1 Takeaway For Every MLB Team 1 Month Into 2022 SeasonMay 7, 2022
Exactly one month ago today, the 2022 Major League Baseball season finally began after a protracted lockout and a shortened spring training.
We don't know everything about all 30 of the league's teams just yet, but we know a lot more than we did before. As such, it's a good time for some initial takeaways.
I didn't have a carefully defined strategy in putting together this list, save for wanting to talk about early trends that are generally interesting. Some concern specific players, while others more so concern team-wide matters that are surprising. Or in some cases, not surprising.
Let's go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
American League East
Baltimore Orioles (10-16): Jorge Lopez Is Really Good at His New Job
As their ERA is down two full runs from 2021, the Orioles' pitching is a heck of a success story in its own right. But if there's one hurler in particular who deserves the spotlight. It's this guy:
Before this season, Jorge Lopez was a middling starter with a good yet unexceptional fastball. Now he's chucking it up there around 100 mph as Baltimore's closer and shoving accordingly with a 1.32 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 13.2 innings.
Boston Red Sox (10-17): Not Much Has Changed Since the End of Last Year's ALCS
Remember when the Red Sox darn near went to the World Series in 2021, only for their bullpen and offense to let them down in the last three games of the American League Championship Series? Well, suffice it to say that nothing has really changed thus far in 2022. This doesn't mean the Red Sox can't possibly contend this season. But if they do, it'll only because they opted not to stick with what wasn't working.
New York Yankees (18-7): Early Rumors of Their Demise Were Greatly Exaggerated
Including by yours truly, who was spooked by how the problems the Yankees were having amid their slow start looked a lot like the issues that dogged them throughout 2021. An 11-game winning streak promptly followed, and it was all the more impressive for how well the Yankees played in all facets of the game.
And now for the part where I do my best Kill Bill impression: I overreacted.
Toronto Blue Jays (16-11): Three Pitchers Have Stolen the Show
Yeah, yeah. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer and so on. But the most impressive players on the Blue Jays right now are actually starters Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah, who have a 1.87 ERA between them, and closer Jordan Romano, who already has 12 saves. All the more reason why the Blue Jays could be a terrifying postseason matchup if they get there.
Tampa Bay Rays (17-10): Shane McClanahan's Breakout Is Ongoing
There are all sorts of nice things to say about all sorts of Rays, up to and especially including hard-throwing lefty Shane McClanahan. He was something of a hidden gem in 2021, and now he's out there with a 3.06 ERA and 47 strikeouts through 32.1 innings. Plus, he's getting called and swinging strikes at a higher rate than reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox (12-13): This Offense Should Be Better
Not you, Tim Anderson. You're doing just fine. But the rest of the White Sox offense has been less than fine in 2022, particularly as it has averaged only 2.8 runs per game since April 14. The balls in play are there and the power isn't awful, but a .212 average with runners in scoring position isn't going to cut it if the Pale Hose want to win another division title.
Cleveland Guardians (12-13): Shane Bieber Is Back...Kind Of
One of the big questions looming over the Guardians at the outset of the season was whether 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber would bounce back after an injury-marred 2021 campaign. His 2.45 ERA indicates that he has. His diminished strikeout rate and fastball velocity? Less so. In fact, he doesn't even want to talk about the latter.
Detroit Tigers (8-17): This Offense Badly Needs Power
Concerning the Tigers offense, one bit of good news is that prized rookie Spencer Torkelson is leading the team in home runs. So that's one way that things are going according to plan.
It's less ideal, of course, that Torkelson has the team lead in home runs with all of three to his name. Zooming further outward, it's obviously not at all ideal that the Tigers have a league-low 11 home runs as a team.
Kansas City Royals (8-15): Here Comes Bobby Witt Jr.
Speaking of prized rookies, I'm contractually obligated to follow any mention of Torkelson with a check-in on Bobby Witt Jr. Things were rough for him at first, as he carried a .128 average through April 20. Somewhat quietly, though, he's found his stride with a .318 average and his first career home run over his last 12 outings.
Minnesota Twins (16-11): Don't Look Now, But Their Pitching Is Very Good
This part could be all about how amazing Byron Buxton is, but that's old news. The real revelation of this season in Minneapolis is that the Twins' pitching is actually good. Their ERA is down about a run-and-a-half from last year. Of all the individual guys who deserve credit for this, Joe Ryan should take the lion's share after pitching to a 1.63 ERA over five starts.
