Movie quote of the day:
“It’s Dr. Evil. I didn’t spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called ‘mister,’ thank you very much.”
– Dr. Evil, “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
It doesn’t seem fair that baseball has been going on for over a month, but the only things I’ve written about are the NFL draft, NBA postseason, and Stanley Cup Playoffs since I came out with my preseason MLB predictions. Let me give my own rundown of some of the MLB storylines going on right now:
I’m not worried about the Cubs’ sluggish start
The defending champions aren’t off to the best of starts this season (21-19). Granted, the Cubs are only 40 games into the regular season, Jason Heyward is on the disabled list, Jake Arrieta has struggled so far, and the meat of the lineup – Javier Baez, Wilson Contreras, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber – has a combined batting average of .224. The Cubs have a great front office, manager, and farm system. I have no doubt that they’ll bounce back.
Arizona, Cincinnati, Colorado, Milwaukee, and Minnesota are much better than we thought
Arizona (24-18): The Diamondbacks have been getting great production from its lineup with six players with a batting average over .280. The pitching has also been pretty good. Zack Greinke and Taijuan Walker have a combined ERA of 3.5 and record of 8-5 – and the bullpen ranks No. 11 in ERA.
Cincinnati (19-21): Don’t be fooled by their record, the Reds are an improved team – they’ve struggled as of late with a record of 3-7 in their last 10 games. Cincinnati has always had the ability to hit the ball and it’s the same this season – five players with a batting average over .273. The biggest surprise has probably been the production from Cincinnati’s bullpen. The Reds had the No. 29 bullpen last season with a 5.09 ERA, but that unit has improved to No. 7 so far this season with an ERA of 3.2.
Colorado (26-16): Everyone and their mother knows that the Rockies can hit. However, Colorado finally has decent pitching. The starting rotation has been average, but the bullpen has been much better than most people thought – ranking in the top 10 in the league in ERA.
Milwaukee (24-18): Like Arizona, Cincinnati, and Colorado, the Brewers are much of the same. The Brewers have five players with a batting average over .270, and rank in the top ten in bullpen ERA so far. That’s mostly the reason why Milwaukee is leading the National League Central division right now.
Minnesota (20-17): The Twins don’t hit the ball that well – just two players with a batting average over .270 and the bullpen also has struggled this season. However, the starting rotation has been very good and is keeping Minnesota afloat – ranking No. 9 in the league with an ERA of 4.09, and Ervin Santana is leading the way for the Twins with an ERA of 2.07.
Keep in mind, there’s still roughly 120 games left in the regular season. So, it’s too hard to tell if these teams can keep it up. If I had to guess which teams I think are capable of keeping this success going, I think it’ll be Arizona and Colorado. I like the way those teams hit the ball, and both bullpens are exceeding expectations right now.
Charlie Blackmon’s beard is magnificent
This clearly isn’t a storyline, I just want to point it out to my readers. I won’t stop either until Blackmon’s beard gets the respect it deserves. Seriously, he has the perfect look for Colorado. If he ever left, I’ll be disappointed.
Boston, New York Mets, San Francisco, Seattle, and Toronto have been disappointments so far
Boston (21-19): The only reason I consider the Red Sox to be a disappointment this season is because of the struggles in their starting rotation. Chris Sale is off to a great start – 2.15 ERA and a record of 4-2 – but David Price and Tyler Thornburg are on the DL, and last year’s American League Cy Young winner, Rick Porcello, has a 4.23 ERA and a record of 2-5 so far. Other than that, Boston is hitting the ball well and its bullpen ranks in the top three in ERA.
New York Mets (16-23): The Mets can’t seem to catch a break. They have the pitching and power to make a World Series run, but they can’t stay healthy. Asdrubal Cabrera, Yoenis Cespedes, Travis d’Arnaud, Jeurys Familia, Steven Matz, Noah Syndergaard, and David Wright are all on the DL – Familia, Syndergaard, and Wright are on the 60-day DL. Due to those injuries, the Mets are struggling to hit the ball and their bullpen is one of the league’s worst.
San Francisco (17-25): I guess we need to just give the Giants a pass since it’s an odd-numbered year. I’m not sure this team can turn it around if Madison Bumgarner is hurt – like he is now. Outside of Buster Posey, San Francisco doesn’t have much hitting in its lineup, and the starting rotation – which has been what the Giants usually pride themselves on – has an ERA of 4.5. The bullpen isn’t horrible (No. 13) but could use some upgrades.
Seattle (20-22): I’ve been disappointed in the Mariners. I really thought Seattle had the pieces to potentially make a postseason run. The Mariners hit the ball well – four players are currently hitting over .296. Their starting rotation is even decent too – ranking No. 11 in the league in ERA. The problem has been Seattle’s bullpen though. The front office decided to go with quantity over quality in the bullpen this season, and so far, that experience has been just atrocious – ranking last in the league with an ERA of 5.49.
Toronto (18-24): Some of Toronto’s struggles has been due to injuries. Josh Donaldson, J.A. Happ, Russell Martin, and Troy Tulowitzki are all on the DL right now. The Blue Jays’ pitching has been below average so far too. Their starting rotation ranks No. 14 in ERA, and the bullpen is No. 17. However, Toronto’s biggest problem has been that its offense has been stagnant. The Blue Jays have only scored 175 runs in 42 games (No. 18 in the league) – they finished the previous two years in the top 10 in that category.
If I had to guess which teams I think can turn it around I think it’ll be Boston, Seattle, and Toronto. I don’t think the Red Sox’s starting rotation is going to struggle all season – especially when Price and Thornburg come off the DL. The fact that Seattle is just three games below .500 despite having the league’s worst bullpen tells me a lot. There’s plenty of time to make some moves to help improve that unit. Toronto is banged up, but when Donaldson, Martin, and Tulowitzski come back, I expect the bats to heat up.
Eric Thames has been an awesome story
If anyone doesn’t know this story, it’s pretty cool. Thames was selected in the seventh round of the 2008 MLB Draft but struggled in his first two MLB seasons – Batting average: .242, On-base percentage: .286, Slugging percentage: .420, 21 home runs, 95 hits, and 62 RBIs. Then, he was released and didn’t play baseball for two years, and then went over to South Korea in 2014 and played with the NC Dinos – where he put very good numbers. He signed a three-year contract with Milwaukee back in November, made the team, and now ranks in the top 15 in the NL in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and has hit 13 home runs so far this season. That’s quite a story and it’s a good lesson, kids – never give up on your dream. Also, his beard is pretty awesome too.
Keep an eye on Aaron Judge going forward
In 2001, Barry Bonds made history by breaking Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record with 73. So far this season, Judge has been putting up stats similar to Bonds 16 years ago. Let’s take a look at Judge’s numbers compared to Bonds back in 2001 through their first 36 games:
Bonds (2001): Batting average: .272, On-base percentage: .441, Slugging percentage: .777, 15 home runs, 28 hits, and 32 RBIs
Judge (2017): Batting average: .326, On-base percentage: .428, Slugging percentage: .713, 14 home runs, 42 hits, and 29 RBIs
The MLB has been a pitchers league ever since the Steroid Era in the early 2000s. So, because of that, I doubt that Judge is going to be able to keep up his current pace and break Bonds’ single-season home run record. Plus, players always cool off as the season goes on. Don’t get me wrong though, this is a storyline I’m going to pay close attention to and actually hope Judge can keep up this pace.
Thanks for reading
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