Major League Baseball features one of the longest seasons in the sporting universe. With the Houston Astros fresh off of their franchise-first world title, fans are wondering if the team can repeat in 2018.
But that’s not the only question sports pundits are wracking their brains to answer as 2017 winds to a close. The offseason brings with it a reshuffling of rosters and the introduction of new rules and technologies. So, what can we expect from the big leagues in 2018? Read on for our predictions.
Modern-day dynasties don’t reign for entire decades like they did 20 or 30 years ago. Free agency and contract negotiations make it a near impossibility, so to get two or three shots at a title is a definite accomplishment.
Inspired by their first World Series championship, Houston will have stiff competition to face from the perennial favorite Yankees, their former rivals, the Dodgers, and other strong teams like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals. Chicago, another Cinderella story team, can be a competitor if they emerge intact from an offseason roster re-org.
Bullpen changes can make or break a team over the offseason, and 2018 is no different. Looking at the free agents available, Yu Darvish and Jake Arietta will each continue to demand a premium and will bring formidable firepower to whatever club they eventually sign with.
First base is another position showing potential, with Eric Hosmer and Carlos Santana available. Hosmer's 2017 season included 94 RBIs, 25 home runs and an excellent .882 OPS — and at only 28 years of age Hosmer has more to give. Hosmer is expected to receive a solid new deal from Kansas City, who would be foolish to let the young star go. Santana brings a 30 homer season and .365 career on-base percentage.
Baseball might not seem like a “gear sport,” but anything that allows players to remain healthy and play their best long into the post-season is enough to prick the ears of coaches and GMs, as is anything that can improve the experience for fans and draw higher TV ratings.
Advances in training such as hydrotherapy sessions to repair torn ligaments and rehab damaged tissue in a low-impact setting are being used to treat everything from shin splints to ACL tears to upper-extremity injuries. To ensure players are getting enough quality rest between games and while nursing injuries, the Boston Red Sox have introduced new sleep rooms with high-end bedding to give players a comfortable rest when not on the field.
New peripheral add-ons for bats will allow players to collect swing data and view the telemetry from batting practice so that they can dial in their swing down to the most minute details. The system is available for pros and little leaguers alike, and with advances in virtual reality, teams like the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants are giving fans a chance to join them on the field just by strapping on a headset.
What’ll they think of next? Your guess is as good as ours, but nothing is too good for America’s favorite pastime.
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