American League West
Houston Astros (16-11): It's Like Justin Verlander Never Left
There's plenty to like about how the Astros have begun their season, but I can think of no development more important than how Justin Verlander's return from Tommy John surgery is going. It's as if he's picked up where he left off from his Cy Young Award-winning campaign in 2019, posting a 1.93 ERA through five starts. Not bad for a 39-year-old coming off major surgery.
Los Angeles Angels (18-10): Mike Trout Is Not Only Back But Also Maybe Better Than Ever
It's about time to flip the switch from "the Angels might be good" to "the Angels are good." It's truly taken a village for this to happen, but go figure that nobody has played a bigger role than three-time MVP Mike Trout.
After missing all but 36 games last year with a calf strain, Trout has already played in 23 games and put up a 1.124 OPS and six home runs. He's also trafficking in his best expected production of the Statcast era, so a fourth MVP is already well within his reach.
Oakland Athletics (10-16): Those Trades Have Yet to Pay Dividends
It majorly sucks what's going on with the A's attendance, but can you really blame their fans? This was only ever going to be a watchable team if the trades of Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt and Sean Manaea paid immediate dividends. That just isn't happening at the major league level yet, though one bright side is that catcher Shea Langeliers (acquired for Olson) is raking with a 1.102 OPS and 10 homers at Triple-A Las Vegas.
Seattle Mariners (12-15): Logan Gilbert Is a Lot of Fun
What began as an exciting season in Seattle has started to look more like yet another tease as the Mariners have dropped nine out of 10. But at least they have Logan Gilbert out there throwing gas:
Oh, and Gilbert also had a league-leading 0.64 ERA before he finally hit a wall against the Rays on Friday night, allowing four runs in five innings. Either way, the 25-year-old is trying to become the Mariners' best homegrown pitcher since Felix Hernandez.
Texas Rangers (10-14): Even $581 Million Isn't Enough to Buy a Contender
The Rangers were a "blah" team in 2021, doing basically nothing of note en route to 102 losses. Their $581 million spending spree in free agency was supposed to fix that, but reality has thus far had other ideas. Their $500 million middle infield has been a flop, though it's not their fault that the team's hurlers have coughed up an AL-high 33 home runs.
National League East
Atlanta (12-16): Kyle Wright's Breakout Is the Real Deal
Atlanta has more or less experienced a failure to launch with its defense of its World Series title, yet the experience hasn't been without bright spots. For instance, Kyle Wright no longer resembles the guy who posted a 6.56 ERA in sporadic duty between 2018 and 2021. And not just because he has a 1.74 ERA now but also strong metrics to match.
Miami Marlins (12-14): Jazz Chisholm Jr. Is a Guy to Build an Offense Around
The Marlins have trotted out some exciting hurlers this season, but that much could have been expected. A bigger question going into the season was where their offense was going to come from, and now we know that most of it is going to come from Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Through 22 games, Chisholm is hitting .321 with four home runs, six stolen bases and peripherals that underscore the believability of it all. Clearly, that Zac Gallen trade wasn't such a bad idea after all.
New York Mets (19-9): This Is No Ordinary Mets Season
There's really no other way to say it. Ordinary Mets seasons just don't feature things like combined no-hitters and six-run comebacks in the ninth inning, much less a 110-win pace even without help from two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom.
The history of the franchise is such that I, personally, can't help but suspect that calamity will find the Mets eventually. At the same time, though, the 8.8 percent chance that FanGraphs gives them to win their first World Series since 1986 feels a little conservative.
Philadelphia Phillies (11-15): Bryce Harper Is Having a Weird Season
The Phillies are having hard times both on defense, where they have minus-six outs above average, and in relief pitching, where Thursday's self-destruction raised the bullpen's ERA to 4.50. But perhaps none of this would matter as much if reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper were his normal self. Between his unusually flimsy zone discipline and balky elbow, he very much is not right now.
Washington Nationals (9-19): They Should Trade Josh Bell ASAP
The Nationals are right about where anyone could have expected after their 97-loss effort in 2021. It's only a matter of time before they'll have to force the issue even further with their rebuild, but they shouldn't wait too long to trade Josh Bell. Though he's red-hot with a .344/.445/.516 line now, his hot stretches have been known to be followed by cold spells.
