Grading All 30 MLB Teams' 1st Month of Baseball
The first month of the baseball season is officially over, which means it's time to dish out grades for all 30 MLB teams. In the report cards that follow, each team is graded on four categories: offense, rotation, bullpen and overall.
The overall grade takes into account the previous three categories. However, in certain cases, it's no easy task to arrive at a final letter grade—especially when teams score particularly high in one section and particularly low in another.
In general, the rotation grade carries the most weight. However, whether a team met preseason expectations also factored into the equation.
Now, let's take a look at the report cards for all 30 MLB teams.
Justin Upton (1.030 OPS), Freddie Freeman (.921 OPS) and Evan Gattis (.910 OPS) have all impressed in the opening month of the campaign, but the Atlanta Braves offense has been highly unproductive in general. The club ranks third to last in runs and owns a collective .693 OPS.
The Braves rotation was supposed to be in major trouble when Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy went down for the year. Instead, the group has posted a 2.40 ERA, which is the best in all of baseball.
The club's relievers have been piling up strikeouts with 83 in 68.1 innings of work. The bullpen has allowed 26 percent of inherited baserunners to score, which is tied for the 10th-best rate in baseball, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: A-
The Braves are sitting atop the National League East and looking strong after the first month of 2014.
The Arizona Diamondbacks offense has actually been decent in 2014. Rookie shortstop Chris Owings, who is batting .313, has been a bright spot for the club. However, the news that Mark Trumbo will be on the sidelines for six weeks with a stress fracture in his left foot is just terrible for the last-place club.
There's just nothing good to say about the Diamondbacks starting rotation. After one month, the group has compiled a 6.29 ERA, which is the worst in baseball. Meanwhile, top pitching prospect Archie Bradley is on the Triple-A disabled list with a flexor strain in his elbow, per Mike Axisa of CBS Sports.
Arizona's relievers have posted a respectable 3.53 ERA in April, but that stat is somewhat misleading. The group has allowed 40 percent of inherited runners to score, per Baseball-Reference.com. To be fair, there have been a lot of runners on base by the time the bullpen gets the call.
Overall Grade: F
The Diamondbacks have the worst record in all of baseball. Short of a miraculous recovery, general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson are in serious jeopardy of losing their jobs.
Nelson Cruz (.929 OPS, 7 HR) and Matt Wieters (.954 OPS, 5 HR) have been the standouts for the Baltimore Orioles in April. As a team, the Orioles have posted a .720 OPS, which ranks No. 12 in baseball.
Chris Tillman checks in with a 3.68 ERA, but outside of the 26-year-old, the rotation has been poor. Ubaldo Jimenez has been particularly disappointing with a 6.59 ERA and 17 walks in 27.1 innings of work. Opponents are hitting .285 against the staff, which is the fourth-highest mark in MLB.
Tommy Hunter has been solid out of the bullpen for the Orioles, locking down seven of eight save opportunities. Darren O'Day (0.82 ERA) and Zach Britton (1.10) have also excelled while pitching in relief. However, underwhelming performances from Brian Matusz (4.66 ERA) and Evan Meek (6.94 ERA) have resulted in the group posting a 3.81 ERA.
Despite the slow start from the rotation, the Orioles are right in the middle of what promises to be a fierce race in the AL East.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox lineup has been far from explosive in the opening month of 2014.
The team ranks No. 16 in OPS, No. 13 in runs and No. 18 in home runs. Mike Napoli has undoubtedly been the most consistent producer so far. The first baseman has six doubles, five home runs and leads the team with 17 walks. As a group, the Red Sox hitters have been patient. The team has drawn 124 free passes, the third most in baseball.
With a 4.19 ERA (No. 19 in baseball), Boston's starting staff has been significantly less effective than what was expected entering the season. Clay Buchholz (6.66 ERA) and Felix Doubront (5.70 ERA) have been the two weak links.
