Opening Day is just days away as the Phillies are set to head to Texas to play the Rangers.
With the season getting ready to begin, there have been plenty of changes to the Phillies roster and Major League Baseball as a whole.
Opening Day in 2023 will start a new era of Phillies baseball and, hopefully, end a little better than where they left off in 2022.
The most talked about topic when it comes to baseball over the last couple of months has been the rule changes.
For those unaware, Major League Baseball instituted changes to the way the game is going to be played moving forward. These changes include a pitch clock, expanded bases, and the banning of the shift.
The biggest change in baseball this year is the pitch clock. The MLB has made it a point to shorten games, and this is the method in which they have chosen.
Once the pitcher receives the ball, he has 15 seconds to get the next pitch off. If the pitcher does not start his delivery toward the plate in this timeframe, the umpire will award the batter a ball.
The hitter also has to follow closely to these rules. If the batter is not in the box and prepared to hit with 8 seconds remaining on the clock, the umpire will reward the pitcher with a strike.
Once runners get on base, the clock is expanded to 20 seconds. This gives everyone a little more breathing room to work with.
Major League Baseball also decided to expand the bases moving forward.
Traditionally each base was 15 inches by 15 inches. Now, the bases will be 18 inches by 18 inches, a big increase when you really think about it.
Another rule change that pairs with the bigger bases is a new pickoff rule. Pitchers can only throw two pickoff attempts to a specific runner. If they try a third time and do not pick the runner off, they are awarded the next base.
These changes were enacted in order to add more excitement to the game. Major League Baseball wants more runners in motion and to try and break up the stagnant nature of the game that has been shown in recent years.
Finally, the shift is no more!
Something that has been heavily debated over recent years is the shift. It is no longer allowed in the same ways that we’ve come to know them.
The infield must have two players on both sides of the second base, meaning that teams cannot stack their players on one side of the field. The infielders have to start on the infield grass, so no more second basemen playing shallow right field.
While there are still some ways to work around these rules, shifting is going to put defenses in more precarious positions than they had before. The idea behind this was also to add more excitement to the game, and it should lead to more offense.
Phillies Off-Season Moves
The Phillies had quite an off-season heading into the 2023 season.
They added All-Star shortstop Trea Turner to an 11-year / 300 million dollar contract to be the Phillies shortstop for the next decade plus. Turner is an MVP-caliber player who can carry this team on both sides of the field, especially with Bryce Harper down to start the year.
Another big signing by the team was when the Phillies signed starting pitcher Taijuan Walker to a 4-year / $72 million dollar contract. Walker comes over to Philly from the Mets and will be the fourth starter for this team. He joins a rotation with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suarez and is expected to take over the role that Zach Eflin had for the Phillies in previous seasons.
The Phillies strengthened their bullpen this off-season too. President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski went out and added Gregory Soto, Craig Kimbrel, and Matt Strahm to the Phillies ‘pen. Joining Seranthony Dominguez and Alvarado, the Phils have one of the better bullpens in baseball on paper.
Professional baseball is a business, after all, and as much as the team would’ve liked to keep most players from the 2022 National League Champions, some guys had to move on.
Second basemen Jean Segura’s contract expired at the season’s end, and the veteran signed a deal to play with the Miami Marlins. With the Phillies signing Trea Turner, there really wasn’t a spot for Jean, and thus his tenure with the team came to a close.
Longtime starter Zach Eflin also left the team this past off-season. Eflin signed a huge contract with the Tampa Bay Rays to be their third starter. Eflin became the highest-paid free agent that the club had ever signed.
Other players who moved on include Brad Hand, David Robertson, Noah Syndergaard, Johan Camargo, and several more.
The Phillies won the National League in 2022 and came two games away from winning the World Series.
Despite their success last season, that means nothing in regard to 2023. This is a new team with new faces walking around the locker room. The Phillies have a tremendous group of players and now have expectations that they must live up to.
The Phillies should and will make the playoffs in 2023. We saw how the additional Wild Card spot really helped them last season, and I don’t expect the Phillies to need to rely on that final spot at the end of the season.
I think the Phillies will win 90 games this season and finish in 5th place in the National League. Last year, I correctly predicted the teams’ record and even nailed my bold prediction that they would make the NLCS.
As much as I would love another trip to the World Series, I expect the Phillies to make it as far as the NLCS in 2023. They will be a great team, but the Dodgers, Padres, Mets, and Braves will all be legitimate threats this season.
We are in for another great season of Phillies baseball, and I cannot wait to see them take the field in Texas on Thursday.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt Slocum