MLB All Up, No Down: The Best Of April
The process of assembling three up and three down every weekend is a tedious one, especially the down part.
The up part is just as hard, because deciding on three weekly performances is difficult, but finding three awful ones is just as hard if not more.
That is why when I decided to do something for the end of the month, I decided that I just wouldn't be negative, and I'll just highlight the best.
So, before I crash my laptop with ten open tabs of fabulous April performers, let's get to it.
Nate McLouth, OF Pirates
Who better to lead us off than the guy who leads off for the Pirates every day?
An injury to Chris Duffy allowed McLouth to slide into the starting center field position to begin the year after a good spring. He didn't waste any time, and promptly went on an 19 game hitting streak to start the year.
McLouth is hitting .342, and perhaps the most surprising thing about his year is the seven home runs.
Nate might eventually cool off; in fact at one point after the hitting streak ended he went four games without a hit. But he followed that up by getting 8 hits over his last four. McLouth might be here to stay after all.
Josh Hamilton, OF Rangers
Not much to talk about in Texas, where the Rangers are one of the worst teams in the American League.
But, one year after finally making it to the Majors, Josh Hamilton not only got another fresh start, he got a off to a hot one.
Hamilton is hitting .330 with six home runs in the month of April. But the most telling thing of his month has been the runs he's knocked in.
Hamilton's 32 RBI leads the entire Majors, and he has six more than the leader in the National League, Xavier Nady.
Conor Jackson, 1B Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks had a couple of hitters get hot at different parts in the month.
They've even had a pitcher heat up, what are they feeding those kids in that desert?
The most consistent though has to be the first baseman, Conor Jackson.
Jackson is hitting .345 with five home runs. He has knocked in 25 runs and scored 24. Consider Jackson a representation of the whole Arizona team, because they've been that good.
Chase Utley, 2B Phillies
You think I'd snub Utley again like that? No way man, he is the great white hope for every white guy that wishes he could hit a baseball.
The Phillies have had the MVP the past two years, and they might just get a third. With one of them hurt and the other struggling, Utley has stepped it up, hitting .360.
He leads the entire majors in home runs with 11. I will now end this section here, because words cannot do justice on just how good he is.
Chipper Jones, 3B Braves
Is this 1998 or 2008?
I'm ending the hitters section with Chipper because he quite possibly, put on the best month of April by a 50 year old not named Julio Franco.
I'm kidding, but Jones, who celebrated his 36th birthday last week, is hitting .410, which leads all of baseball. He also hit eight home runs with 21 runs batted in.
Keep it up old guy, I love it, and just another hope for a guy like me. One day I could hit .410 in the major leagues.
Yeah, never mind.
Brandon Webb, SP Diamondbacks
Those pesky Diamondbacks, here they are again in the other category.
Former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb leads this group as well, and boy is it a group.
Dan Haren and that hitting pitcher I was talking about earlier, Micah Owings have been great, but Brandon Webb is the ace for a reason.
In his six games this year, he is 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA and 34 strikeouts. Webb has been, by far the best pitcher in the National League this year.
Cliff Lee, SP Indians
Yeah, you've heard the witty jokes all year. "If I told you an Indians' left hander would be the best pitcher in the American League in the month of April, I bet you'd never thought it would be Cliff Lee."
Ha! Great one, but it is true.
Wednesday, to close out his fantastic month, he probably put out his worst outing. But how often can someone say their worst game was 6 innings, and three earned?
Lee's ERA of .96 leads all of baseball, and he-like Webb, has won all of his starts, going 5-0 in April.
Some more impressive stats include: a .151 batting average against, 32 strikeouts, and only two walks.
Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana, SPs Angels
I picked two, because they are sort of the super-subs.
While both probably will remain in the rotation once John Lackey returns, Santana was on the cusp of not being a part of it.
Santana had an awful 2007 and he found himself on the outside looking in. Saunders was always coming up and making fabulous spot starts for the Angels, but never could nail down a rotation spot.
Until now that is, where both are picking up the slack while Lackey is on the disabled list and Kelvim Escobar is sitting out most of the year.
Saunders is 5-0 with a 2.09 ERA, and 20 strikeouts. Opposing hitters are only hitting .204 off him.
Santana is also 5-0, but his 2.47 ERA isn't as good as Saundes. Oh well, neither is his .207 batting average against, but he has struck out 29 batters.
Tim Lincecum, SP Giants
Like Hamilton with his Rangers, there isn't much going on in San Francisco.
But Tim Lincecum is a glimmer of hope, in what looks to be a very bad situation.
Lincecum is the co-leader in the National League with 40 strikeouts. He has put up a very good 1.73 ERA with a 4-1 record.
Lincecum needs to be as good as he can every night if he expects to win. The most runs he has had backing him has been seven. But, other than that he has lost a 3-2 game and hasn't gotten more than three runs in any other start.
His 1.38 WHIP indicates his success with his low ERA might not continue, especially when he gives up no less than seven base runners per game.
Billy Wagner, RP Mets
How much better can you be as a reliever?
Billy Wagner has gone the entire month without giving up an earned run, and until the last two games a hit.
Wagner went the first eight games without giving up a hit, until that streak snapped on the 27th of April.
Wagner had a great April, but it didn't end well. He was six for six in save chances, until the 29th when an unearned run gave him the blown save.
What a fun month to open up baseball. Will teams like Oakland and Baltimore keep up their overachieving starts? Will Detroit and the Los Angeles Dodgers fight through tough divisions? We'll find out in May, that's for sure.
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