The bullpen's 3.25 ERA might not jump off the page, but the group has absolutely been doing its job. Red Sox relievers have allowed just 14 percent of inherited runners to score, which is the lowest mark in baseball, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: C
After winning the World Series last fall, there are high expectations for this club. To this point, both the lineup and the rotation have underperformed, leaving manager John Farrell's squad tied for last in the AL East.
Anthony Rizzo (.864 OPS), Starlin Castro (.811 OPS) and Welington Castillo (.803 OPS) are all off to promising starts, but as a group, the numbers are not good for the Chicago Cubs. With a team OPS of .655, the Cubs rank No. 26 in baseball. The most notable underachievers are Nate Schierholtz and Darwin Barney, who are batting .217 and .136, respectively.
The club's starting pitchers have been all over the place in April. Jeff Samardzija (1.98 ERA) and Jason Hammel (2.08 ERA) have been excellent. Travis Wood (3.52 ERA) has been good, and Edwin Jackson (5.24 ERA) and Carlos Villanueva (9.95 ERA) have just been poor.
Hector Rondon (0.68 ERA) and Justin Grimm (0.79 ERA) have been outstanding. However, at the opposite end of the spectrum, Jose Veras has been almost impossibly bad with a 15.88 ERA in six appearances.
Overall Grade: C
Sure, the Cubs are sitting in last place in the division and sport the second-worst record in the NL. However, considering the talent on the current roster, can you really expect much more from them? And for that reason, the grade remains relatively high.
Chicago White Sox
The Chicago White Sox offense has been unexpectedly awesome in the first month of 2014.
With 10 home runs and a .617 slugging percentage, Jose Abreu has been a monster. Meanwhile, Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez have done an excellent job of getting on base and scoring runs, as the club ranks second in baseball with 154 runs.
There's really no way to put it lightly. The White Sox rotation has been brutal in 2014. The staff ranks No. 28 in MLB with a 5.10 ERA and has issued 69 free passes, which is the most of any team.
The club's bullpen has been nearly as bad as its rotation. The group has posted a 4.33 ERA and has walked an MLB-worst 61 batters. Meanwhile, closer Matt Lindstrom is just 3-for-6 in save opportunities.
Overall Grade: B+
Even with one of the most productive offenses in the league, the White Sox's subpar pitching has ensured that the club remains a game under .500. Of course, considering that the club lost 99 contests in 2013, it could be a lot worse.
With former table-setter Shin-Soo Choo now playing for the Texas Rangers, the Cincinnati Reds are clearly struggling to score runs. One month into the season, the club ranks No. 24 in baseball with 107 runs. Joey Votto is off to his typically strong start with a .913 OPS. However, Brandon Phillips has connected on just one home run and owns a .316 slugging percentage.
Johnny Cueto has been nasty in the first month of the season. The right-hander has produced a 1.15 ERA and a 9.6 strikeouts-per-nine-inning rate. As a staff, the Reds have been among the best in all of baseball. The group has put together a 2.96 ERA, which ranks fifth in MLB.
The Reds relievers have struggled extensively in 2014. The bullpen has recorded a 4.74 ERA, which ranks No. 26 in MLB. The group has also taken the loss on six occasions. One positive, however, has been Jonathan Broxton, who is 5-for-5 in save opportunities with a 0.00 ERA in seven outings.
Overall Grade: C+
The starting staff has impressed, but the lineup will need to pick it up if the Reds are going to keep pace in a talented NL Central.
With a team OPS of .668, the Cleveland Indians offense underwhelmed in April. Lonnie Chisenhall has been quite the surprise with a .900 OPS and six doubles, but Carlos Santana, who is batting .151, has been a major disappointment. As a team, Cleveland has struggled in the power department with just 19 home runs in April.
Cleveland's starting staff has been among the worst in all of baseball in April. Danny Salazar, who impressed last summer, has struggled to the tune of a 6.04 ERA. Carlos Carrasco checks in with a 6.46 ERA, and even Justin Masterson has struggled with a 4.84 ERA while issuing a team-high 15 walks.
