April is over and May is here. Time to look at the best of the best (and a little worst of the worst) through 30 games.
Is there really a way that Ryan Braun is not on this list? Can Matt Garza really be a No. 1 guy in this type of piece? Is it time for me to pee in the little cup?
No. Basically what I am going to do is run through the top eight or nine players in each of the three major categories for hitters and pitchers.
The reason for this is the fact that there are so many variables to a player when it comes to stats that it’s more prudent to zero-in on specifics, discuss them and move on.
For hitters, we will focus on average, home runs and RBI. For pitchers, we will focus on wins, strikeouts and ERA—similar to MLB rankings.
For all players, we will focus on the top students of the class with a few disappointments thrown in here and there to break things up. All stats and rankings are compiled based on the time of this article.
I just want to make that perfectly clear.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in by starting with the top eight in batting average.
I don’t think there is any surprise here unless you factor in that little bout with an appendectomy that sidelined the Cardinals slugger in April.
But that’s just it; he still leads the league in BA after missing some time.
Despite hitting .409, Holliday has also accumulated 36 total hits, 57 total bases and has knocked in 24 total runs.
Holliday only has four home runs through April, but keep in mind that April isn’t exactly a great month for dingers. I am sure May will be much more favorable.
Berkman just happens to be right behind Holliday, and he too does it with limited time—for those of you who may need clarification, I say "limited" considering he is not an everyday starter.
In only 97 AB, the old man is hitting .402 with 39 total hits and 75 total bases; one could even argue he is performing better than Holliday right now.
Did I mention he has also knocked nine homers out of the park, and only Ryan Braun has more, at 10?
Berkman will continue his torrent production, and he could wind up being one of the best bats out of the National League by year’s end.
Polanco has thus far been a quality hitter for the Phillies and is currently third in BA. He is currently hitting .375 and has only struck out six times!
The only issue I have with Polanco is his apparent slight drop-off in the RBI department after April 15. Before then, “Polly” hit 11, but finished April with only eight.
Not a big deal, but it would be nice to see a couple more homers under his belt.
Ethier had a modest April and is currently hitting .370, despite dealing with a current elbow inflammation issue.
Something about elbow issues in Los Angeles right now, eh?
Ethier has 44 total hits, but also has been striking out quite a bit (22), which is something he’ll need to work on if he wants to stay atop the front five.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise by any means.
Brett Wallace has been on the Astros' back-burner for some time, and the 2011 season was right about when folks thought he would break out.
Wallace is hitting .367 with 36 total hits, despite only smacking two homers.
The power end of his bat should pick up a bit in May, and if he continues this pace, he’ll be exactly in line with where the Astros expected him to be.
The disastrous 2010 season is looking more and more like a single-season fluke for Kemp, as he is hitting .364 with six HR.
This is really good news for Kemp and Dodgers fans, as they hoped the 2009 version of Kemp would be the version they'd see this year.
So far, so good.
April was a nice month for Votto, and he is living up to the hype, batting in the top 10 of nearly every category this year with a .358 BA and just 15 strikeouts.
He is a huge part of the Reds organization and offensive attack; one can only assume he will get better as time goes on and the months heat up.
Bad news for opposing teams.
The home-run king from a year ago hasn’t slowed down a bit this year. Bautista is hitting .357 with nine home runs, which is good for second in the NL. At this rate, he is the guy no pitcher wants to face.
And there we are. Any additional questions as to whether or not last year was a fluke are answered.
Now that we have looked at batting average, let us now view the home-run hitters who are currently tearing it up.
I chose to highlight Konerko because White Sox fans have got to be happy about something offensively, and Konerko is that guy.
Despite hitting eight home runs, Konerko is also hitting .296, which is also very welcome in Chicago right now.
The other batters tied at eight are all Yankees hitters—Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira.
Beltre had a rocky start to the 2011 season, but all is well now, as he has already knocked in seven moonshots and is one of two Rangers—Nelson Cruz being the other—with seven home runs.
Other players tied at second are Melky Cabrera, Jeff Francoeur, Jason Heyward, Albert Pujols, Troy Tulowitzki, Chris Young and Ben Zobrist.
