5 Attention-Grabbing MLB Stats to Know Early in the 2021 Season
Death, taxes and the New York Mets failing to give Jacob deGrom run support.
We're just 10 days into the 2021 MLB season and the Mets' ace is 0-2 with a 0.64 ERA. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner was phenomenal in his first two starts. It should come as no surprise that deGrom is looking like he's primed for a third Cy Young Award.
It should also come as no surprise that the Mets offense failed to give him much support. This has been a theme throughout the past few years. He won the 2018 award with a 10-9 record, the fewest wins by a Cy Young Award winner. BBWAA Treasurer Jack O'Connell presented the award on MLB Network and prefaced it by saying deGrom received "more support from the writers than his teammates."
DeGrom continues to dominate on the mound, even if the Mets' bats are cold to start the season. But he's not the only one to put up some noteworthy numbers. The sample sizes might be small, but here are five numbers to know right now.
Dazzling DeGrom: 23 100-Mph Pitches
Through his first two starts, deGrom has thrown 23 pitches at 100-mph. According to ESPN's Sarah Langs, no other starting pitcher has thrown more than 23 pitches at 100-mph or more since the pitch-tracking era began in 2008.
DeGrom has allowed only a single earned run on eight hits over 14 innings this season. He's struck out 21 hitters and walked two.
He also recorded the Mets' first hit of the season, likely becoming the last starting pitcher to do so since the league is likely going to adopt a universal DH after this season. DeGrom has three hits already this season—the Mets have given him virtually no help, so he might as well help himself. This alone should give you an idea of how the Mets' bats have struggled this season.
Brandon Nimmo has been the best hitter, hitting safely in four of five games. He's slashing .412/.565/.588 with six walks and three doubles. His .565 OBP is the second-highest in the league. Dominic Smith has been good (.267 with a home run) but the rest of the lineup is failing to produce outside of Smith and Nimmo, which is bad news for the Mets and their award-winning ace.
Byron Buxton Breaks Records: 9 XBH
Byron Buxton has played in eight of the Minnesota Twins' nine games this season and has not disappointed. Injuries have limited Buxton in the past but he's living up to the hype now that he's fully healthy.
Buxton has hit safely in each of those eight games, giving him the second-longest hitting streak of his career, and has hit five home runs and four doubles. The nine extra-base hits through the team's first nine games is tied with Christian Guzman (2001) for the most in Twins/Senators history through that same time span. Right now, he's one of the best hitters in baseball, with a .481 average and a league-high 1.734 OPS. He also tops all hitters in wRC+ (322) and wOBA (.645).
"It's more see-ball, hit-ball," he said over the weekend in a postgame Zoom press conference. "You've got to keep it simple."
Buxton must be seeing beach balls right now with the way he's mashing.
Nick Castellanos' Hot Start: 226 WRC+
Nick Castellanos was known for being part of a Twitter meme last season. This season, the outfielder garnered attention for a two-game suspension after sparking a brawl between the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals.
But Castellanos should be getting attention for the way he’s hitting right now. The veteran outfielder is off to a great start, slashing .364/.400/.848 with four home runs.
However, he started off strong last season as well, amassing a 12-game hitting streak before cooling off significantly. His 226 wRC+ is well above his career mark of 112, so there is a chance the 29-year-old could be punching above his weight.
But the short season affected everyone differently and it’s too soon to tell if this is a pattern for Castellanos, or if last season was a fluke.
Jared Walsh Helps the Halos: 3 Home Runs
The Los Angeles Angels drafted Walsh in the 39th round in 2015—a round of the draft that no longer exists. He was a two-way player from the University of Georgia who worked his way into the lineup last season as a first baseman. Walsh managed to get some AL Rookie of the Year votes after hitting .293 with a .971 OPS, and he'll likely get significant playing time at first this season with Albert Pujols likely coming to the end of his Hall-of-Fame career.
The projections didn't favor Walsh, with ZiPS and Steamer projecting an average at .250 or below and a wRC+ in the low 100s this season. Many thought he wouldn't be able to continue his production from last season, but Walsh is proving doubters wrong.
He's been raking for the Angels, hitting .385 with three home runs and a triple. His 246 wRC+ is second on the team behind Mike Trout (271). The Angels have even worked him into right field to keep his bat in the lineup, and there's a big, open spot there now that Dexter Fowler is out for the season with a torn ACL.
Sometimes the metrics and the projections are useful. Sometimes players are better than projected. Walsh might be one of them.
Ke'Bryan Who? Phillip Evans: 1.202 OPS
You might not know the name Phillip Evans, but you probably know the name Ke'Bryan Hayes. The latter is the Pittsburgh Pirates' rookie phenom who homered in his first at-bat of the season but is now sidelined by a left wrist injury. The former was once a Mets farmhand who has been knocking on the door of the big leagues since 2017 and may finally have a chance to show what he's capable of.
Evans won the Eastern League (Double-A) batting title in 2016 but was never really considered a prospect for the Mets. He earned a September call-up in 2017 and played in 34 major league games in two seasons before being designated for assignment in June 2018. He signed a minor-league deal with the Chicago Cubs but wouldn't get into another big league game again until 2020 when he had a cup of coffee with the Pirates.
Evans edged out his former Mets teammate Todd Frazier to make the roster out of spring training last month and he's making the most of this opportunity. The 28-year-old utility man is hitting .393 with a 1.202 OPS. He's hit three home runs, two doubles and has walked twice. Even more encouraging: Evans has only struck out twice.
Evans has always been good in small sample sizes. He hit .303 for the Mets in 19 games in 2017 and he hit .359 with a home run for Pittsburgh in 11 games last season. But he has to prove he can produce those numbers regularly, not just in 10- or 20-game spurts. Hayes won't be gone for long so the Pirates could have a problem on their hands, but Evans can play around the field which should help his cause.