The bullpen has really stepped up for Cleveland in 2014. John Axford has closed out eight of nine save opportunities and has held opponents to a .189 average. As a group, the club's relievers have allowed just 16 percent of inherited runners to score, which is the second-best mark, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: C-
Cleveland sits in last in the AL Central, and the slow start means the club is already 5.5 games behind the first-place Detroit Tigers.
The Colorado Rockies offense has been tremendous in 2014.
The club leads all of baseball in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, average, slugging percentage and OPS. Troy Tulowitzki has posted a 1.207 OPS, Charlie Blackmon is hitting .369, and Justin Morneau has already slugged eight doubles and six home runs.
The club's starting staff hasn't been anywhere near as successful as its lineup. Jordan Lyles, whom the club picked up in an offseason deal, has impressed with a 3-0 record and a 2.70 ERA. Meanwhile. Jorge De La Rosa, who owns a 5.23 ERA, struggled early in the month but has rounded into form in his most recent outings.
The Rockies bullpen has not been terribly reliable in the opening month of the season. The team's relievers have allowed 35 percent of inherited runners to score, which is tied for the eighth-worst mark in MLB, per Baseball-Reference.com. However, Adam Ottavino (1.35 ERA) and LaTroy Hawkins (2.38 ERA) have excelled in their late-inning roles.
Overall Grade: B+
The Rockies' offensive output in the first month of 2014 has been remarkable. However, without a substantially better performance from the starting rotation, it will be a major challenge to keep up with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers
With a .734 OPS as a team, the Detroit Tigers rank No. 9 in MLB. That's almost an identical figure to what Miguel Cabrera (.735) has posted in the first month of 2014. While Cabrera's start has been unexpectedly slow, Rajai Davis' has been unexpectedly fast. The outfielder is hitting .333 with eight steals and an .840 OPS.
The Tigers starting staff has been just as advertised in the opening month of 2014. The rotation owns a 2.98 ERA, which is the second-best number in the AL. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have both been dealing, with ERAs of 2.08 and 2.48, respectively.
The bullpen, however, has been highly problematic. Joe Nathan has posted a 5.06 ERA and is 5-for-7 in save opportunities. Meanwhile, Tigers relievers have allowed 52 percent of inherited runners to score, which is the second-worst mark in MLB, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: B+
The rotation's impressive April showing kept the Tigers in first place despite the slow starts of the bullpen and the lineup. However, it appears that Cabrera is already busting out of his early-season funk. In his last 10 contests, the slugger is hitting .333.
The Houston Astros rank last in all of baseball with a team average of .210. The club only has three hitters with an OPS above .700, and none above .800. Jose Altuve is arguably Houston's most productive offensive player, registering a .276 average, six doubles and nine stolen bases.
The Astros have utilized seven starting pitchers in 2014, but the staff has actually produced a respectable 4.28 ERA. That number would be even lower if staff ace Scott Feldman hadn't ended up on the DL after four outings. On the year, the right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA.
Houston's bullpen is the worst in baseball, and it's not even close. The team's relievers own the highest ERA (5.86) and have served up the most home runs (15).
Overall Grade: D
The Astros are already nine games behind the Oakland Athletics in the AL West. With an offense that can't produce runs and a bullpen that can't hold on to leads, that gap will only increase as the summer wears on.
Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals have clearly struggled at the plate in the opening month of the season. The team owns a .678 OPS and has connected on just 11 home runs. That's just one more home run than Jose Abreu has hit. Mike Moustakas has been one of the biggest underachievers of all with a .149 average.
With a 3.20 ERA, the Royals rotation has been one of the club's strong points in 2014. Rookie Yordano Ventura has been sensational with a 1.50 ERA and a 9.3 K/9 ratio. Veterans James Shields (2.03 ERA) and Jason Vargas (2.40 ERA) have also stood out in April. Meanwhile, Bruce Chen has struggled extensively with a 7.45 ERA and is likely on his way to the DL, per Andy McCullough of The Kansas City Star.
