The first month of the baseball season is over and it’s official—baseball is back baby!
What a first month it was. We had a little bit of everything. We had great team performances, great individual performances, some surprises and, as always, some disappointments.
Let’s recap the first month of the baseball season with the 10 things we learned in March/April…
10. Injuries will always be part of the game: Ryan Zimmerman, Evan Longoria, Zack Greinke, Corey Hart, Brandon Morrow, Jason Bay, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, and Ubaldo Jimenez were just some of the stars who landed on the DL in the month of April. To say the least, it was a brutal month for injuries in Major League Baseball.
The Mauer injury might have been the most devastating. The Minnesota Twins are an absolute mess right now and having Drew Butera behind the plate instead of Mauer isn’t helping the situation.
I mentioned Jimenez in the names above. He missed 15 days because of a thumb injury and his team was able to survive.
9. The Colorado Rockies mean business: The Rockies ended April tied with the best record in the National League (18-8) with the Philadelphia Phillies. The most amazing part about the Rockies’ fast start is that they have done it without much contribution from Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Iannetta, Ian Stewart, and the before mentioned Jimenez.
The one guy they have been able to lean on is Troy Tulowitzki. “Tulo” is hitting .298/.385/.617 with seven HR and is an early favorite for the NL MVP award. The Rockies have also gotten solid contributions from Seth Smith, Jonathan Herrera, and Jorge de la Rosa.
The Rockies play in the NL West where things haven’t been too far off from preseason predictions. The NL West is the complete 180 from this division.
8. The AL Central is upside down: Raise your hand if you thought the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals would be at the top of the AL Central at the end of April and the Twins and Chicago White Sox would be at the bottom. That’s what I thought.
As I mentioned before, the Twins are a hot mess and the White Sox have more bullpen issues than they know what to do with. Both the Twins and White Sox ended April nine games behind the Indians.
Speaking of the Tribe…
7. The Indians are the surprise of baseball: I thought it was going to be a very long year in Cleveland. As it turns out, it might be a long year for them because they might be playing in October.
Since getting shellacked on Opening Day by the White Sox 14-7, the Indians have gone 18-7 and currently have the best record in the American League. They have done it with a solid offense.
The Indians ended April leading the AL in runs scored (141), OBP (.344), and third in HRs (34) and OPS (.791). Grady Sizemore (.378/.429/.822 with four HR in 18 games) and Travis Hafner (.342/.393/.566 with four HR in 21 games) have turned back the clock and have fueled the Indians' fast start.
As the Indians have been the feel good team of baseball so far, this guy has been the feel good player of the baseball season…
6. Sam Fuld became a legend: Only a team like the Chicago Cubs could throw in a nobody in a trade and watch that nobody take baseball by storm. The Cubs threw in Fuld in the Matt Garza trade and Fuld turned into the most interesting man in the world, overnight.
I can’t wait for the commercial where Fuld is shown in the Sudan and says, “Sam Fuld once taught a German Shepard to speak Spanish. His DVR records HIS every move.”
Fuld has led the Tampa Bay Rays surge with a .289/.358/.433 slash line with one HR, seven doubles, two triples, 10 SB, and a number of amazing catches in the outfield.
I am not sure how much staying power Fuld has but, if he continues his legendary rise, he might get paid like this guy did…
5. Ryan Braun got paid: The Brewers signed Braun to a five-year, $105 million contract extension last week. Braun was already through 2010, so this contract will make Braun a Brewer until 2015. The extension also includes a 2012 option for up to $20 million and a $10 million signing bonus.
Braun is an elite player who shows no signs of regressing anytime soon. If people want to nitpick about Braun’s defense, that’s fine, but every player has a flaw in some way, shape, or form. While Braun might not be Carl Crawford in left, he’s not Jack Cust out there either.
At the end of the day, this will turn out to be a good signing by the Brewers.
The Brewers have a solid ownership situation with Mark Attanasio in charge, which is the complete opposite of this team…
4. The Los Angeles Dodgers ownership situation is a clown show: Between his divorce, the loans, and this pie-in-the-sky TV deal, Frank McCourt has turned one of the great franchises in sports into a laughing stock.
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig has appointed Tom Schieffer to monitor the Dodger situation. His job is to dot the I’s, cross the T’s, and make sure everything is running smoothly from an operations standpoint. He will be the Dodgers version of Mr. Wilhelm.
The Dodgers are on pace to sell a half a million less tickets than last season and, with McCourt not going down without a fight, this situation is only going to get uglier as the season moves along.
While the Dodgers are a mess behind the scenes, on the field their is one guy who could bring people to the ballpark…
3. Andre Ethier has a nice hitting streak going: Ethier ended April with a 25-game hitting streak, which is the longest in the Majors since Ryan Zimmerman had a 30-game hitting streak back in 2009. Ethier has hit .400 with an 1.059 OPS during the streak.
If Ethier can get his streak into the mid-30s, then things will get interesting. Perhaps his streak will bring some more fans to the ballpark in L.A.
Let’s stick with the southern California theme and talk about the hottest pitcher in the game…
2. Jered Weaver tore up April: Weaver ended baseball’s first month of the season with a 6-0 record with a 0.99 ERA, two complete games, and one shutout. He also struck out 49 batters in 45.2 innings of work.
While Weaver doesn’t throw 95 mph, he has a deceptive motion (throws across his body) and features a wicked changeup that’s one of the best in baseball. Many people forget that Weaver led the AL in strikeouts last season with 233. The guy has swing and miss stuff.
Every year we see a pitcher in either league have “that year,” where every thing breaks their way and they have their breakout season. We saw it with Greinke two years ago. Weaver could very well be on his way to a Greinke-esque season for the Angels.
On the subject of players who have been rock stars, and the No. 1 thing we learned about baseball in the month of March/April is…
1. Jose Bautista might be the best hitter in the game: From ham n’ egger to the best hitter in the game. That’s quite the rags-to-riches story for Toronto Blue Jays’ OF, Jose Bautista.
Many thought Bautista’s 54 HR last season was a fluke, but this year he is backing it up with another amazing season and he might just be the best hitter in baseball right now.
He is scary locked in. You watch his ABs and he is right on every pitch. Even the pitches he misses, it doesn’t seem like he gets fooled. He is taking softball swings playing baseball, which is pretty amazing.
Bautista leads the American League in WAR (2.7), Walks (28), Avg. (.366), SLG (.780), OBP (.532), and HR (9). If Bautista can get his supporting cast to help him out, I would say he can be a serious triple crown candidate.
That’s a wrap for this month. We’ll be doing this at the end of each month until the World Series ends. Hope you enjoy it.
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