National League Central
Chicago Cubs (9-15): Their Starting Pitching Is Still a Problem
The Cubs have only allowed three more runs than they've scored, so their record isn't cause for panic just yet. What is more uncomfortable to reckon with is that their starting pitching once again has an ERA over 5.00. There are many underlying causes at play here, but the one that stands out is that the starters' average fastball velocity of 90.2 mph is the slowest in baseball. It's as if it's hard to succeed in the modern game without good heat.
Cincinnati Reds (3-22): They're Making an Excellent Argument for Relegation
Way to go, Reds. Only the 1988 Orioles have ever started a season with more losses through 25 games. And given just how unsurprising this is in the wake of all the payroll-cutting the Reds did over the offseason, I can think of no better real-world argument for why MLB needs a relegation system similar to that of the English Premier League.
Milwaukee Brewers (19-8): They Only Need Brandon Woodruff to Get Going
Milwaukee's 3.05 ERA is one of the best in baseball and its 35 home runs are the most in the National League, so...yeah, no notes. Save for maybe one about Brandon Woodruff, who has yet to get in on the pitching fun while he struggles with a 5.18 ERA through five outings. If he can resuscitate his All-Star form of 2019 and 2021, the Brewers could achieve a whole new level of scary.
Pittsburgh Pirates (10-14): They Have One of MLB's Best-Kept Secrets
I'll give you a hint: His name is Wil Crowe.
Crowe didn't make much of an impression as a starter last year, but he sure is as a multi-inning reliever in 2022. He's handled 16.2 innings across nine appearances, in the process posting a 1.08 ERA and generally putting together one of the most impressive pages on Baseball Savant.
St. Louis Cardinals (16-10): Miles Mikolas Looks Like an Ace Again
With a 3.07 ERA for the season, the Cardinals can pitch with the best of 'em. The surprising part is how much Miles Mikolas is contributing to the cause. His All-Star breakout in 2018 was followed by a step back in 2019 and then injuries that limited him to just nine outings across 2020 and 2021. In spite of all that, Mikolas has been exceptionally sharp (i.e., seven walks out of 141 batters faced) as he's racked up a 1.53 ERA through six starts.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks (14-13): Wait, Their Starting Pitching Has What Kind of ERA?
Seriously, though, Diamondbacks starters have a 2.44 ERA. That's second in baseball after only the Los Angeles Dodgers (1.90), which is to say that Arizona's rotation has come quite a ways from last year's 5.20 ERA. It does, however, bear noting that the club's defense should share the credit. Its 12 outs above average rank third on the MLB leaderboard.
Colorado Rockies (15-11): This Might Be the Best Offense They've Ever Had
Let's hear it for Joe-Cron. No, not Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Cronin, but the Rockies' duo of Connor Joe and C.J. Cron, who lead the team in OPS+ at 179 and 135.
It's largely because of those two that the 2022 Rockies have the highest OPS+ in team history at 112. Take that, Blake Street Bombers.
Los Angeles Dodgers (16-7): Everything's Fine...Except for Justin Turner's Bat
The Dodgers continue to live a charmed life, complete with the best record in a loaded NL West and the top run differential in MLB at plus-57. Now, if only they could get Justin Turner's bat going. On the one hand, his track record says he's better than his .183/.225/.256 slash line. On the other, he's 37 years old, and his peripherals are almost uniformly below-average.
San Diego Padres (18-9): Good Thing They Didn't Trade Eric Hosmer
Per various reports, the Padres tried to trade Eric Hosmer both last summer and again during the offseason. That made sense, given that Hosmer generally hadn't been much more than a replacement-level player through the first four years of his $144 million contract. Well, now he's hitting .371 to help the team survive through Fernando Tatis Jr.'s injury absence.
San Diego Padres @Padres
Hoz is Tatooine the ball this season. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TimeToShine?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TimeToShine</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TheRealHos305?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheRealHos305</a> <a href="https://t.co/03atV429xc">pic.twitter.com/03atV429xc</a>
So, file this one under "Sometimes the Best Trades Are the Ones You Don't Make."
San Francisco Giants (14-12): Don't Stop Running Up the Score, Fellas
By refusing to stop going full-throttle even when they're up big, the Giants have been a thorn in the side of the unwritten rules on a couple of different occasions in 2022. To which I say: good. Because even in a suppressed offensive environment like that one in baseball this year, no lead is ever totally safe.
If you're now staring at your screen mumbling, "Just ask the Phillies," then congratulations. We're on the same page.
Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.