Closer Greg Holland is a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities in 2014. As a group, the bullpen owns a 3.46 ERA. However, there have been significant late-inning issues. Royals relievers have allowed 56 percent of inherited runners to score, which is the worst rate in the major leagues, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: B
Thanks to excellent early-season showings from the club's top three starters, the Royals are right behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. With the offense slowly starting to wake up, there's no reason to expect Kansas City to fall off.
Los Angeles Angels
Suffice it to say that Albert Pujols is back. The slugger has already clubbed nine home runs and owns a .927 OPS. As a group, the Los Angeles Angels offense is off to an impressive start. The squad has the second-highest OPS (.767) in baseball and is tied with the Colorado Rockies for the most home runs (38).
Garrett Richards, who has a 2.53 ERA and an 8.7 K/9 ratio has so far been the Angels' top starter in 2014. C.J. Wilson has also impressed with a 3.18 ERA and 9.3 K/9 ratio. As a staff, the Angels rank fourth in the AL with a 3.46 ERA. However, one weakness for the group has been walks. In the first month, Angels starters have issued 63 free passes, which is tied for the second most in baseball.
The Angels bullpen is not off to a great start. In April, the team's relievers allowed 46 percent of inherited runners to score, per Baseball-Reference.com. Ernesto Frieri has struggled the most out of all the pitchers in the bullpen. Before losing his job to Joe Smith, Frieri locked down just two of four save opportunities. In 10.2 innings, the right-hander has been tagged for five home runs.
Overall Grade: B+
The club's talented, young rotation and its high-powered lineup have kept the Angels right in the midst of the AL West race. However, the bullpen will need to improve substantially if Los Angeles is going to continue to contend.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers rank No. 8 in OPS (.736) and No. 9 in runs (121). Veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has been the club's top offensive contributor so far in 2014. Gonzalez has clubbed nine doubles and nine home runs while producing a 1.043 OPS. Hanley Ramirez has also played a big part in the offensive attack with 12 doubles.
With a 2.74 ERA, the Dodgers starting staff has produced the third-lowest mark in all of baseball. Zack Greinke has been one of the best pitchers in MLB with a 2.04 ERA and an 11.7 K/9 rate. Veterans Dan Haren (2.39 ERA) and Josh Beckett (2.45 ERA) have also been highly effective.
The Dodgers bullpen was nowhere near as effective as the rotation in April, but it was still solid. Closer Kenley Jansen was 11-for-13 in save opportunities and recorded 26 strikeouts in 15.1 innings. Meanwhile, Chris Withrow might have been the team's best reliever of all. The right-hander posted a 0.71 ERA and punched out 18 batters in 12.2 innings.
Overall Grade: A-
The Dodgers are currently a half-game behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. However, based on how well the team is pitching, the club is definitely trending in the right direction.
The Miami Marlins rank No. 6 in baseball both in runs (131) and OPS (.743). Giancarlo Stanton leads the way with eight doubles and eight home runs, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia has also been a major contributor. The free-agent acquisition has added five home runs and leads the team with a .958 OPS.
Jose Fernandez is an early front-runner for the NL Cy Young Award with a 1.59 ERA and an MLB-leading 55 strikeouts. Nathan Eovaldi is also worth a mention. The right-hander has a 2.58 ERA through his first six outings. As a staff, the Marlins have posted a 3.32 ERA, which ranks No. 9 in baseball.
With a 3.56 ERA (No. 13 in MLB), the Marlins bullpen was rather average in April. Closer Steve Cishek has been successful in six of seven save opportunities while posting a 1.80 ERA. Left-hander Mike Dunn has recorded 17 strikeouts in 11.2 innings of work but has also posted a 6.17 ERA.
Overall Grade: A-
For a team that lost 100 games a season ago, the Marlins are off to a highly encouraging start. Keeping up with the top teams in the division will be a major challenge, but the Marlins have the pitching talent to make things interesting.
