one could have predicted that all of these players would get off to such a bad start or that the Padres would be one of baseball’s worst offensive teams for most of April.
Historically bad A’s
We knew the A’s were going to be bad this year, but they were surprisingly worse than expected. For most of April they had a personal ERA above 8.00, which historically is poor. At their current pace, the A’s will be happy to win 30-35 games this season.
That makes them almost illogically bad, not just historically bad.
In fairness, most of Oakland’s games in April were played against teams with a winning record, so it’s hard to imagine the A’s maintaining this terrible pace all year long. Still, it’s surprising that a big league team looks so bad.
Stolen base free for all
Most of us suspected that stolen bases would increase across the league given the new pitch clock rules and the number of disengagement pitchers allowed. But it was surprising to see how many runners literally take off.
Not only have attempts to steal bases increased significantly, but so has the success rate of stolen bases. In the first week of the season, attempts to steal base were successful more than 80% of the time.
This could potentially be the first season in MLB history where base stealers are successful at least 80% of the time. Also, the 2023 season is on track to record the most stolen bases since 1999. We knew the new rules would change the game, but it was surprising that so much had changed.