Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across Major League Baseball. Each week, we send out questions to the most plugged-in New York Yankees fans, and fans across the country. Sign up here to join Reacts.
The early goings of the 2023 season have largely been successful for the Yankees (excepting last night), as they won each of their first four series. In fact, if the Tampa Bay Rays weren’t simply bowling over everybody in their path these past two weeks, the Yankees would have had the best record in the American League entering Thursday.
A big part of the Yankees’ success so far has been the power bats of their outfielders. While everybody expected big things from Aaron Judge, many were concerned prior to the season about Giancarlo Stanton, whose 114 OPS+ last year was the worst mark of his career. Fortunately, he has been electric so far. Not only has he mashed three home runs and two doubles in his first ten games, he has also cut his strikeout rate in half (to 16.7 percent) while posting his best barrel percentage (also 16.7 percent). Of course, it’s still very early, and small sample size concerns apply, but it’s an encouraging start for sure.
Needless to say, Yankee fans have gotten excited about Stanton’s hot start, and are looking for a big year from the big bopper.
81 percent of the survey responders believe that Stanton will hit more than 31 home runs this year, with the majority of that group expecting the number to fall between 31 and 39. Just 14 percent see him hitting between 21 and 30 home runs, a range he hasn’t hit since 2015 and 2016 when he was with the Marlins. Just four percent are absolute pessimists who foresee him missing so much time he does not hit 20.
[all poll results below were from questions directed at MLB fans writ large, not just Yankees]
On a national level, the main storyline this season has been the rule changes that Major League Baseball instituted this past winter in an effort to increase action and decrease the amount of dead time. And, in the first — and arguably the only — major success of the Rob Manfred administration, the fans have largely loved what’s changed.
The largest impact has come from the pitch clock, levying strikes and balls on batters and pitchers for taking too long getting in the box or delivering the pitch. The overall time of game has dropped by a half-hour, from 3:06 in 2022 to 2:38 so far. Fans have responded positively to the reduction in dead air time, with just over three-quarters of respondents expressing their approval.
Recent years have seen the development of “three true outcomes” baseball, as the rise of defensive data allowed teams to better employ shifts, reducing the number of hits and increasing the number of at-bats that ended in home runs, strikeouts, and walks. In an effort to combat this trend, the league banned the shift this year, requiring teams to have two fielders on the infield dirt on each side of the second base bag.
Fans have responded even more positively to the shift than to the pitch clock, rejoicing in the fact that balls in play that have been hits for the last hundred years are once again resulting in hits.
The most subtle of the changes made this winter was increasing the bases by a full two inches while also limiting the number of pickoff attempts to two. The goal of this move was to increase the number of stolen base attempts — one of the most exciting plays in sports — by making it slightly easier. The impact has been immediate, as 70 percent of fans have noticed that teams are relying on the running game more than they have in recent years.
It’s still early, of course, but it’s clear that this winter’s round of rule changes have done a great job at making the game more exciting; let’s see if that trend continues as the season goes on.