The baseball season is only a month old and fans are already making instant judgments about their teams. They are either booking tickets for possible World Series games or looking ahead to 2013. You have already witnessed “Red Sox Nation” call for the head of their brand new manager after a small sample size of the season. No one can say that baseball fans aren’t passionate about their teams.
Baseball fans and analysts had some questions going into the 2012 season. How would Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder fare in the American League? Can the Red Sox bounce back from their late-season collapse in 2011? Is this the year that the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals finally make the playoffs? I do my best to explain what we have learned so far this season and what to keep your eye on in May.
April is such an odd month because you can’t trust your team’s record or the players’ statistics. It is rare that a team ever leads their division from April to October. My favorite reaction is when a player gets a home run in the first game, you’ll always hear, “he’s on pace to hit 162 homers this season.” It is one of my pet peeves and I’m sure that I’ll hear it every year.
Here are some things that we have learned in April…
– Matt Kemp is really good. You already should have known that, but some analysts that he couldn’t match his stats from 2011. They are partially correct since he’s on pace to blow those numbers out of the water and contend for the triple crown.
– Stephen Strasburg is fully recovered from last season’s Tommy John surgery. He currently has a K/9 of 9.56, which means that he averages over nine strikeouts per nine innings. He may have had a higher K/9 at this point during his rookie season, but he should have increased velocity by June.
– This is not the year for the Royals or Pirates. These teams are stocked with young talent, but they are off to bad starts. In 2011, Pittsburgh was contending for the NL Central division at the trade deadline, but hit a wall and lost most of their remaining games. The Royals are 6-16 and the Pirates are fairing a little better at 10-13. A lot of people thought that the NL Central would be a coin flip this season, but the St. Louis Cardinals are off to a hot start and the rest of the division isn’t as bad as predicted.
– Bobby Valentine might survive the season. After the first two weeks, the fans wanted him out of Boston. The Red Sox have played well since and currently have a 11-12 record. It’s not great, as long as they stay within five games of first place, Valentine will stay out of the hot seat.
– Bryce Harper is a future star. He has only played a couple of games in the Majors, but everyone has seen flashes of what Haper will be in a few years. He has a good bat and a cannon for an arm. I’m excited to see what he does the rest of the season, even if the Washington Nationals send him back to Triple-A for awhile.
– Yu Darvish could end up being the best signing in the off-season. I am skeptical of pitchers coming from Japan and adjusting to Major League hitters. Dice-K started off hot, but the second time a team faced him, they started to figure him out. The Texas Rangers have a powerful offense, so he doesn’t need to be perfect to win games. As long as his ERA hovers around 4.00, he’ll win double-digit games by July. He already has four wins, so he’s on pace to have an excellent rookie campaign.
– The Cardinals might be a better team this year than in 2011. They lost Albert Pujols, but they added Carlos Beltran and they are getting more out of David Freese. Adding Lance Lynn to their starting rotation was a smart move. Chris Carpenter will probably miss the season and Adam Wainwright doesn’t look like himself. Pitching could be an issue later in the season, but they are currently 15-8.
– It’s impossible to hit homers at Wrigley Field in April. When the temperature hovers around 50 degrees, the ball dies in the outfield. The wind is usually blowing in and teams can’t drive the ball over the ivy. The Chicago Cubs only had nine home runs in April. They are at the bottom of the league and it’s bad when individual guys are leading your entire time.
– Bryan LaHair is not a 4-A player. The Cubs made a bold move this off-season and declared that LaHair would get a fair shot at being their everyday first-basemen. They traded for Anthony Rizzo this off-season and most assumed that LaHair would be keeping first-base warm. He is currently 2nd in many offensive categories behind Matt Kemp. He’s batting nearly .400 and slugging almost .800, so he has earned his spot in the starting lineup.
– When the Cubs trade Matt Garza, they will get a lot in return. He is currently 2-1, 2.76 ERA, and a K:B ratio 3.6. MLB added an extra wild-card spot in the playoffs this season. The commissioner did a Cubs a huge favor, since more teams will still be in the playoff race. The price for pitching will be at a premium and the price will be driven up. Detroit, Boston, and Los Angeles need pitching and they’ll have to give Chicago a king’s ransom to get Garza.
– Moving the walls in at Citi Field hasn’t solved the Mets offensive issues. The team has hit 18 home runs this season, but only 7 of those came at home. Lucas Duda is leading the team with four dingers and David Wright has regained his All-Star form, but the rest of the team needs to step up. Ike Davis is batting lower than the Mendoza line and isn’t looking like a future All-Star.
– Albert Pujols is still adjusting to the American League. He has yet to hit a home run and he’s not drawing as many walks. I don’t believe that he’s stressed out or that his skills are diminishing. It is difficult for a player to go from the National League to the American League. He is still adjusting to AL pitchers and to a new city. He’ll have a much better May and you’ll start to see his numbers multiply as it gets warmer.
– Terms like “Grady Sizemore shirtless” and “Tim Lincecum shirtless” still brings me thousands of hits a month. I thought that the Sizemore search queries would taper off, but it hasn’t happened. I am looking forward to weird Google searches that involve Bryce Harper, Evan Longoria, and Matt Kemp…it’s only a matter of time.
– The Yankees should have hired Don Mattingly as their manager. I’m not saying that Joe Girardi is a bad manager, but Mattingly has personally improved Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Ethier. I watched an interview during Spring Training about what he has done to help each of them. He seemed to be a better developmental manager and would work well with the new crop of Yankees that are bound to play over the next few seasons.
– Jake Peavy and Johan Santana are pitching like it’s 2008. The White Sox are looking very smart by signing Peavy. His career looked to be nearing its end, but he’s had his best month in a few season. Santana is also out to a great start because his pitches look alive. Peavy and Santana are great stories and I hope they continue to dominate.
– Philadelphia Phillies are really missing Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. They are Philly’s best two hitters and they have struggled this year. It doesn’t matter if you have the league’s best starting rotation, you need to score runs. It doesn’t help that Jimmy Rollins is off to a bad start. The NL East will be one of the most competitive races this year. Washington and Atlanta are legit contenders and this could turn into a two team race if the Phillies can’t manufacture more offense.
– The Tigers aren’t a lock to win the AL Central. On paper, Detroit is the best team…by far. They started off hot, but they are currently 12-11. Their starting rotation has been a mess with Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and Adam Wilk all having an ERA over 5.50. Miguel Cabrera and Austin Jackson have been most of the team’s offense. Prince Fielder is a second-half player, so he’ll help carry the team down the stretch.
April was an exciting beginning to the 2012 season. I can’t wait for what transpires in May and to see which teams prove their worth. You’ll start to see the hitters catch up with the pitchers in May. Players who haven’t found power this season (Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Nelson Cruz), expect them to bounce back next month.
The following pictures are a treat to my female readers. You have all be very kind to this site and here’s a little eye candy for you. (The first photo is the funniest picture that I’ve seen in a long, long time)