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MLB Opening Day 2011: 13 Historically Slow Starters to Watch in April

J. BatovskyCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2011

MLB Opening Day 2011: 13 Historically Slow Starters to Watch in April

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    The 2011 MLB season is just about to get underway. Rest assured, you will be swearing at your computer, TV, phone or maybe even the radio.

    It seems that every year there are certain players who aren't able to shift gears until after March and April. Whether you root for their teams or have them in a fantasy league or two or 12, you need to relax. They do it every year. Why should this year be any different?

    It doesn't matter if it was going into your fantasy draft or examining your team's prospects for the season. You were aware of the players' penchant for starting off like the turtle in his race against the rabbit. Do you prefer tortoise and hare? No one says that any more, so don't expect me to.

    If you start to whine and complain, your family, friends and co-workers have my permission to get out the duct tape and not remove it from your pie hole until we get to the month of May. It's up to you.

    There is a circle of life in MLB. It just so happens some players hibernate just a little longer than others. When they awake from their slumber, these players tend devour their opponents.

Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    Justin Verlander has become one of the best pitchers in the game, but you wouldn't know it by the numbers he puts up in the early part of the season.

    For his career in March and April, Verlander sports a 7-11 record with a ghastly 5.06 ERA. His WHIP continues with that theme at 1.361.

    As if that wasn't bad enough, he was even worse in 2010, going 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA and a WHIP of 1.45.

    It seems that some power pitchers have a little more trouble getting things moving. The Tigers need Verlander to step up his game early this year if they want to put the pressure on the White Sox and Twins from the get go.

Delmon Young, Minnesota Twins

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    Now Delmon Young hasn't been around all that long, but he has already shown that he can stink early in the season with the best of them.

    His career BA in March and April is .250 with a putrid .289 OBP. Those are by far the lowest numbers for him in any month. If you add a .353 SLG and .642 OPS, then you have Young's early season career numbers.

    Last year, Young would have been better off staying in Florida for an extra month. That would have been better than putting up the garbage he brought north called his offensive game.

    Justin Morneau is back from his concussion, but he is still a question mark. Young and Michael Cuddyer both need to begin the 2011 season like they ended 2010.

    The sooner Young starts hitting, the better off the Twins will be.

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

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    Ortiz has never been good in April. I don't think that is a shock to anyone who knows him or the Red Sox well. His numbers are well below those of any month during the rest of the season.

    He took his offensive game to a new low at the beginning of the 2010 season. You have got to check out this line: .143 BA, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .238 OBP, .286 SLG and .524 OPS. How's that for brutal? He should be renamed Big Poopy for that display of ineptitude.

    In the month of May, Ortiz more than doubled his OPS which went from .524 in April to 1.211 in May. How is that even possible?

    Big Papi isn't the only of the Red Sox on this list. He and the others need to start stronger this year. Even with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, it would make things a lot easier if Ortiz just hit three or four home runs this April. That would be a major improvement.

Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox

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    Just like that, we're on to the second Red Sox player on the list.

    Lester is the best pitcher on the Sox' starting staff, and they need him to come out with his guns blazing instead of firing off a couple plastic cap guns.

    For his career in April, Lester is 3-6, 4.76 ERA and 1.505 WHIP. Those are well above his numbers in any other month. His control also seems to suffer early on as evidenced by a 1.81 SO/BB.

    The 2010 April numbers weren't a pretty sight. The lefty compiled a 1-2 record, 4.71 ERA and 1.430 WHIP.

    I'm sure even a mild improvement to his customary April numbers would be welcomed in Beantown.

Hunter Pence, Houston Astros

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    I have always found Hunter Pence a bit of an odd duck. That has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm writing, but I just wanted to get that off my chest.

    Pence's .258 career BA in April is second only to his in June of .255. His OBP bottoms out in April at .297 as does his SLG at .390 and OPS at .687. I think we all know that's not very good.

    While those career numbers are bad, what he put up in 2010 was a travesty: .232 BA, .250 OBP, .329 SLG and .579 OPS.

    The Astros are not a good team. If the Astros are to be sold quickly and quietly, prospective buyer Jim Crane will need to be distracted during Pence's April at-bats. He may run and hide if he has to see him hit.

Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers

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    The Brewers are all in this season. They have made that abundantly clear early and often. The players will have to shoulder the pressure that goes along with that. With this being Prince's last season in Milwaukee, he will have to carry even more of the load.

    He better start in April this year. Historically, Fielder is bad before most of the flowers start blooming. In his career, Prince has only hit 20 HR in April with 77 RBI. His slugging and OPS are by far the worst in April as well.

    Last season was no different. That slow start limited Fielder to only 32 HR and 83 RBI, which were the lowest since his rookie season in 2006.