Despite the incredibly fast start, the Milwaukee Brewers offense is actually right in the middle of the pack, from a statistical perspective. The team ranks No. 17 in OPS (.712) and is tied for No. 14 in runs (117). The club's top producer so far has been center fielder Carlos Gomez. The leadoff man has posted a .927 OPS and contributed eight doubles, two triples, seven home runs and four steals.
The Brewers rotation was among the best in baseball in April. Yovani Gallardo headlines the staff with a 1.91 ERA. Meanwhile, Wily Peralta (2.56 ERA), Kyle Lohse (2.70 ERA) and Marco Estrada (3.13 ERA) all excelled.
The Brewers bullpen has also been one of the most dominant in MLB. Closer Francisco Rodriguez is perfect in 13 save opportunities and hasn't allowed a run in 16 frames. Collectively, the bullpen has allowed just 17 percent of inherited runners to score, which is the third-best mark in MLB, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: A
One of the keys to the Brewers' remarkable first month has been the club's success on the road. The team is currently 11-3 away from Miller Park, a number which is tied for the best in baseball.
Chris Colabello has been one of the bigger surprises of the entire season. After the first month of games, the first baseman has rapped nine doubles and supplied the Minnesota Twins with 27 RBI. The Twins as a team have also been something of a surprise with a .721 OPS, which ranks No. 11 in baseball.
The Twins starting staff was highly ineffective in the first month of the season. The rotation posted a 6.04 ERA, which was the second-worst mark in baseball. Ricky Nolasco owns a 6.67 ERA, Kevin Correia has a 7.33 ERA and Mike Pelfrey checks in with a 7.99 ERA.
The bullpen hasn't been much better. Minnesota's relievers have put up a 3.71 ERA. However, the group has also allowed 40 percent of inherited runners to score, which is tied for fifth worst in MLB, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: B
Despite the almost unbelievably bad pitching performance, the Twins are just a couple of games under .500. For that reason, the squad ends up with a decent grade.
New York Mets
Curtis Granderson endured a rough first month with the New York Mets. The big-money free-agent addition hit .141 with 29 strikeouts in 92 at-bats. Collectively, the Mets weren't much better. The team posted a .619 OPS, which was the second-worst number in baseball. Juan Lagares, who spent a couple of weeks on the DL, was easily the club's top hitter with a .327 average and an .865 OPS.
The Mets starting rotation posted a 3.65 ERA in April, which ranked No. 11 in baseball. Jon Niese (2.20 ERA) and Dillon Gee (2.88 ERA) both turned in sub-3.00 ERAs in the first month of the season. Meanwhile, Zack Wheeler produced a 9.5 K/9 mark and Jenrry Mejia was even better at 9.8.
The club's bullpen was not nearly as effective as the rotation. As a group, Mets relievers were just 5-for-11 on save opportunities. Two of New York's more reliable relievers have been Carlos Torres (1.20 ERA) and Daisuke Matsuzaka (1.17 ERA).
Overall Grade: B+
Carried by the rotation, the Mets have exceeded expectations in the first month of the season. However, the team will need to improve substantially at the plate to keep up the strong early-season pace.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees added all sorts of offensive weapons to the club's lineup this year. However, after one month, it's the unheralded Yangervis Solarte who has been one of the team's most dangerous hitters. The infielder is batting .303 and has posted an .858 OPS, which is the second-highest mark on the team. Collectively, the Yankees are eighth in average (.260) and 10th in OPS (.725).
Masahiro Tanaka enjoyed a remarkable first month in the big leagues. The right-handed starter posted a 2.27 ERA and recorded 46 strikeouts in 35.2 innings of work. However, veterans CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda both sport ERAs north of five.
With a 3.92 ERA, the Yankees rank No. 21 in baseball. That's not terribly encouraging, but David Robertson's performance so far certainly is. The closer has successfully completed all four of his save opportunities and in six frames has allowed zero runs and just two hits.
