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10 biggest surprises early in the 2023 MLB season

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Now that we’re a month deep into the baseball season, it’s time to check out some MLB early-season surprises in 2023.

While the season is still young, we thought we’d offer our analysis of the season so far. Specifically, we want to explore the things we didn’t expect to see at this point in the season.

MLB early season surprises 2023

Obviously, based on preseason predictions and position rankings, we had an idea of how the 2023 MLB season might unfold. Of course, it’s in the nature of baseball that things don’t go as planned.

Just so we’re clear, there is no guarantee that these trends will continue throughout the whole season. But with a month of baseball in the books, let’s explore the 10 biggest MLB early-season surprises in 2023.

Tampa’s utter dominance

We’ve grown accustomed to the Rays being good in recent years, but Tampa starting the year 13-0 was surely one of the biggest MLB early-season surprises in 2023. Of course, the fact that they beat the Tigers, Nationals, A’s, and Red Sox in those 13 games detracts a little bit from what the Rays accomplished.


But even against bad teams, 13 straight wins isn’t an easy feat in the big leagues. Keep in mind 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 a lot of close games. It’s not as if Tampa leveled off that much after that start. The Rays finished April 14-2 at home and with a run differential of nearly +100, making it clear that they are the pre-eminent team in the big leagues this year.

Orioles look for real

Elsewhere in the AL East, the Orioles have proven to be a surprise team early in 2023 by looking like a legitimate playoff contender. To be fair, Baltimore fired some warning shots last year before fading late.

But after a strong April, the Orioles look poised to take another big step forward in 2023. The surprising part is that they’ve looked every bit as good as the Yankees and Blue Jays, meaning there’s an argument that Baltimore is the second-best team in the AL East. Before the season, even the most optimistic Baltimore fans didn’t think that was possible.

White Sox disappoint again

A couple of years ago, the White Sox looked poised to contend for AL Central titles for many years to come. But they were huge disappointments last year and are on their way to doing the same this season.

The surprising part is just how quickly the White Sox have floundered. Chicago had a double-digit losing streak at the end of April, sending the White Sox to the bottom of the division. Even if you’re not surprised that the White Sox failed to keep pace at the top of the division, there was no predicting they would fall behind this quickly or look so inept in April.


First-place Pirates

It might be early in the season, but it’s still hard to reconcile the fact that the Pirates sit atop the NL Central a month into the season. They are certainly one of the top MLB early-season surprises in 2023.

While they’ve had one of the best farm systems in baseball over the last few years, the Pirates have also lost at least 100 games in back-to-back seasons. Even being in contention to win the division would be a massive jump in one year.

Also, keep in mind the Pirates haven’t won a division title since 1992 when Barry Bonds won MVP honors for the Pirates, who were in the NL East at the time. Thus far, it hasn’t been a fluke, making Pittsburgh a team to match moving forward.

Slow start for the Cardinals

While the Pirates have shocked baseball by leading the NL Central, the Cardinals have been equally surprising for different reasons. St. Louis was the obvious division favorite heading into the season. But they sit in last place after the first month of 2023.

The team’s pitching hasn’t been there, but they’ve also looked like the worst offensive team in the division. Nobody should be writing off St. Louis just yet, but it’s certainly surprising to see a team like that stumble out of the gate.

Diamondbacks jump ahead

We know before 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 the vast majority of April.

The D’Backs got off to a hot start and have been able to hold a slight lead over the Padres and Dodgers throughout the first month of the season. Of course, whether the D’Backs have staying power is another question. But Arizona’s start has been promising.

Mediocre NL West

Despite getting off to a fast start in April, the Diamondbacks haven’t been able to create that much separation from their NL West rivals. That is because the entire division has been mired in mediocrity during the first month of the season.

The Padres and Dodgers were both expected to be National League powerhouses this season. But both have hovered around the .500 mark thus far.

Neither looks like an exceptional team despite possessing far more talent than most other MLB teams. Meanwhile, the Giants are striving to obtain mediocrity following a disappointing start to the season. Must like the Diamondbacks, they’ve failed to capitalize on slow starts by the Dodgers and Padres, turning the entire division into a den of mediocrity.

Padres can’t hit

The most shocking part of the season thus far is how bad the Padres have been offensively. They started to click late in April when they enjoyed the altitude in Mexico City. But for much of April, Xander Bogaerts was the only hitter living up to expectations. Juan Soto endured perhaps the worst month of his career while Manny Machado, Jake Cronenworth, and Ha-Seong Kim also had terrible starts to the season.

Nobody could have predicted that all of those players would get off to such bad starts or that the Padres would be one of the worst offensive teams in baseball for most of April.

Historically bad A’s

We knew that the A’s would be bad this year, but they’ve been surprisingly worse than expected. For most of April, they had a staff ERA over 8.00, which is historically bad. At their current pace, the A’s will be lucky to win 30-35 games this season.

That makes them almost illogically bad, not just historically bad.

To be fair, most of Oakland’s games in April came against teams with a winning record, so it’s hard to imagine the A’s keeping up this dreadful pace all year. Nevertheless, it’s been surprising to see a big-league team look this bad.

Stolen base free-for-all

Most of us had a suspicion that stolen bases would increase league-wide given the new rules about the pitch clock and the number of disengagements pitchers are allowed. But it’s been surprising to see just how much runners are taking off, literally.

Not only are stolen base attempts up considerably but so is the success rate on stolen bases. During the first week of the season, attempted base stealers were successful more than 80% of the time.

This could potentially be the first season in MLB history that base stealers are successful at least 80% of the time. Plus, the 2023 season is on pace to have the most stolen bases since 1999. We knew the new rules would change the game, but it’s been surprising to see it change this much.

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