As we enter the month of June, the 2023 MLB picture is starting to take shape. Now, nearly 70 games in, the flukes have figured themselves out, deadline buyers and sellers have introduced themselves, and fans are starting to understand who the true title contenders are. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the biggest MLB storylines at the midseason mark.
New Teams on the Rise
Parity is often much more evident in other sports than in professional baseball. The lack of a salary cap, among other things, might be to blame. However, it just makes it more impressive when young teams retake the spotlight — which has happened this year.
In the American League, the two most surprising teams are easily Baltimore and Texas. The Orioles have rebuilt through their farm system, and currently sport a 41-24 record, just a few games off the pace in the AL East. Texas on the other hand leads their division by 3.5 games with a comfortable 41-23 record.
In the NL, the Diamondbacks, Pirates, and Marlins have all been pleasant surprises. Arizona has taken control of the NL West, as they battle with the mighty Dodgers for that group.
Meanwhile, the Marlins and Pirates are comfortably above .500 and see themselves in competitive positions for the first time in years. This is by far one of the more impressive MLB storylines at this point in the season.
Teams in the Process of Falling Off
As new teams, like the ones we just discussed, begin to enter their championship window, they replace other teams who see their window start to end. “Out with old, in with the new” is a very solid way to describe this MLB season.
There are a lot of disappointments around the majors, and in the AL, the Red Sox, White Sox, and Guardians all find themselves in that mix. The Red Sox may have started this process a year or two ago, but their 33-33 record at the time of this writing leaves a lot to be desired.
Meanwhile, Chicago and Cleveland are two teams who are relatively new on the scene, yet have struggled mightily to begin 2023. Each of those two sports a record under .500.
The Phillies made it all the way to the World Series last year, and have followed that up with a fourth-place, 29-32 record. Keeping the disarray in their division, the Mets find themselves at 30-31, a year after winning 101 games.
The Padres, a seemingly young team on the rise after making it to the NLCS last year, are now sitting at 32-33. They’ve been about as mediocre as it gets, and have yet to find themselves as we near the halfway point of the season.
Will Ohtani and Trout Finally Make the Playoffs?
After another disappointing year in Anaheim, this past offseason was riddled with trade suggestions regarding Shohei Ohtani. If the Angels were to repeat last year’s struggles in 2023, those rumors would only have gotten louder.
Turns out, Los Angeles isn’t bad. They aren’t great, but they sit above .500, with a 36-31 record. As of now, they’re still in the Wild Card race, although they do have a couple of games to make up. Could this finally be the year we see two of baseball’s best stars in the playoffs?
Will The Astros’s AL West Reign Come to an End?
For what seems like the first time in forever, the Houston Astros haven’t dominated the AL West. Since 2017, the only year they haven’t won the division was the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. Even that year, they knocked the Athletics, who won the division, out in the divisional round of the playoffs.
This year, they have some competition. Although it’s been no fault of their own, as they hold a 37-29 record, Houston still finds themselves five games behind the Rangers. The potential dethroning of the Astros is immediately one of the most interesting MLB storylines in 2023.
How Have Last Off-Seasons’ Big Spenders Fared?
The off-season before the 2023 season was an interesting one, and it had several big signings.
One of the first that comes to mind is Trea Turner. In December, the shortstop signed a massive, 11-year, $300 million deal. While we’re less than one year into the contract, it hasn’t helped Philadelphia much. The Phillies sub-.500 record isn’t all Turner’s fault, but they likely hoped for better when making this deal.
Keeping in the same division, it’s time to talk about the Mets. After a quiet playoff exit in 2022, New York walked into this season with as astounding $350 million payroll.
So far, that has not done much. The Mets have been tight-roping the .500 mark all season and have yet to find their footing. Hopefully, if only to justify their spending, they pick it up as the season continues. The Mets’ continued struggles are one of the more disappointing MLB storylines from the season.
Finally, one of the more harshly-judged contracts of the off-season came from the Boston Red Sox. Boston signed international free agent Masataka Yoshida to a five-year, $90 million deal.
At the time, most in baseball assumed this was a terrible contract, and that Boston sacrificed too much money. As it turned out, Boston did get the last laugh, as Yoshida has had an excellent debut season. The season is still young, but Yoshida has quickly established himself as one of the better hitters in the American League.
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