Can we just get a do-over for April? Sure, Yermin Mercedes wouldn't be too thrilled about it, but most every other hitter would probably get on board.
The further we distance ourselves from that wretched first month, the more it looks like an aberration.
That wasn't the thinking at the time. You may recall some hand-wringing over the recently deadened baseballs and what appeared to be our new reality. Batted balls weren't traveling as far. Breaking balls were becoming bendier. Offense was in the tank.
- We talk Jake Odorizzi, some struggling starting pitchers plus Tony Kemp, Jacob deGrom and Adalberto Mondesi on the Fantasy Baseball Today in 5 podcast. You can follow us to get the latest episodes on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.
Turns out unseasonably cold temperatures may have been mostly to blame. As the weather normalized in May, so did the offensive environment, and the trend has continued here in June. In fact, MLB's decision to crack down on pitchers' use foreign substances has seemingly sent offense into overdrive.
Here's the breakdown:
It's normal for offense to pick up midseason, but comparing June to April, you'd think they started playing baseball on the moon. And it may only be the beginning. Those reports about the foreign substance crackdown first came around the start of June, and we did see certain pitchers' spin rates dip almost immediately. But Monday marked the first day of umpires proactively checking for foreign substances, which will perhaps lead to even more pitchers shying away from them.
But that's a different subject for a different day. For now, let's look at some of the hitters who've improved the most since the end of April and consider whether that first month should be discarded altogether.
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Jose Altuve 2B
HOU Houston • #27 • Age: 31
He's gone from being on Fantasy life support after a disastrous 2020 to the preeminent second baseman again.
Cavan Biggio 3B
TOR Toronto • #8 • Age: 26
He was identified early on as a player who could suffer from the deadened baseballs, making the confirmation bias in April difficult to avoid. Slowly but surely, though, his numbers are coming around.
COL Colorado • #19 • Age: 35
The power may not be coming back at age 34, but he's not a lost cause yet. What's most amazing is the way his home numbers still lag behind his road numbers given how much time the Rockies spent at Coors Field in April.
SF San Francisco • #35 • Age: 34
The 34-year-old has been among the top shortstop performers for so long that it's hard to remember he wasn't on anybody's radar yet one month into the season.
STL St. Louis • #46 • Age: 33
His full-season numbers still give the appearance he's lost it, but he's actually outperformed Yuli Gurriel and Freddie Freeman in points leagues since the start of May.
CLE Cleveland • #7 • Age: 31
The power production is sustaining him for now, but the expected stats (not to mention the track record) suggest there's even more ground to make up in batting average.
CIN Cincinnati • #6 • Age: 24
Once a spring training riser gone sour, he's enjoying a second round of waiver wire attention now that he's fulfilling his promise with a .400 on-base percentage since May 1.
Gavin Lux SS
LAD L.A. Dodgers • #9 • Age: 23
The power production still leaves something be desired, but the former top prospect hasn't been overmatched to the degree his full-season numbers would have you believe.
PHI Philadelphia • #22 • Age: 34
His season-long batting average is still lagging thanks to the rocky start, but would you believe the 34-year-old has been the 18th-best outfielder in points leagues since the start of May?
BAL Baltimore • #6 • Age: 24
Interestingly, his strikeout rate, which was 31.3 percent after the first month, is a not-much-better 30.4 percent since then, which leaves me skeptical of his overall outlook still.
Joc Pederson RF
ATL Atlanta • #22 • Age: 29
It's possible his full-season numbers have normalized now, him being a streaky player and all, but he has certainly reaffirmed his value.
Tommy Pham LF
SD San Diego • #28 • Age: 33
There may not be a single player who has done more to redeem his value since the end of April than Tommy Pham, who has also stolen nine bases during that time.
MIN Minnesota • #11 • Age: 28
There have been further complaints about the ankle injury that wrecked his 2020 season, but at least now we know he can perform in spite of it.
PIT Pittsburgh • #10 • Age: 26
Is it possible he's even better than when he hit .314 with an .880 OPS as a rookie two years ago? His BABIP during this stretch is actually lower.
NYY N.Y. Yankees • #24 • Age: 28
Even the Yankees began to lose faith toward the end of April, fading him in favor of backup Kyle Higashioka, but the deeper we go into 2021, the more his awful 2020 looks like the outlier.
DET Detroit • #7 • Age: 29
He's been so hot in June that it's possible his perceived value is now higher than his actual value, but it's worth the reminder he was dead in the water in April.
WAS Washington • #12 • Age: 28
With a .241 batting aveage and .843 OPS overall, he has normalized into what he was in 2019, which also happens to be the best version of Kyle Schwarber we've seen so far.
TOR Toronto • #10 • Age: 30
I remember thinking he was a sell-high candidate after the first month because, despite the bad ratios, he had five home runs and six stolen bases. Silly me!
ATL Atlanta • #7 • Age: 27
Basically across the board, he's gone back to doing what he did during his breakout 2020, with even his strikeout rate dropping from nearly 30 percent that first month to 26.7 percent since.
Kyle Tucker RF
HOU Houston • #30 • Age: 24
You wouldn't believe how much he's improved as a hitter this year ... mainly because his April numbers are still weighing down the rest of them.