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Where Jose Abreu's Debut Month Ranks Among MLB's Best Ever

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Where Jose Abreu's Debut Month Ranks Among MLB's Best Ever
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
With a monster April, Chicago White Sox rookie Jose Abreu had a first month in the majors for the ages.

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.

 

Hitters

Listed in chronological order, here are 20 standout hitter performances in April of their debut season since 1947 (minimum 70 plate appearances):

RANK PLAYER DEBUT YEAR TEAM OPS+ RC
1 Wally Moon 1954 Cardinals 199 15.9
2 Coco Laboy 1969
Expos 200 19.6
3 Mitchell Page 1977
Athletics 204 26.4
4 Alvin Davis 1984 Mariners 242 24.2
5 Wally Joyner 1986 Angels 173 19.9
6 Will Clark 1986 Giants 146 15.3
7 Chris Sabo 1988 Reds 132 12.8
8 Ken Griffey Jr. 1989 Mariners 156 15.2
9 Mike Lansing 1993 Expos 153 15.2
10 Travis Lee 1998 Diamondbacks 116 16.7
11 Albert Pujols 2001 Cardinals 204 23.4
12 Ichiro Suzuki 2001 Mariners 110 17.8
13 Shea Hillenbrand 2001 Red Sox 129 17.3
14 Rocco Baldelli 2003 Rays 137 20.8
15 Josh Hamilton 2007 Reds 162 15.4
16 Kosuke Fukudome 2008 Cubs 151 22.1
17 Austin Jackson 2010 Tigers 149 21.9
18 Jason Heyward 2010 Braves 137 14.9
19 Yoenis Cespedes 2012 Athletics 126 12.8
20 Jose Abreu 2014 White Sox 167 23.2

 

Pitchers

Listed in chronological order, here are 20 noteworthy pitcher performances in April of their debut season since 1947 (minimum 20.0 innings pitched):

RANK PLAYER DEBUT YEAR TEAM ERA WHIP K/9
1 Mudcat Grant 1958 Indians 2.16 1.04  4.7 
2 Don Sutton 1966 Dodgers 2.99 1.00  7.8
3 Tom Seaver 1967 Mets  1.88 1.08  6.3 
4 Gary Nolan 1967 Reds 2.64 1.04  9.7 
5 Tom Griffin 1969 Astros 2.66 0.98  11.5 
6 Mike Wegener 1969 Expos 2.91  1.20  7.1 
7 Wayne Simpson 1970 Reds 0.58  0.68 6.7
8 Bob Shirley 1977 Padres 1.08 0.93  7.6 
9 Jerry Garvin 1977 Blue Jays  2.14  1.10  5.6 
10 Don Robinson 1978 Pirates 2.23 0.84 5.9 
11 Bret Saberhagen 1984 Royals 2.08 1.00 3.1 
12 Masato Yoshii 1998 Mets 2.16 1.16  6.8
13 Jeff Weaver 1999 Tigers 2.45  0.86  7.8 
14 Kazuhisa Ishii 2002 Dodgers 3.03 1.28 10.3
15 Johnny Cueto 2008 Reds 5.40 1.09 8.5 
16 Michael Pineda 2011 Mariners 2.01 1.09 8.6 
17 Drew Smyly 2012 Tigers 1.23 1.18  9.0
18 Yu Darvish 2012 Rangers  2.18 1.42  9.0 
19 Hyun-Jin Ryu 2013 Dodgers  3.35 1.14  11.0 
20 Masahiro Tanaka 2014 Yankees 2.27 0.93  11.6 

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. 

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