Overall Grade: B+
The offense is off to a strong start, and the club stands alone atop the AL East. Still, the rotation remains a serious area of concern, especially with Ivan Nova out for the year and Sabathia and Kuroda struggling to get on track.
In April, the Oakland Athletics were the most patient team in all of baseball. The club led MLB with 130 walks and also had the highest OBP (.351). All those baserunners translated into the team scoring the fourth-most runs (148) in baseball. Josh Donaldson led the way with 10 doubles, seven home runs and 23 RBI.
The Athletics lost Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin to Tommy John surgery, but that didn't stop the starting staff from delivering an AL-best 2.85 ERA. Sonny Gray has been the ace with a 1.76 ERA in six outings. However, Jesse Chavez, who spent last year in the bullpen, has also been brilliant with a 1.89 ERA and 9.7 K/9 rate.
The bullpen has all sorts of talented arms, as evidenced by the 2.65 ERA. However, the Athletics have seriously struggled to find a closer. Jim Johnson lost the gig just a week into the season, and then top setup men failed in the role as well. Currently, it appears as though Johnson is on the verge of regaining the job.
Overall Grade: A-
Entering the season, the bullpen was supposed to be Oakland's greatest strength. After one month, though, the bullpen, or specifically the closer's role, is the biggest question mark.
The Philadelphia Phillies got lots of production from their veteran core in April. Chase Utley hit .355 and posted a .978 OPS. Carlos Ruiz contributed eight doubles and an .889 OPS, and even Ryan Howard connected on five home runs. However, overall, the team's offense was noticeably lacking. In the first month of the season, the club ranked No. 20 in both runs (107) and OPS (.690).
A.J. Burnett (3.29 ERA) and Cliff Lee (2.15) were the two standouts for the Phillies staff in April. Kyle Kendrick pitched in with a solid 3.52 ERA in his five outings. However, poor showings from Roberto Hernandez (5.75 ERA) and Jonathan Pettibone (9.00 ERA) resulted in a collective 4.06 ERA for the staff. It didn't help that Cole Hamels was only able to contribute two starts after returning from the DL.
With a 4.84 ERA, the Phillies bullpen was among the worst in all of baseball in April. At least closer Jonathan Papelbon took care of his job. The right-hander turned in a 2.38 ERA and was 8-of-9 in save opportunities.
Overall Grade: C
With the return of Hamels, the Phillies now have a formidable front end of the rotation. However, unless the offense picks it up, it's difficult to envision the club remaining around .500.
The Pittsburgh Pirates offense ranks No. 25 both in runs (102) and OPS (.655). The club only has three players with an OPS above .700—Andrew McCutchen (.932), Gaby Sanchez (.916) and Neil Walker (.762). Pedro Alvarez has been one of the most perplexing hitters in baseball. The third baseman has collected six home runs but is also hitting .194.
The Pirates' starters didn't enjoy much success in April either. Gerrit Cole leads the staff with a 3.18 ERA, but the club has received limited returns from the rest of the rotation. Combined, the Pirates' starting pitchers have gone 3-14 with a 4.22 ERA.
Pittsburgh's bullpen has posted a 2.78 ERA, which ranks No. 5 in baseball. However, the club has faced some issues closing out games. Jason Grilli has a 4.50 ERA and is just 4-of-7 in save attempts. Mark Melancon has been the team's most reliable reliever with a 1.50 ERA in 12 outings.
Overall Grade: C-
After such an underwhelming first month, it's difficult not to question the club's lack of activity during the offseason.
San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres offense has been dismal in 2014. The club ranks last in runs, OBP and OPS and is second-to-last in average and slugging percentage. Two of the biggest culprits have been Jedd Gyorko and Chase Headley, who is currently on the DL. Both infielders are hitting under .200 and have combined to hit just three home runs.
Andrew Cashner (2.68 ERA) and Ian Kennedy (3.16 ERA) have been the Padres' top two starters in 2014. Tyson Ross has also posted a solid 3.68 ERA, but Eric Stults (5.34 ERA) and Robbie Erlin (5.83 ERA) have both struggled extensively. The staff owns a collective 3.99 ERA, which simply isn't good enough at a pitcher-friendly stadium like Petco Park.