The next tier (six home runs and five home runs) collectively has more than 30 players tied for these spots. I will highlight the next three at random, starting with Mets first baseman Ike Davis.
What a surprise Davis has been for the Mets, as well as a breath of fresh air.
But he isn’t just hitting homers; Davis is also chiming in with a .318 BA and 61 total bases, which has helped the Mets’ cause tremendously.
Aviles' five home runs, in addition to his well-appreciated six stolen bases, make him one of the best, well-rounded players the Royals have.
Many people thought Billy Butler was going to be one of the power bats in KC, and many also thought he was going to have a power breakout season.
But it has been Aviles who has really surprised.
Things should get really interesting if Butler catches fire with Aviles and Cabrera in the mix.
I decided to talk a little about Drew Stubbs, who currently has five home runs under his belt.
But what is even better is his unbelievable 10 stolen bases, which adds to his offensive threat and the Reds' total ability to win games.
Stubbs had a monster April in terms of power and running the bases; if he continues, the Reds will be a difficult team to keep down.
Now let’s take a look at the RBI leaders of the league.
Same as before with the power hitters, the RBI department is filled with a ton of players tied in various locations.
But it is Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard who is leading the way as the king of the mountain with 29.
Howard also has six home runs and is hitting an impressive .294.
Strikeouts are a bit high at 30, but not as bad in previous years, so Howard is doing just fine right now.
Prince Fielder hasn’t been all that quiet, as he is currently third on the RBI list with 26.
But Fielder is also hitting .318 with six home runs, and he began the month of April as hot as anyone could be.
Despite cooling off a bit, Fielder should heat back up in May as he usually does, and the Brewers will certainly enjoy the production.
Since we gave love to Konerko in the last category, we’ll give some love to Ben Zobrist, who has really come together this year and is currently tied with Konerko at 25 RBI.
Zobrist has also added five stolen bases, but could stand to elevate his average just a bit, as he is hitting .259.
Still, he is off to a great start, and April was very kind to him.
All that offseason hoopla about Young hitting at the DH spot now seems to have been useless since he is still producing.
Tied with Adrian Beltre at 24 RBI, Young is also hitting .339 and has three stolen bases to his credit.
Who said the DH slot is a bad thing?
Two other players—Ryan Braun and Adam Lind—are tied at 23 RBI with Francoeur, but I don’t think anyone expected him to have such a solid April showing.
Well, here we are.
Francoeur is also hitting .318 with three stolen bases and 35 total hits in just 111 AB.
Thank God, because the Royals need consistent hitting.
Cabrera tore it up this spring, and he hasn’t slowed much at all through April. He and five others are tied at 22 RBI.
But what has separated Cabrera apart is his .352 BA and his seven home runs, which have helped the Royals remain competitive.
It’s pretty obvious Cabrera has come into his own and will continue to dominate every time he is at the plate.
The others tied with Cabrera are Mike Aviles, Ike Davis, Stephen Drew and Hunter Pence.
Five players are tied at 21 RBI, and leading the way is Yankees slugger Robinson Cano.
Cano is also hitting .308 with eight home runs and two stolen bases. In addition to his offensive prowess, his defensive prowess is just another great example of what Cano is truly capable of and why he is such a valued part of the Yankees organization.
Other players with 21 RBI include Chipper Jones, Alex Avila, Alfonso Soriano and Chris Young.
Now that we’ve taken a look at hitters, let’s take a look at the best of the best the pitching department has to offer, and we’ll start with those who have the most wins.
There are several pitchers one could highlight through April, but where to start?
What I will do with the win category is look at the top four pitchers in the league, and the top four disappointments, starting with Jered Weaver.
At 6-1 with a 1.39 ERA and a league-leading 55 strikeouts, Weaver tops them all and has Angels fans thanking the heavenly stars.
Weaver has shown great poise, dominance and control through seven starts, with no signs of slowing down at all.
Well look at that, the young blood is dominating the bump with every given chance at 5-1 with a 2.63 ERA.
What’s interesting is the fact that he has only thrown 20 strikeouts, but makes up for it with his cool, calm demeanor and stylistic approach.
