Baseball’s first month has concluded and it was a wild month. There were nice surprises, bad beginnings, and one unusual feat. Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights of the first month.
The Nice Surprises
The first one that comes to mind is the Seattle Mariners. The team tore itself down in the off-season and yet here they are, competing with the Rays and Astros for the best record in the AL. They hit the ball out of the ballpark a lot. Dan Vogelbach, Danny Santana, Tim Beckham, and Mitch Haniger are all off to great starts. Is it sustainable? Probably not but it’s been fun to watch regardless of where they end up at the beginning of the year.
Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich
Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich tied the record for home runs before May 1st with each of them hitting 14. Yelich has picked up right where he left off in 2018 and is looking like he might be primed for another run at the MVP. However, Bellinger hit over .400 for the month of April which is incredible. He also set a record for the most RBI in April as well. The Dodgers outfielder had a little bit more to prove after a disappointing 2018 season and he has answered that call. These two could be locked in a battle all season long for MVP, assuming Christian Yelich’s back injury isn’t a long term thing.
Tampa Bay Rays
This one isn’t shocking if you paid attention to the Rays in the off-season. The team is good and with the Red Sox off to a slow start and the Yankees hurt, the Rays have capitalized. Tyler Glasnow has to lead the upstart rays and earned pitcher of the month as a reward for his strong month. Brandon Lowe won rookie of the month and Rays had several players with strong offensive numbers. The Rays are looking for long term success and have their first matchup with the Yankees in the coming weeks.
The Bad Beginnings.
The Boston Red Sox
The defending champions had a rough first month. The team went 13-17 and had a -28 run differential. Boston’s biggest strength was its pitching rotation. That pitching rotation struggled mightily highlighted by Chris Sale. Sale went 0-5 with a 6.30 ERA in 6 starts. Nathan Eovaldi and Rick Porcello each had ERA’s over 5.50. The offense wasn’t much better than that as the reigning MVP struggled to open but has come around in recent weeks and could be an integral part to a Red Sox turn around. Boston is a still strong team but they have a lot to work through to get back to the postseason.
The Cincinnati Reds Offense
Going into the season, the Reds questions were all about its pitching staff. While the bullpen has been shaky, the starting staff has exceeded expectations. While the offense has let down tremendously. The Reds have 4 players with a wOBA value over .320 (min 50 PA) Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig both had wRC+ under 50 on the year. If the Reds have any chance of competing in the NL Central, the offense will have to improve moving forward. (Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray are also worthy of consideration for nice surprises.)
The New York Yankees Injuries
Coming into the season, the Yankees looked to break their own home run record that they set in 2018. Yet in spring training, the Yankees lost their ace, main reliever, starting center fielder and leader of the clubhouse. Yet, the injuries didn’t stop. Stanton and Andujar joined the IL after the first weekend. Then Troy Tulowitzki and Greg Bird got hurt within a few weeks. Aaron Judge soon joined all of them and they had a record 14 players on the IL. The combined WAR of the players on the IL was over 37 at its peak. While the team did well, it was hard to see a team become so decimated by injuries.
The Unusual Feat
Mike Trout’s plate discipline.
Mike Trout has once again seemingly got better at the one thing he considered a sub-par part of his game. (He doesn’t have those but he says he can improve.) Trout’s 23.1% walk rate would be a career high and his 10.5% strikeout rate would be a career low. But it goes deeper than that. Trout faced around 104 pitches outside of the zone in 3 ball counts in April, he swung at just 4 of them. Trout was willingly trying to get on base because he knows he can do damage there too. It’s a testament to how good he is.
What will May bring? It’s time to watch and find out.