By now, you've probably heard all about the exploits of the Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu, who set all kinds of rookie records for the month of April, his first in the majors after spending several seasons as one of the best hitters in Cuba's top professional league, the Serie Nacional.
In fact, the 27-year-old slugger set new marks for home runs and RBI by a rookie in April, finishing out the month with 10 homers and 32 RBI—both of which are tops in all of Major League Baseball.
With April at an end, it's just the time to explore the 10 best player debuts in that month since 1947. That's when MLB created the Rookie of the Year Award, the inaugural one of which was won by Jackie Robinson, for whom it's now named.
Before getting started, there is a distinction between debut season and rookie season. The former—what we're focusing on—is when a player first makes it to the majors; the latter is when a player exhausts his rookie status by exceeding 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days of service time. They are not one and the same.
A good example of this distinction is Xander Bogaerts, the Boston Red Sox's shortstop, who made his debut last year but is in his rookie season this year. Get it?
Also, to be clear, this is all about April, so you won't find mention of other fantastic debut months, like when Yasiel Puig was called up and went bonkers last June.
Here, then, is a pool of 20 hitters and pitchers, each who comprise our candidates for best April performances in a debut season, based on statistics like OPS+ and runs created (RC) for hitters and ERA and WHIP for pitchers.
Listed in chronological order, here are 20 standout hitter performances in April of their debut season since 1947 (minimum 70 plate appearances):
|8||Ken Griffey Jr.||1989||Mariners||156||15.2|
|13||Shea Hillenbrand||2001||Red Sox||129||17.3|
|20||Jose Abreu||2014||White Sox||167||23.2|
Listed in chronological order, here are 20 noteworthy pitcher performances in April of their debut season since 1947 (minimum 20.0 innings pitched):
|9||Jerry Garvin||1977||Blue Jays||2.14||1.10||5.6|
Now that 40 of the best debut Aprils have been laid out, what follows is a ranking of the top 10 first-month-of-the-season performances since the Rookie of the Year Award came into play.
Statistics come from Baseball-Reference, except where otherwise noted.