Major League Baseball gears up for long season

After spending six to eight weeks in Florida or Arizona for Spring Training, teams head to their respective cities and begin the long but exciting season, consisting of 162 games. Going into the season, each team has the belief that it will be their year to play through the end of October and hoist the Commissioner’s Trophy after mobbing each other to begin the celebration of winning the World Series.

Starting out west, the Seattle Mariners have been a major surprise to start the 2019 season. Through the first 14 games, the Mariners were surging with a record of 12-2. This came as a surprise to many baseball fans, considering that second baseman Robinson Cano and All-Star closer Edwin Diaz were traded to the Mets in the offseason for prospects. It was believed that the Mariners were tearing down and starting a rebuild. However, since April 11, the Mariners have went on a 6-11 skid, leading fans to believe the hot start was simply luck or other teams starting the year off slow.

Speaking of starting slow, the defending champions Boston Red Sox have had an abysmal start to the year. After beating the Dodgers in seven games for the World Series title, the Red Sox have started the year 11-17. Star outfielder Mookie Betts as well as starting pitchers David Price and Chris Sale know that the team needs to figure things out sooner rather than later.

The league has implemented some new rules going into the 2019 season. Commissioner Rob Manfred is focusing on increasing the pace of play in baseball. To increase the pace of play, Manfred has decreased the number of pitching mound visits allowed from six to five. Pitchers are now placed on a pitch clock, mandating that they be on the mound and ready to deliver the ball within 40 seconds of the last pitch (exceptions are the leadoff batter for that inning, outs, or hits). This pitching clock was tested in the minor leagues last year, and it was voted to bring into the league this year.

Another rule that is being tested in the minor leagues this year that Major League Baseball could transition to is a three batter minimum required for all pitchers. Pitchers now would not be able to leave the game unless they have faced three batters. This rule would increase the pace of play drastically across all Major League games, but will simultaneously hinder some teams. Lots of teams around the league have pitchers who are “ground ball specialists,” meaning those pitchers are likely to induce a ground ball for the defense to turn a double play. The problem occurs in this situation because the preceding pitcher may not have faced the required amount of batters.

Looking at the hometown Pittsburgh Pirates, the fans have a large variety of expectations for this team including both extremes. Some believe that the Pirates can end the 40 year drought of not winning the World Series, while others believe that the Pirates will lose 100 games.

Through the first four to five weeks of the season, the Pirates are sitting with a record of 12-14, fourth place in the National League Central division. The Pirates are 6-5 against division rivals so far, but it will take a better record than that to win the division that could, arguably, be won by just about every team.

The Pirates have relied on their pitching so far this season, as the lineup has faced a lot of injuries. Soon to return for the Pirates are outfielders Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte and Lonnie Chisenhall. With those players back in the lineup and on the bench, the Pirates offense will look to drive in more runs. The pitching staff will still be heavily depended on, but slightly less than before with all the injuries.

While teams may be disappointed (or pleased) with the start of their seasons, there are many games of baseball left to be played. Teams can get hot at any point over the long season, as this is one of the reasons why America’s pastime plays 162 games each year.