The Padres bullpen leads all of baseball with a 1.79 ERA. Dale Thayer (0.64 ERA) and Alex Torres (0.82 ERA) have been two of the club's top options in relief. Meanwhile, closer Huston Street is 10-of-10 in save opportunities. In 11 frames, the 30-year-old has piled up 14 strikeouts and walked just two batters.
Overall Grade: C
It's remarkable that the Padres are just three games under .500 and 4.5 games out of first place, considering just how poor the club's offense was in the opening month of the season.
San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants are third in all of baseball with 34 home runs. That's due in part to the team getting contributions from unlikely sources. Brandon Hicks fits that description. The fill-in second baseman went yard five times in April. The team ranks No. 9 in baseball with 120 runs despite the fact that key contributors like Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval have started slowly.
Tim Hudson has been absolutely incredible in his first month with the Giants. The 38-year-old owns a 2.19 ERA and has walked just two batters in 45.2 innings. Unfortunately, the rest of the staff has ranged from inconsistent to downright poor, in the case of Tim Lincecum.
With a 2.05 ERA, the Giants bullpen has been brilliant in 2014. Sergio Romo is perfect in seven save opportunities and has posted a 2.38 ERA. Meanwhile, Jean Machi has a 0.66 ERA in 14 games, and Jeremy Affeldt has yet to allow a single run in six outings.
Overall Grade: A-
There are definitely some concerns surrounding the rotation, but the powerful offense and lockdown bullpen made the Giants the top team in the NL West in the month of April.
Despite the addition of Robinson Cano, the Seattle Mariners offense floundered in April. With 101 runs, the club ranks No. 26 in that category. Corey Hart (4 2B, 4 HR) and Mike Zunino (.274 AVG, 4 2B, 3 HR) have been two of the club's most productive hitters.
Felix Hernandez has been his usual dominant self with a 2.40 ERA and a 10.2 K/9 rate. However, the club has definitely been hurt by injury. Hisashi Iwakuma has yet to throw a pitch for the club in 2014, and promising young left-hander James Paxton is also on the DL. In two starts, the lefty had produced a 2.25 ERA for Seattle.
Fernando Rodney is off to a good start as the closer for the Mariners. The right-hander is 6-of-7 on save opportunities and has racked up 16 strikeouts in 10.1 innings of work. Danny Farquhar has also impressed out of the bullpen with a 1.38 ERA and 13 strikeouts in as many innings.
Overall Grade: C+
Despite the injuries, the Mariners rotation held its own in April. However, so far the revamped offense has been uninspiring.
St. Louis Cardinals
Unsurprisingly, Yadier Molina (.917 OPS) is off to a monster start. Matt Adams also enjoyed an excellent April with nine doubles while hitting .321. However, as a group, the Cardinals are definitely scuffling offensively. The team's .682 OPS ranks No. 22 in baseball.
The Cardinals' starting rotation has been just as good as it was expected to be. The staff is second in all of baseball with a 2.48 ERA and tops MLB with 172 strikeouts. Adam Wainwright has been filthy with a 1.20 ERA in six outings. Meanwhile, Michael Wacha has recorded a 2.45 ERA and a 10.9 K/9 mark.
Despite his 4.73 ERA, Trevor Rosenthal is a perfect 7-of-7 on save opportunities. Collectively, the team's relievers have posted a 3.73 ERA, which ranks No. 17 in MLB. However, the bullpen has done a solid job of allowing just 22 percent of inherited runners to score, which is the seventh-lowest rate, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: B
The results certainly haven't been poor for the Cardinals, but it's worth noting that the Milwaukee Brewers have already opened up a 5.5-game advantage in the NL Central.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays offense hasn't exactly been dynamic in the first month of the season, ranking No. 15 in OPS (.713). Evan Longoria is off to a slow start, as he's posted a .398 slugging percentage and .726 OPS in the season's first month. Conversely, outfielder/DH Matt Joyce is off to a strong start. The left-handed hitter is batting .306 with a .907 OPS.
