The regular season is over, but the fun has just begun.
With the 2023 MLB postseason beginning on Tuesday, there will be so much to keep up with. Everything from pitching matchups, surprise contenders and October-baseball curses — the list is endless for these games.
In this case, however, here are six storylines to watch as the postseason commences:
The O’s Experience
The Baltimore Orioles won 101 games in 2023 for the first time since 1979, respectively.
As the players headed into spring training, they couldn’t be more confident in their squad. Their consistency showed throughout the year after haven’t been swept in 91 consecutive game series, dating back to May 2022.
The biggest question for them: Will lack of experience be a factor?
Well, it depends who you ask. Veteran players could say there is extra emphasis on the day-to-day or there is a higher intensity. That could prove as a difficult task in a sport where you’re constantly having to remind yourself to simplify your approach.
“.. having people you can go to with any type of question, I remember how valuable that was,” Minnesota Twins reliever Emilio Pagán told the Star Tribune‘s Phil Miller.
And Baltimore players aren’t without playoff appearances, either.
James McCann, Adam Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Jack Flaherty, and Kyle Gibson have postseason experience. Mind you their 60 combined games don’t stack up to the Houston Astros’ 607.
Still, the young talent the O’s team possesses shouldn’t be ignored. Manager Brandon Hyde refuses to use the term “good” in describing his team that made their way to the American League Division Series. He prefers using “talented.”
It goes without saying — don’t sleep on this team.
This lineup is simply unfair.
It’s no wonder why the Atlanta Braves won 104 games.
Lefty slugger Matt Olson led the majors with 54 home runs and 139 RBI, and Ronald Acuña Jr. became the first player in to hit 40-plus homers and notch 70-plus stolen bases in the same season. He’s in a club of his own.
The team also had productive seasons from Austin Riley, Sean Murphy, Ozzie Albies… and the list goes on an on.
The team overall ranked first in runs scored (947), in OPS (.845), home runs (307), and batting average (.276). Atlanta has so much depth heading into the postseason that it’s almost laughable.
IF there were to be a way for other teams to capitalize off of the Braves, it could be on the mound. They rank around the middle across the league with a 4.14 collective ERA.
Pitcher Max Fried looks to have that blister issue healed soon, so that’s great news. Charlie Morton could be out through the entirety of the NLDS with a finer issue, and Bryce Elder looks to be dealing with the end-of-the-season exhaustion.
The Astros are the team that everyone loves to beat. If that doesn’t happen, everyone cheers against them.
With that said, there’s always something a little extra behind beating a team that has found themselves reaching the ALCS for the last six years in a row.
Yordan Alvarez is deathly to pitch to, and Kyle Tucker manages to be an underrated superstar once postseason ball comes into play.
Tucker, across four years and 12 series, is slashing .257/.321/.427 with 44 hits and eight home runs in the postseason.
Don’t forget (not that you would because you’re very on top of it) Justin Verlander has been reunited with his former organization after the trade deadline and October baseball is his playground.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are the definition of F Around and Find Out.
For starters, Zac Gallen had a Cy Young campaign in 2023 with a 3.47 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 210 innings.
He’s also ready for the postseason.
“We control our own destiny,” Gallen told MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert. “So I don’t think that’s the wrong way to look at it — for our backs to be against the wall. And we also can get some help from some other team, so I think we’re just gonna come out and play our game like we did tonight. We just couldn’t really get anything going. I don’t think anyone’s really panicked, to be honest with you.”
Corbin Carroll’s rookie campaign had the 23-year-old giving us a season where he came as advertised.
At the end of September, Carroll became the first player in MLB history to record 10 or more triples, 25 or more doubles, 25 or more home runs, and 50 or more stolen bases in a single season.
#Dbacks OF Corbin Carroll is the first player in MLB history to record 10 or more triples, 25 or more doubles, 25 or more home runs, and 50 or more stolen bases in a single-season.
— Arizona Diamondbacks | Stats & Info (@DbacksStatsInfo) September 28, 2023
This is his first big-league season. Did I mention that?
Don’t sleep on the Rays
Not that you are.
Another team you shouldn’t get any Z’s on is the Tampa Bay Rays.
Why? Well, this team is really, really good.
One very fascinating aspect to this team is how well they utilize their pitchers. That’s imperative to a successful team in the playoffs.
The Rays used 37 pitchers across the 2023 season — no other AL playoff team used more than 31. The staff managed to produce a collective 3.86 ERA.
Tyler Glasnow gets the nod for Game 1 in the AL Wild Card Series against the Rangers.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be with like, such a good organization and we’ve had the chance every year I’ve been here other than ’18,” Glasnow told reporters recently. “So I think the more experience you have doing something, the more comfortable you get.”
And then there’s Randy Arozarena:
With Wander Franco on administrative leave, the team still managed to do well. They went 28-15 without the All-Star shortstop who was batting .281 with 17 home runs and 58 RBI before Aug. 12.
The new rules
The 2023 regular-season rules that were implemented won’t go away for the postseason, but there is an adjustment.
For the postseason, MLB will have neutral clock operators as opposed to team’s hiring of those in such positions.
It’ll be interesting to see if the excitement that came with the regular season, and shortened games translates to the postseason. It surely will.
This season, MLB saw the highest success rate of stolen bases in baseball history.
Through a total of 2,384 games this season, the average game measured in at 2:40 compared to an average 3:04 in 2022, and 3:10 in 2021. The overall batting average has increased from .243 last season, to .248 this year. The strikeout rate also has increased slightly.
Imagine that in a playoff atmosphere.