MLB Opening Day Excitement Stems In Part From Slight Rules Changes

Major League Baseball tweaked some rules and there’s plenty of optimism about fans seeing a quicker paced and more exciting brand of baseball this summer at Major League ballparks. 


The World Baseball Classic took place earlier this month and it provided plenty of thrills and drew tons of attention not normally associated with Major League Baseball spring training games.

Japan’s Shohei Ohtani, arguably the best baseball player on the planet, was simply showtime as he led Japan to the World Baseball Classic title. He clobbered opposing pitching and was nearly untouchable when called upon to work on the mound. His strikeout of Los Angeles Angels teammate Mike Trout for the final out of the title game was epic.

Ohtani is just one of the reasons why there’s plenty of anticipation about the start of the 2023 MLB season. The Angels’ All-Star, who is one of the game’s best hitters and pitchers, is box office and could easily make a run at winning the American League batting title and the AL Cy Young award.

Nevertheless, rules changes being implemented by MLB to speed up the game and make America’s national pastime more entertaining has been all the talk heading into Opening Day. Having pitchers and hitters be on the clock to pitch and hit are prominent among the tweaks to the rules of the game.  The rule changes also include banning the defensive shift in which three infielders are positioned on either side of second base. Additionally, MLB has decided to play with larger bases — an increase from 15 inches square to 18 inches square — in an effort to decrease the number of injuries related to base-running missteps. The larger bases are also expected to encourage more attempts by players to steal bases, which can make for more exciting play.

The rule changes showed during Spring Training games the kind of results MLB was looking for in terms of speeding up the game and shortening the length of time to play a nine-inning contest. The hope is the rule adjustments will appeal to MLB fans across the league.

Yet, it’s how players like Ohtani, New York Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge, San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr., and Atlanta Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. perform on the field that will grab and maintain the attention of MLB fans throughout the 162-game regular season.

And if the talk and excitement about this year’s World Baseball Classic is any indication of what to expect from the 2023 MLB campaign, then action at Major League ballparks should provide fans with plenty of enjoyable moments this summer.

Here’s a quick look at some projected winners across the American League and National League:

Overall, the sportsbooks like the defending World Series champion Astros, led by Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley, to repeat as World Series champs. Barstool has odds of +625 on the Astros winning again while offering odds of +700 on the Los Angeles Dodgers and Yankees, respectively. FanDuel has odds of +600 on Houston winning for the second year in a row  while offering odds of +750 on the Dodgers and the Braves, respectively. Caesars Sportsbook also likes Houston to win again, but at slightly less odds (+400), while offering odds of +750 on the Yankees and +800 on the New York Mets.

The Yankees are favored by FanDuel (+130), Caesars (+115) and Barstool (+110) to win the AL East title. The Cleveland Guardians are favored by Barstool (+135), Caesars (+125) and FanDuel (+115) to claim the AL Central championship. The Astros are favored by Barstool (-245), Caesars (-200) and FanDuel (-185) to claim the AL West championship.

Caesars, Barstool and FanDuel share odds of +100 on Atlanta finishing first in the NL East race. Caesars and FanDuel have odds of -130 on the St. Louis Cardinals winning the NL Central title while Barstool offers odds of -129 on the Cardinals to place first in the NL Central. Barstool is offering odds of -155 on the Dodgers finishing first in the NL West while FanDuel and Caesars are offering odds of -125 on L.A. to top the NL West.

Among individual awards, Ohtani is the obvious favorite to win the AL Most Valuable Player award. FanDuel is offering odds of +220 on Ohtani to earn the AL MVP while offering odds of +700 on Judge, the reigning AL MVP. Caesars has odds of +200 on Ohtani to become the AL MVP while offering odds of +400 on Judge. Barstool has odds of +175 on Ohtani and +500 on Judge.

FanDuel (+550) and Caesars (+450) like Padres’ Juan Soto to claim the NL MVP award. However, Barstool favors Philadelphia Phillies infielder Trea Turner to win the NL MVP at odds of +600.

Texas Rangers pitcher Jacob deGrom is liked by the sportsbooks to capture the AL Cy Young Award. Barstool (+600), FanDuel (+550) and Caesars (+400) have deGrom winning the award presented to the AL’s best pitcher.

FanDuel has odds of +550 on Miami Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara to win the NL Cy Young Award. Barstool has odds of +450 on Alcantara winning the NL Cy Young while Caesars has odds of +500 on veteran Justin Verlander earning the award in his first season wearing a New York Mets uniform.

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