Season Grades For 2023’s Wild Card Losers

October has begun and the Wild Card round has come and gone. That means four of the 12 playoff teams have already been eliminated and have ended their seasons. Now all that’s left is to look back on the season past and evaluate how the season played out. Here are the season grades for each of the 2023 Wild Card losers.

2023 Season Grades For This Year’s Wild Card Losers

Miami Marlins (84-78): 9/10

Starting on a positive note, very few could have imagined the Miami Marlins‘ season going as well as it did. The Marlins finished third in the NL East and made the postseason without a star-studded roster and with a lower payroll than all but two playoff teams. They beat the New York Mets despite spending less than one-third as much money on their roster and were able to play in the postseason in a non-shortened season for the first time since 2003.

The Marlins were able to accomplish all of that because of good, quiet moves from the front office and great years from key under-the-radar players. Luis Arraez solidified himself as the best contact hitter in MLB, Jorge Soler had a huge bounce-back season, and Jesus Luzardo showed why he was once a top pitching prospect among others. This was also backed up by mid-season trade acquisitions Josh Bell and Jake Burger who gave this team a boost to get them back into the playoffs.

They had this great season despite arguably the top two players on the team going into the season not being productive. Jazz Chisholm Jr. was supposed to be their superstar this year. Instead, he got hurt and only played half the season. Even when he did play his offense was not where anyone expected it to be. As well, reigning Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara took a significant step back before missing the end of the season with a shoulder injury.

Everyone in the baseball world would have been shocked if the Marlins made the playoffs under those circumstances and while they didn’t go far in the postseason, 2023 was a major step forward for an organization with a bright future.

Milwaukee Brewers (92-70): 7.5/10

This season for the Milwaukee Brewers was a mixed bag. On one hand, they were able to win over 90 games and the NL Central but also underperformed in the postseason. Throughout the season the Brewers were very impressive during the regular season boasting potentially the best pitching staff in the league and many thought they would go far in the playoffs. That did not happen, instead, the Brewers again suffered an early playoff exit and lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks despite being the home team and a higher seed.

The Brewers are not an up-and-coming team, they have been a perennial contender and almost annual participant in the postseason so just making the playoffs is no longer enough. The Brewers have been in the playoffs in five of the last six seasons and have won the division in three of those campaigns, despite that they haven’t won a playoff round since the 2018 NLDS.

Despite continuing their lack of success in the postseason this year, the Brewers still have a lot to be happy about from this season. The pitching staff led by the big three of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta along with closer Devin Williams looks as good as ever with the bullpen also being anchored by some really good young arms like Abner Uribe. Additionally, they called up several young position players this season led by Sal Frelick, Garrett Mitchell, and Joey Wiemer. All this combined with the breakout of William Contreras and the resurgence of Christian Yelich make this a very productive season for the Brewers who look like they’ll have many more cracks at the postseason.

Tampa Bay Rays (99-63): 5/10

The Tampa Bay Rays are the most impressive organization in all of baseball. They continue to play in an extremely small market with one of the league’s lowest payrolls and compete with the powerhouses of the league. At least, that’s what happens in the regular season. The postseason hasn’t been quite the resounding success.

Recent postseasons have been a disaster. Since the 2020 World Series, the Rays have gone 1-7 in playoff games and have lost seven in a row, good for the longest playoff losing streak in MLB (tied with another team that will be discussed momentarily).

The Rays came out of the gate in 2023 and looked like the best team in baseball and one of the best teams we had ever seen. They were the first to 50 wins, going 50-22 and pacing a 112-win season but they slowed down a little since then ending with 99 wins. To be clear, 99 wins is still an excellent season that was fourth-best in the MLB and they did that with an unprecedented number of pitching injuries (specifically Tommy John surgeries) and some problems with their star shortstop.

They just always find these great young players to be the next man up. Overall, the Rays’ regular season was a massive success, not only winning almost 100 games but also bringing up players who will impact the future and that is what keeps this season from being a complete failure.

Toronto Blue Jays (89-73): 4/10

This was not the season anyone in the Toronto Blue Jays organization had in mind. After winning 93 games last season and crashing out of the postseason in epic fashion, the Jays changed their approach to roster construction in the hopes of building a more balanced team. The goal was to essentially trade offense for pitching and defense and in a sense it worked, they won 89 games and made the playoffs being led by one of the best defenses and pitching staffs in the league.

The problem was the offense took a significant hit. Trading Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez for Daulton Varsho and Kevin Kiermaier may seem to be the issue but it wasn’t. The issue was the already established players all took a step back, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Alejandro Kirk, George Springer, Santiago Espinal, and Matt Chapman all regressed from last season. As a result of this, the Jays went from fourth in runs scored in 2022 to 14th in 2023. This is a young team that is supposed to be on the upswing, down years happen individually but no entire team should go through this.

That’s just what happened in the regular season, what happened in the postseason was even more disappointing. In what seems like a perfect summation of the season, the Jays’ pitchers (outside of Kevin Gausman) were all fantastic while the lineup looked hapless, mustering only one run in two full games against the Twins. That coupled with some very questionable decisions from the front office and manager led to the Blue Jays crashing out of the playoffs almost as emphatically as they did last season. Overall, neither the regular season nor the postseason was a success in Toronto and it almost feels like a lost season.

The four losers of this year’s Wild Card round will all exit the postseason with a different perspective on their season, some saw it as an unexpected step forward and others will see it as another missed opportunity. Either way, these teams will look to build on what happened this year, learn from it, and try to do better in 2024.

Main Image: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

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