The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Checking in With the MLB: Five Storylines Dominating the Diamond This Season

AP Photo / Kyusung Gong

The 2023-24 MLB season is well underway, as teams are about 30 games into the long 162-game marathon that we call our national pastime. Big storylines have already emerged — thrilling rookies, slumping stars, emerging underdogs, flat-out superteams and more. Here are some of the most noteworthy:

Arm Injuries

One of the more upsetting stories in the MLB is the rise of pitcher injuries. Atlanta Braves ace and 2023 MLB strikeout leader Spencer Strider and Cleveland Guardians’ ace and 2020 AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber both have damaged UCLs in their right elbows and will miss the rest of the season. Yankees ace and 2023 AL Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole has nerve inflammation in his elbow and will be out until late May, at the earliest. The long list also includes Astros’ Framber Valdez, Red Sox’s Lucas Giolito and Marlins’ Eury Perez, who will all miss part or all of the 2023-24 season due to elbow issues.

There are several theories as to why we have seen this uptick in arm injuries. Some have suggested that the pitch clock, implemented in 2023, is to blame. Others have suggested that pitchers are getting injured because they are throwing harder. The average fastball velocity was 90.5 MPH in 2008 and over 94 MPH in 2023, according to USA Today, so there is some backing to that claim. Doctors have also suggested that newer pitches and grips, like the sweeper and the power changeup, may add stress to pitchers’ elbows. Finally, there is some evidence that MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances in 2021 may have led to more arm injuries. The logic is that pitchers used certain substances to generate more spin, so when they try to generate more spin without the substances, it causes additional stress.

Regardless, it is frustrating for teams, players and fans alike to see some of our favorite hurlers go down this early in the season. Hopefully, this is a signal to Major League Baseball that more research should explore why there is a rise in arm injuries and what they can do to stop it.

Soto in Pinstripes

The New York Yankees, as they so often do, made a huge offseason splash in trading for superstar Juan Soto in a 7-player deal with the Padres. Soto joins another superstar outfielder Aaron Judge, forming one of the most elite duos in the game.

So far, Juan Soto has been everything the Yankees could have hoped for. As of writing, he is slashing .352/.478/.577 with a 1.055 OPS, four home runs, 17 RBIs and 18 walks. He leads the AL in walks, has the second most RBIs and third highest AVG and OPS.

He has also had several huge moments in just his first few weeks as a Yankee. On Opening Day against the Astros, he threw out Mauricio Dubon at home plate in the bottom of the ninth inning, securing a narrow 5-4 win. Later in the series, his first home run as a Yankee broke a 3-3 tie and helped them win the game.

It’s only been a month of Juan Soto’s Yankee era and there is still so much more to come. It will be exciting to watch the 25-year-old stud continue to tear it up and, potentially, lead the Yanks to their first World Series in 15 seasons.

The Dodger Superteam

The Los Angeles Dodgers, after being upset by the gritty Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2023 NLDS, went on a spending spree in the offseason. They spent over $1 billion, signing two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani to a 10-year, $700 million contract, Japanese phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a 12-year, $325 million contract and trading for and extending star pitcher Tyler Glasnow to a 5-year, $136 million contract. Wow, that’s a lot of dough.

How has the expensive offseason splurge fared so far? The Dodgers currently lead the NL West and they have been absolutely electric to watch.

Ohtani, who is only hitting this season as he recovers from elbow surgery, is still destroying baseballs in Los Angeles — this time, for a much more successful franchise. He has a .360 AVG and 1.040 OPS, both tied for the 5th highest in the NL.

Mookie Betts is also mashing baseballs as he normally does, as his .369 AVG is third-best in the MLB and his 1.137 OPS is tied for first. Mookie’s six dingers and 18 RBIs also puts him at fourth in the MLB.

As for their pitching, Yamamoto has been off to a decent start. In four starts, he has posted a 4.50 ERA, striking out 21 and walking just four in 16 innings. His fastball, which touches 97 MPH, wicked curveball and pinpoint command all suggest that he will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come.

Newly acquired Tyler Glasnow has looked phenomenal, pitching to a 3.72 ERA and striking out 34 in 29 innings, including 14 in a scoreless, 7-inning masterpiece. And don’t forget about 2020 NL MVP Freddie Freeman, or star catcher Will Smith, or even the newly acquired Teoscar Hernandez — all of whom have been raking. 

This Dodgers team is absolutely stacked from top to bottom, but they are known for choking in the playoffs — losing in the division series in both 2022 and 2023 and back-to-back World Series in 2017 and 2018. So, they will have to flip the script this year if they want to justify their billion-dollar offseason.

Emerging Rookies

With every new season comes new faces, and this season is no short of some serious rookie starpower.

Most notably, Orioles shortstop/second baseman Jackson Holliday, son of former big leaguer Matt Holiday, made his long-awaited MLB debut on April 10. So far, Holliday has struggled, going 1-25 (.040) with just one single, one RBI, one walk and 14 strikeouts. But, it’s only been a few weeks, and he is the No. 1 prospect in baseball for a reason. He is touted for his plate discipline, hard contact and exit velocities and his speed and baserunning, and he is still a name to keep an eye on.

Jackson Chourio, Milwaukee Brewers right fielder and No. 2 MLB prospect, also made his debut this season. Like Holliday, he is off to a slow start, as he is slashing .230/.273/.393 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. However, he has a very high ceiling and scouts praise his elite power and speed, even drawing comparisons to 2023 NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr

Finally, the Cubs have a pair of electrifying rookies: first basemen Michael Busch and Japanese southpaw Shoto Imanaga. While they generally receive less media attention than Holliday and Chourio, they have been off to much better starts. Busch has a .317 AVG and 1.067 OPS to go along with six home runs and 13 RBIs. Imanaga, across three starts, has thrown 15.1 innings and has yet to give up a run. He has also struck out 16 and walked just two.

This doesn’t even touch on some of the other big names, including Rangers’ Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford, Orioles’ Colton Cowser and Padres’ Jackson Merrill. And, like every season, there will certainly be some lesser-known rookies who make a name for themselves.

New Contenders

The Texas Rangers won their first World Series title in 2023, ending a 62-year drought. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who lost 110 games in 2021 and had not been in the playoffs since 2017, made it to the World Series last season. The Orioles, who lost 100+ games in 2018, 2019 and 2021 and had not been in the playoffs since 2016, won 100 games in 2023.

It is clear that there are new, emerging contenders in the league outside of the typical names — the Yanks, Astros, Dodgers, Braves and so on — that we see in most playoffs. This comes with many questions: Can the Rangers repeat and shift from winning one title to forming a dynasty? Can the Orioles, despite their young roster and lack of playoff experience, go deeper in the playoffs after their disappointing division series exit in 2023? 

And what about other sleeper teams, like the Tigers, Pirates and Rockies? The Tigers haven’t made the playoffs since 2014, the Pirates since 2015 and the Rockies since 2018, but they have promising young cores and could be a threat down the stretch, just like the Rangers and Diamondbacks last season.

The fun part about baseball is that the season is so long and so much happens that can either exhilarate or severely upset fans: comeback wins and crushing losses, over-performing rookies and aging veterans, remarkable catches and dreadful errors and so on. Despite the rollercoaster of emotions that is the sport of baseball, every year there is one team that can put all the pieces together and win a ring — and that team, with a little magic, could just be yours.

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