Nico Hoerner Batted Over .500 Against the Pirates
For those fans who have had to endure nineteen games between the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates, or the same amount between the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers, we look with much enthusiasm to the end of Major League Baseball's unbalanced schedule. Starting in 2023, teams will no longer face their divisional opponents for more than a dozen games.
As part of the agreement settled last spring, everyone must have at least one series against each team in the Major Leagues. That requirement caused MLB to cut the inter-divisional match ups to four series, two at home and two on the road.
Most of us will be excited at the opportunity to see stars from teams in the opposite league, whom we would not have been able to witness first hand because they were never scheduled to play in our cities. Hopefully, the players themselves will embrace this new opportunity to play in unfamiliar ballparks, as well as in front of fans delighted to watch them in action.
Some guys will probably suffer because of the lack of familiarity, especially the six players listed here. All of these hitters are among the fifteen who are batting at least .290 this year but, because of the new schedule, are likely to see noticeable dips in their numbers in 2023.
Jeff McNeil, valuable utility man for the New York Mets, has padded his .320 average by beating up on the National League East. McNeil has batted an eye-popping .429 in fifteen games against the Washington Nationals, .370 in fourteen games against the Miami Marlins, and .354 against the Atlanta Braves.
In the American League version of the east division, a trio of players will suffer from the fewer series against their rivals. Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox is hitting .370 in fifteen games against the Toronto Blue Jays, while also maintaining a .346 clip against the Baltimore Orioles and .340 when facing the Tampa Rays.
All-Star catcher Alejandro Kirk of the aforementioned Blue Jays has done his best to return the favor to Bogaerts and the Red Sox, hitting .410 in thirteen games against Boston. Like Bogaerts, Kirk has also feasted on the Orioles, accumulating a .405 batting average in eleven games against Baltimore.
Also hammering Boston is Yandy Diaz of the Tampa Bay Rays, who has hit .508 in fifteen games versus the Red Sox. That massive stat makes his success against the Blue Jays look paltry, even though it equals a .390 batting average facing Toronto for twelve games.
An even bigger number than the .508 of Diaz against the Red Sox belongs to a rising star of the Chocago Cubs, second baseman Nico Hoerner. He is hitting .513 in eleven games versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, and punishing the Cincinnati Reds with a .450 mark in eleven games.
Cleveland rookie Steven Kwan will have more pressure avoiding the sophomore slump in 2023, due to a dozen and a half fewer games against the American League West. Kwan has feasted on the majority of the division, hitting .383 in twelve games against the Kansas City Royals. Also contributing to his having the third highest average in the junior circuit has been his success at the hands of the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox, against whom he is hitting a combined .329.
Baseball officials were hoping to improve overall batting averages, which in the past decade have dipped lower than at any point in history. By scrapping the unbalanced schedule, however, half of the top hitters from this year will likely take a dip, simply because they will play fewer games against teams they have owned in 2022.