Having a newly-tooled offense that can provide support also helps just a bit.
Cahill is cruising along this year, remaining undefeated through his first seven games (5-0) with an excellent 1.79 ERA.
No surprise here. Everyone knew Cahill was going to be dominant this season, and I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Now this is a bit surprising.
Correia is having one of his best seasons thus far, sitting on a 5-2 record and a 2.91 ERA, and he’s doing it without throwing a ton of strikes.
If you watch this guy, he just flat-out confuses the batter with his bevy of off-speed pitches, and the Pirates have really come through for him when he needed it the most.
There are plenty more at the top of the list, but what about the bottom of the MLB barrel?
For that, simply read on.
After a decent 2010 outing, many felt this would’ve been the "comeback" year for Liriano.
But the fact of the matter is his days as a starter are seemingly over.
At 2-4 with a 6.61 ERA, and almost throwing an average of six walks per game, Liriano just isn’t the same, and he is this year’s biggest disappointment through the month of April.
But hey, he did throw a shutout.
Lowe seemingly was storming out of the gate in March when he pitched a masterful five-inning gem against the Nationals, but April wasn’t particularly kind to him, especially when he faced the NL West.
Now at 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA, Lowe is facing liability status for the Braves if he can’t tighten up some loose bolts in the coming months.
Despite getting two wins in April, the month as a whole was rather disappointing for the Boston hurler.
Aside from one matchup against the Angels, Dice-K barely even threw more than three strikes in any one game and has really struggled on the bump this season.
If this continues, the Red Sox will yank his chain for a more favorable option.
I am actually surprised Lilly had such a disappointing April after last year’s performance and his history of good starts in April.
He hasn’t been able to keep his ERA below 4.00 all season, which isn’t good news for Dodgers fans.
There are rumors he could be dealt this summer, and if he continues to struggle, that rumor could become reality.
From the win department, we head on over to the convoluted world of strikeouts.
The strikeout department is an important area for pitchers, but not always the most important.
Some pitchers don’t need a ton of strikeouts to garner wins; a little luck, game management and a good supporting offense will do it.
Other pitchers, such as Tim Lincecum and Jered Weaver, just simply throw them naturally.
The race in the strikeout department is just as tight as another area in baseball right now, so we’re going to quickly run through the strikeout leaders, starting with Jered Weaver, who has been stellar this season, leading with 55.
This is probably going to change tonight with Lincecum pitching in the Big Apple, but since this is the most current stat available, we’re going with it.
That leads us to No. 2 and No. 3 on this list: Tim Lincecum and Matt Garza of the Cubs.
Lincecum is no surprise since he probably throws strikeouts in his dreams, but where in the heck did Garza come from, right?
In Tampa he was average at best, and while we knew he could throw the heat, I don’t think anyone thought he would have been atop the strikeout leader board for as long as he was.
Justin Verlander and Doc Halladay round out the fourth and fifth spots; again, not much of a surprise there.
The last five are Dan Haren, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, C.J. Wilson and Felix Hernandez.
So yeah, business as usual.
Now let’s take a quick and final look at the ERA leaders and how they fared.
The ERA department has a few players many thought would be in the top 10, but a few other players who are a bit unexpected.
Of course, leading the way is Josh Johnson, who has yet to even climb over 1.00 (currently 0.88 ERA).
Johnson’s control has been as spot-on as it gets, and he is cruising along nicely, so long as he remains healthy.
Jered Weaver and San Diego youngster Dustin Moseley are right behind him at two and three respectively, and the Padres have got to be happy with their young arms right now.
Weaver is holding a 1.39 ERA and Moseley—who had a terrible time getting the “W” toward the end of the month—is in third at 1.63.
Dan Haren and Trevor Cahill round out the fourth and fifth spots.
The last five pitchers are Roy Halladay, James Shields, the Rangers' surprise arm, Alexi Ogando, Shawn Marcum and Justin Masterson.
So there you have it, each category broken down for you, with a small highlight of who’s who.
I hope you enjoyed the approach and the presentation. Thanks for stopping by.