The Rays have felt the effects of losing Matt Moore and Alex Cobb. Without those two starters taking their regular turns, the Rays' starting staff has posted a 4.58 ERA, which ranks No. 25 in baseball. Even David Price has run into some problems in the first month of 2014. The ace owns a 4.75 ERA but does have a 10.2 K/9 rate.
The Rays bullpen hasn't been much better. The club's relievers have posted a 3.88 ERA, which ranks No. 20 in MLB. Closer Grant Balfour has locked down six of seven save opportunities but has also issued 10 walks in 12.1 innings.
Overall Grade: C
Even though the Rays are tied for last in the AL East, the club remains just three games behind the division-leading New York Yankees.
The Texas Rangers offense was average at best in the first month of the season. The club's .706 OPS ranks No. 17 in baseball. The most shocking stat regarding the Rangers is that the team hit just 14 home runs in April. While the offense has yet to kick into gear, new left fielder Shin-Soo Choo has been doing his part. The Rangers' table-setter is hitting .303/.433/.474 with five doubles, two home runs and 16 walks.
The Rangers needed to utilize eight starters in the month of April, which is generally not a good sign. However, the group managed to produce a respectable 4.28 ERA. So far, the stars of the staff have been Yu Darvish (2.59 ERA) and Martin Perez (2.95 ERA). Darvish also posted a 9.5 K/9 rate while Perez turned in a couple of complete-game shutouts.
Joakim Soria is 6-of-6 in save opportunities, and Jason Frasor has impressed with a 1.04 ERA in 10 outings. Still, the Rangers bullpen has lots of room for improvement. In the month of April, the club's relievers allowed 41 percent of inherited runners to score, which is the fourth-highest rate in baseball, per Baseball-Reference.com.
Overall Grade: B-
The Rangers ended the month on a four-game losing streak but still remain just three games behind the Oakland Athletics in the AL West. You'd have to imagine that Prince Fielder will eventually wake up.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays have one powerful outfield. Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus have combined to hit 18 home runs in the first month of the season. That's a better output than what four big league clubs have managed. As a team, the Blue Jays have gone yard 34 times, which is tied for the third-most in baseball. The club has also posted the seventh-best OPS (.740).
Aside from Mark Buehrle (2.23 ERA), the Blue Jays rotation has been a major weakness in 2014. As a staff, the Blue Jays have posted a 4.33 ERA, which ranks No. 23 in baseball. The rotation has also issued 64 walks, which is the second-highest total in MLB.
The bullpen has been a big problem for the Blue Jays as well. The club's relievers own a 4.90 ERA, which ranks No. 29 in baseball. The Blue Jays bullpen is also just 6-of-10 on save opportunities.
Overall Grade: B-
Toronto's offense is among the most powerful in all of baseball. However, the pitching staff severely undercuts the club's chances of remaining relevant in the highly competitive AL East.
Despite missing key contributors to injury, the Washington Nationals lineup has been highly productive in the first month of the season. Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Adam LaRoche each connected on four home runs. As a team, the Nationals have posted a .742 OPS, which is the second-best mark in the NL and the fifth-best in baseball.
The Nationals rotation hasn't been nearly as effective as anticipated, but it's still been more than serviceable. The staff has posted a collective 3.74 ERA, and Stephen Strasburg is second in all of baseball with 53 strikeouts. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez has also been a valuable contributor with a 3.25 ERA and a 9.5 K/9 rate.
Led by Rafael Soriano, the Nationals have one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball. The veteran closer is 5-of-5 on save opportunities and has yet to be scored on in 10 appearances.
Overall Grade: B+
The Nationals are just 1.5 games behind the Braves and are on the verge of getting stronger. According to MLB Network Radio, Doug Fister could rejoin the team as soon as May 7 or 8, which would provide the staff with a major boost.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!