    With Zack Greinke and Corey Hart missing time early on, Fielder and the Brewers can ill afford another sluggish start to the season.

Rafael Furcal, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Historically, Rafael Furcal can be put at the top of the list of MLB slow starters. It hasn't seemed to matter if it was with the Braves or out on the coast in Los Angeles.

    His 10 HR and 69 RBI in April are the lowest of any month thereafter. His BA of .270 and OPS of .714 are also at the bottom of the barrel.

    Even with that dismal track record, Furcal was able to reverse his fortunes in 2010. He had a phenomenal start to the season and then promptly got hurt.

    The Dodgers have the starting pitching to compete with anyone, and if Furcal can stay healthy and start strong, the Giants and Rockies will have their hands full.

Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Hamels is on this list for a reason. He seems to always be slow coming out of the chute. It's a good thing that he's able to put that behind him every year and get down to business.

    In his career, Hamels has a 7-8 record with a 4.11 ERA and if you slap on a 1.307 WHIP, you have the month of April, which just so happens to be Hamels' worst.

    Some players like Rafael Furcal were able to turn things around in 2010. This guy wasn't so lucky. Hamels finished April of 2010 with a nondescript 2-2 record. The problem was the 5.28 ERA and 1.467 WHIP that went a long with it.

    Hamels didn't have a good spring, but he will need to be at the top of his game when the season begins in a few days.

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Another Phillie who needs to buck the trend. Ryan Howard is a run-producing machine. What he is not is someone who hits the ball with authority in the month of April.

    Howard has hit a paltry 21 HR and 69 RBI in April during his career. The next lowest home-run total for any month is 37 in June. Howard's .250 BA, .445 SLG and .794 OPS are by far worse in April than any other month.

    Howard may have shown signs of turning things around last year, but his numbers in April still weren't on par with what he typically does during the rest of the season.

    Chase Utley is the heart of that offense, but Howard may just be the soul.

CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

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    Some guys earn their money and some don't. CC has earned every penny he has been paid by the Yankees. That must mean he's really good the rest of the season because something has to make up for his struggles in April.

    Sabathia isn't as bad as a lot of the other players on this list, but when you're at the top, those down periods are more noticeable. For his career, Sabathia has a 15-13 record, 4.35 ERA and 1.351 WHIP. For some reason, he also seems to struggle with similar numbers in July. April sets the tone, so those numbers bear a little more weight.

    It was good to see that Sabathia turned things around in 2010. Just imagine what his career April numbers would have looked like without a solid start to last season.

    With Andy Pettitte retired, there is more pressure than ever on CC be strong from start to finish. The Yanks are counting on it.

Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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    I shall call him mini-me. OK, maybe not, but is he really the 5'9" he is listed at?

    Pedroia's numbers are pretty straightforward across the board in the month of April. There is no doubting that, without question. Simply put, he struggles: .279 BA, .345 OBP, .426 SLG, .771 OPS

    Those are Pedroia's career April stats which are the lowest of all the other months.

    Last year Pedroia came out swinging and was productive in April. He is the table setter, so if he can do the same in 2011, the Sox offense will be virtually unstoppable.

Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

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    Unlike some of the other players on this list, Tulowitzki doesn't stink in April. In fact, he totally sucks. How is that for an eloquent description? I certainly have a way with words.

    Some players' numbers are close from month to month and some may even be close to those the player accumulated in April. That is not the case with Tulowitzki. Let's take a look see, shall we?: .224 BA, .305 OBP, .357 SLG, .662 OPS

    Now these numbers are from any other month that are the closest to those that Tulowitzki has put up in April: .281 BA, .356 OBP, .434 SLG, .799 OPS

    That's quite a difference.

    In 2010 he took some baby steps to improve, but he still has a long way to go.

Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

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    Mark Teixeira's level of April stank exceeds even that of a sewer treatment plant. When people say Teixeira is a slow starter, they must be trying to spare his feelings.

    Some players are still able to maintain decent power numbers when they struggle in other areas. That's not the case here. Teixeira has only 24 HR and 83 RBI for his career in April. His next worst month is June, where he's hit 45 HR and 142 RBI. That's just silly, and so are the rest of his numbers: .235 BA, .342 OBP, .411 SLG, .753 OPS

    I don't even plan on dignifying those stats with a comparison. I'll just say the discrepancy is similar to that of his home runs and runs batted in.

    Now maybe you're thinking that maybe he improved his April numbers in 2010 like some of the other players on the list did. If you're thinking that, you must be drunk. Here are Mark Texiera's stats from April of 2010. I hope you brought a barf bag: .136 BA, 2 HR, 9 RBI, .300 OBP, .259 SLG, .559 OPS

    'Nuff said.

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