It is midway through the first month of the season and the April crazy time has not ended yet. The first place Seattle Mariners and Boston Red Sox, as well as the last place New York Yankees are proof we are living through that annual tradition. We will look back in September and wonder why we got carried away with the early season numbers. However, every so often the numbers from April do portend something larger and more sustainable.
American League East: The new and improved Valdimir Guerrero Jr. is keeping it going after a strong showing in Spring Training for Toronto. His .459 BABIP is nowhere near sustainable, but the 15.9% strikeout rate (Not sustainable either) is an indicator that the hype was real; it only took him a minute to show what he could do. Baltimore Orioles Cedric Mullins II is another hitter riding the BABIP wave to some early success. A .512 BABIP is stuff of video games, but the 25.0% strikeout rate, while combined with a 9.4% walk rate makes me less bullish on his prospects going forward. Tyler Glasnow continues to make the ladies swoon in Tampa and on Twitter, but his .073 ERA, 1.09 FIP, and 13.14 K/9 are the numbers that make sweat. I am intrigued with Rafael Devers in Boston. The ISO (Isolated Power) of .320 shows he is hitting the ball with authority, but the .258 BABIP is likely to improve, so he could be one his way to another big year. The Yankees are off to a collective slow start. A team BABIP .268 indicates the Bronx Bombers won’t be down for long.
American League Central: Shane Bieber is on his way to Cy Young number two. Cleveland’s ace has started off with a 2.11 ERA, backed with a 2.36 FIP, so he is not out of line with his numbers from last season. The 14.77 K/9 is him punching out 41.7% of the hitters he has faced, similar to the 41.1% from last year. The Royals are in a purple patch of form to start, but a team with a .308 OBP and .389 SLG, combined with a 4.34 team ERA, is indicative of the carriage about to turn back into a pumpkin. The Tigers are who we thought they were. .280 OBP and .382 SLG can have the fans in Detroit watching the young pitching and hope it develops (5.33 team ERA). Can Minnesota’s Byron Buxton please not get too hurt one time? Yes, the .476 BABIP is hot, but the .528 OBP and 1.094 SLG, combined with Gold Glove level defense are fun to watch. He really is Eric Davis for this generation. The no-hitter for Carlos Rodon gets your attention, but the 0.00 ERA, with a 2.16 FIP, shows he wasn’t just a guy having a good night. The former N.C. State lefty is averaging 95.2 MPH on his fastball, up from 92.9 MPH last year. The added velocity makes his plus slider more effective.
American League West: Shohei Ohtani really needs to take some walks. A 3.7% rate means the bottom could fall out as the .394 BABIP continues to cool down. By the way, Mike Trout is so consistently good it is almost boring. A .526 OBP and .750 SLG are barely noticeable because it is just Trout being Trout. The Astros vengeance tour has hit a roadblock. A team .332 OBP and team .440 SLG gives them hope there is more in the tank. The team 4.14 ERA hasn’t helped either. Maybe the COVID issues with the team are a bigger issue than they are given credit for being. The A’s can thank the scheduling gods for putting their 0-6 start in the rearview mirror. Their team .312 OBP and .382 SLG, with a 5.07 team ERA show the team needed a dose of Diamondbacks and Tigers this week. In Seattle, there is another team riding some scheduling good fortune. .305 OBP and .381 SLG, with a team ERA of 4.34 is about the true level for the Mariners. Being in first place is fun while it lasts. Three starts and all is well for Dane Dunning the 0.60 ERA will not last because it is propped up by a 100% LOB, which is impossible to sustain.
National League East: Ronald Acuna is reminding us he was the top prospect in baseball not that long ago. .493 OBP and .917 SLG are what the folks in Atlanta are hoping is the start of his run for MVP. Jazz Chisolm taking Jacob deGrom deep on a 100 MPH fastball will make people take notice, but his .458 OBP and .703 SLG (with an 18.8% walk rate) are showing us the Marlins did well in the Zac Gallen deal. Maybe the Mets have their own two-way player, since Jacob deGrom is hitting .571! Jokes aside, deGrom has a 0.45 ERA and a 1.41 FIP, not to mention the 48.6% strikeout rate, so hitters basically have to just swing hard in case they hit it. The Nationals have been a bit of a wreck to start out. For a team built on pitching, a 4.77 team ERA is not going to work. JT Realmuto has been working as expected in Philadelphia. A .388 OBP and .535 SLG are numbers any team will want from their catcher. The Phillies need great, not good from Bryce Harper. They have to hope they can hang around in the division while they wait for his .429 SLG to improve.
National League Central: Milwaukee might ride the duo of Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff to get where they want to go in the division. Burnes is doing his deGrom impersonation with a 0.49 ERA and 0.92 FIP, while striking out 48.4% of batters he has faced. Woodruff is off to a 2.12 ERA with a 1.63 FIP. This means Woodruff will improve once his ERA catches up to the FIP. Kris Bryant is trying to earn his way out of Chicago. A .352 OBP and .674 SLG is more in line with his MVP form. He will be an attractive trade piece before the deadline. JT Brubaker has been a ray of sunshine in Pittsburgh. The 1.76 ERA is nice, but the 3.62 FIP means a storm is brewing. I haven’t jumped off the Tyler Naquin bandwagon just yet. The .227 BABIP will normalize and he will get hot again. The Tejay Antone show is just starting. His 0.00 ERA and 1.36 FIP won’t have him under the radar for long.
National League West: The Diamondbacks Taylor Widener is on the JT Brubaker plan. His 1.59 ERA might catch up to 3.69 FIP once his 52.3% flyball rate starts leading to homers. The Dodgers are simply a juggernaut. The team has a .365 OBP and .471 SLG, a team ERA of 2.82. This is a surefire way to go 13-3 over their first 16 games, as they have. Evan Longoria is displaying he has some gas left in the tank. A .380 OBP and .622 SLG, with a sustainable .333 BABIP, could have him on the third baseman market at the trade market for the Giants. Padre Blake Snell keeps me skeptical. He has a 4.35 ERA, but should do better once he comes back towards his 3.74 FIP. However he still hasn’t gone six innings in a start. The Rockies are the Rockies. A team .297 OBP and .397 SLG while calling Colorado home is not a cocktail worth drinking. Jon Gray might be a guy worth watching as the deadline approaches. He has a 2.87 ERA and a 3.41 FIP, so he could use some time at sea level to determine what he really can do.
This weekend’s Dodgers/Padres series was fun. It is nice to see the little brother trying to show the big brother he can run with the big kids. The Padres would be wise to add another starting pitcher before too long.