Five Things Still Left to Be Decided in 2023 MLB Season

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Five Things Still Left to Be Decided in 2023 MLB Season

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With only two weeks remaining in the MLB regular season, the race for control of the AL East is still wide open. Both the Orioles and Rays have secured playoff berths, but the battle for division supremacy continues. Their recent head-to-head series ended in a split, leaving Baltimore with a two-game lead over Tampa Bay. The Orioles have a slightly more favorable schedule in the final stretch, with just one series against a winning team, while the Rays have two series left against tough opponents, including six games against the Blue Jays. Additionally, the Orioles could receive a boost from injured players returning to action, such as first baseman Ryan Mountcastle and reliever Félix Bautista, who is working toward a comeback after a partial UCL tear diagnosis in August.

The Orioles broke a seven-year playoff drought with a win over the Rays Sunday.  Photo Cradit: news-daily.com

The Rays face an uphill battle in their quest for the AL East title, with FanGraphs giving the Orioles an 80.4% chance of winning the division. However, there’s still time for unexpected twists and turns in this race.

Meanwhile, in the AL West, what initially seemed like an uneventful division race has become intriguing. The Rangers held the lead from the season’s start until August 24, but their recent struggles have opened the door for the Astros. Houston currently maintains a slim lead, with the Rangers and Mariners both within two-and-a-half games of first place. With numerous divisional matchups remaining, particularly for the Mariners, this race promises excitement and tension until the very end.

While it’s possible that all three AL West teams could make the playoffs, the presence of the Blue Jays in the wild card mix suggests that only two of them are likely to secure postseason berths. This makes the battle for division supremacy even more crucial, as the division winner earns a direct pass to the first round of the playoffs.

The Chicago Cubs, who enjoyed a strong August, have hit a rough patch in September, going 2-8 in their last 10 games. This slide has put their playoff hopes in jeopardy, especially with both the Reds and Giants vying for the final wild card spot. The Cubs’ chances, once as high as 92.6% on September 6 according to FanGraphs, have now dipped below 50%. What makes their situation even more challenging is that they lost the season series to several teams in contention for wild card spots, including the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Reds. Since the season series is the first tiebreaker for playoff positioning, the Cubs must perform exceptionally well in upcoming series against the Pirates and Rockies to keep their playoff dreams alive.

The NL MVP Race

Acuña has played in 147 games for the Braves this year. Photo Cradit: news-daily.com

One of the most intriguing award races as the MLB season nears its conclusion is the battle for the NL MVP. Ronald Acuña Jr. has put up historic numbers with 37 home runs and 66 stolen bases, a feat never before seen in MLB. On the other hand, Mookie Betts is having a fantastic season of his own with the Dodgers, surpassing Acuña in both OPS+ and WAR, according to both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs. The NL MVP race not only reflects the performance of these two exceptional players but also highlights the voters’ differing philosophies on the value of a player to their team. As the season winds down, the performance of Acuña and Betts in crucial moments could make all the difference. Additionally, keeping an eye on Acuña’s health is vital, as he recently missed two games due to a calf strain.

While not as urgent as the previous topics, the pursuit of 50 stolen bases by several players this season is still fascinating. Prior to this year, no player had reached the 50-stolen base mark in MLB since 2017, achieved by both Billy Hamilton and Dee Strange-Gordon. The rule changes in the current season, including limited pickoffs and larger bases, suggested that this trend might change. Ronald Acuña Jr. leads the league in steals with 66, while A’s outfielder Esteury Ruiz has already crossed the 50-stolen base threshold. Furthermore, Bobby Witt Jr. and Corbin Carroll are each at 47 steals. If both Witt and Carroll reach 50 steals, it will mark the first time in 15 years that four players have accomplished this feat in a single season. This increase in stolen bases is just one of the ways in which the game of baseball has evolved this year, with the average game time also decreasing by over 20 minutes, providing fans with a more exciting and dynamic experience.

Reference:

https://www.wkrn.com/sports/sports-illustrated/f1a12355/five-things-still-left-to-be-decided-in-2023-mlb-season/#:~:text=Some%20playoff%20spots%20have%20been,air%20with%20two%20weeks%20remaining.&text=There%20are%20just%20two%20weeks%20left%20in%20the%20MLB%20regular%20season.

https://www.news-daily.com/arena/sports_illustrated/five-things-still-left-to-be-decided-in-2023-mlb-season/article_78fed3d6-ad41-5c93-b363-099caa6ceb58.html

https://www.si.com/mlb/2023/09/18/five-races-decided-regular-season-mvp-division-races

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