With pitcher and catchers set to report in less than a month, it’s time to start looking ahead to the Atlanta Braves’ 2023 season. Obviously, we are all excited for our beloved baseball to return, but there are going to be some major changes coming – not only on the Braves team, but also for the MLB rules.
The Atlanta Braves team:
Along with Dansby Swanson, Luke Jackson and William Contreras will no longer be Braves in 2023. Swanson signed a 7-year, $177 deal with the Cubs, Contreras was part of the Braves 3-way trade with the Milwaukee Brewers and Oakland Athletics, in which the Braves got catcher Sean Murphy. And most recently, Luke Jackson signed a 2-year, $11.5 million deal with the San Fransisco Giants.
It was sad to see these three loved players go, but we can’t dwell on the past…and the Braves are still the same good team we know them to be.
Why is MLB changing/creating new rules?
I recently had someone challenge me on this topic. A lot of people say that the only reason that MLB is changing the rules of the game (i.e. adding the pitch clock) is to speed up the game. That is simply NOT true! Time is a contributing factor, but it is NOT the “ONLY” reason they are adding the pitch clock as some people would like to argue. Part of the reason they are implementing the pitch clock is that it speeds up game play which will help enhance production on the field. That means there won’t be as much “dead time” for players while they’re on the field. On average, a MLB pitcher took anywhere between 15-45 seconds to throw one pitch. 45 seconds is a long time to take to throw a pitch! Not to mention, it seems the longer a pitcher takes to throw a pitch, the more comfortable the batter is facing that pitcher. From the time a batter gets into the batters box to the end of his at-bat (whether he got out or reached base) it’s about intimidation factor. If you go up to the batters box and seem uncomfortable…the pitcher is going to trample all over you. But, if a batter is hard-core staring at the pitcher while he is going through his excessive windup, then it’s going to have an impact on the pitcher and make him redo his windup, causing the at-bat to last longer.
With the pitch clock, MLB pitchers will now get 15 seconds to throw a pitch with no runners on base and 20 seconds with runners on base. If they don’t throw a pitch within that amount of time, it is charged as an automatic ball. This rule is going to be harder for some pitchers than others. For example: last year, it took Braves reliever Jesse Chavez roughly 13.5 seconds to throw a pitch. Whereas it took former Braves closer Kenley Jansen roughly 20 seconds to throw a pitch with NO runners on base, and roughly 25.5 seconds to throw a pitch with runners on. I do not mean this rudely, but as a Braves fan, I’m glad we don’t have Jansen as our closer for the first year with the pitch clock.
There were two other rule changes that will be implemented this year. There will be larger bases, and no more shift.
When I first heard they were enlarging the bases from 15inches to 18 inches I was intrigued. Those three extra inches added onto the bases are to help prevent collisions. It will give the position player and the player running the bases more space to operate. This will especially come in handy with stolen bases – bringing the stolen base rate up that is. But stolen base rate, in the end, is not why they are enlarging the bases. They are doing it to try and prevent collisions and life-threatening injuries to the players. All of Braves Country wish these larger bases would have been on the in-field last year for Ozzie!
The new rule about the shift is that when a pitch is thrown, four infielders must be on the dirt, two on each side of second base. Once the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, they are allowed to move, but they are not allowed to shift and “prepare” for what the hitter might do before hand.
Adding this rule to the game of baseball is to get more players to reach base. Honestly, some players should be embarrassed that MLB is adding this rule. It almost seems like a pity rule because they can’t pull their hands in and shorten their swing to hit the ball the other way.
However, in some ways I suppose it is good that MLB is adding this rule, because it keeps the infielders in the position they are supposed to be in. When Austin Riley ran across the diamond from third base to play behind first base in shallow right field after every other pitch, that was excessive. And what blew my mind was that when the third base line was WIDE open, players still hit the ball RIGHT at where Riley was positioned. Yes, I know. As a Braves fan I was happy it worked out in our favor – but come on!!!! You’re supposed to be a professional, yet you can’t hit the ball in a wide open gap.
So yes, I think it is a good thing that they are ending the shift, but I also think it embarrassing for players that they are having to take it away. That is my view on the end of the shift.
Braves Potential in 2023:
The Atlanta Braves are a good team. Just because they lost two of their long time players does not automatically put them at a disadvantage. I believe the Braves are going to have a great 2023 season and are easily title contenders.
Here are a couple reasons why I believe this:
- The Braves will have a healthy team coming into this season:
It was clear to see that Ronald Acuña Jr. was no where near 100% in 2022. He was not as comfortable in the outfield and was not the Acuña we were used to seeing at the plate or on the basepads. He was caught stealing 11 out of 40 times. While that doesn’t seem like a bunch, it’s a LOT compared to 2019 when he stole 37 bases and was only caught 9 times. Acuña has been training a lot this off-season. I think, if anything, this season taught him that he wasn’t the invincible “king” he thought he was and that it really is a team effort for all of the wins that the Braves team got. It will be good to *hopefully* see him play with a team attitude and not a me attitude this year.
It will also be absolutely wonderful to have a healthy Ozzie Albies back. Ozzie broke his foot on June 13th of 2022 and was out until September 16th. And then, on September 18th, just two days later – Ozzie broke his finger sliding into second base. It was so painful to see him go down again with another freak accident after he had just worked SO hard to come back. And you could tell that having him back sparked something in the Braves. He brings enormous energy to the club and brings out the best in Ronald Acuña Jr. Just imagine how many wins the Braves could have had in 2022 (keep in mind they had 101) if they had Acuña to his full potential and Ozzie 100% healthy.
Another player the Braves will have healthy in 2023 is RHP Mike Soroka. Soroka hasn’t played in a major league game since he tore his ACL on August 3rd, 2020. It’s been almost three years!!! That’s insane. He could have pitched in the mid 2021 season, but he tore his ACL AGAIN by walking into the Braves clubhouse for some extra rehab. Soroka was a great pitcher in the short amount of time we got to see him pitch before he became injury plagued. I am looking forward to seeing what he can/will bring to the Braves starting rotation.
- Braves Young Rookie Duo:
Michael Harris the II and Spencer Strider were a big part of the success that the Atlanta Braves had in 2022. They were both extremely impressive – so impressive that they both got long-term deals with the Braves before the 2022 season was over. Now that says a LOT about their potential!
As soon as he came up, Michael Harris II was a phenomenon. His defense was easily Gold Glove worthy. I still don’t know how he made some of those plays that he did! He also brought more offensive power into the lineup. He hit his homers, got his hits, and took his walks. He found ways to get on base.
Spencer Strider started his 2022 season in the bullpen, then around late April- mid May, the Braves coaching staff made the great decision to put him into the starting rotation and there was no looking back. He had 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings pitched. That’s incredible! Not to mention he has such a high velocity on his pitches and can control them at the same time. A lot of pitchers either throw fast and have no control of their pitches or the strike zone, or have low velocity and control of their pitches. But Strider is capable of doing both.
Harris won the Rookie of the Year award for 2022 and Spencer Strider was the runner up for the award. They have both proven that they are great players and they are going to have an impact on the Braves for years to come.
There are, of course, other reasons why the Braves have the potential to have a great season in 2023. They have a solid lineup, solid defense, a solid rotation, and a solid relief core. It’s just a matter of getting all of those things to work together at the same time. Many times last year it seemed that we struggled with having great pitching and no offense, or great offense and terrible pitching. Yet, when they got over those slumps, they were almost unbeatable.
I am beyond excited for the 2023 season! I cannot wait to see the Braves play- and play to their full potential.
Always and forever, GO BRAVES!!