Calendars and those who look at them agree that April is over. Given that and given that in this space we devote our efforts to This, Our Baseball, we're going to talk about April and baseball. Specifically, we're going to put magistrate's wigs and pass judgment on the best and worst Baseball Things of April. Now let's do that -- i.e., put magistrate's wigs and pass judgment on the best and worst Baseball Things of April.
This shouldn't require much explanation. Bellinger at this writing has 14 home runs, and he. His slash line checks in at an unreasonable .434/.508/.906, and thanks to his plus defense he's already at 3.5 WAR for the year. To put that in context, Bellinger was worth 4.2 WAR in each of his first two seasons in the bigs. At this rate, he'll reach that total by mid-May.
The Twins were a dark-horse pick in the AL Central in some circles, thanks in part to Cleveland's useless offseason. Most, though, expect the Indians to hoist that particular flag for a fourth-straight year. Right now, though, the Twins are in first place and playing at a 106-win pace, and they have the third-best run differential in the AL. To date, Rocco Baldelli's club is the one that's most exceeded expectations through April.
Sure, they won 90 a season ago, which means we shouldn't be surprised that the Rays are good. What is surprising is that, coming off a questionable offseason, they have the best record in baseball at this juncture. And in case you doubted the legitimacy of it, they're backing it up with the best run differential in all of baseball. Yes, the schedule thus far has been weak, but those wins count.
A Reds pitching among the "bests"? Believe it, URL-clickers. The 26-year-old Castillo in 2019 has registered an ERA of 1.23, which leads the bigs, and he was yet to allow an unearned run heading into Tuesday night. Castillo also ranks in the top 10 with 43 strikeouts, and he's allowed only one home run in 36 2/3 innings. That's despite four his six starts coming in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
Yeah, that's right: Ryan Pressly. Out of the Astros' bullpen, Pressly numbers among the laudables because he's the current Exchequer of Pitching Perfection Maximus. That is, he's the guy who's pitched the most innings in 2019 -- 12 1/3 in this instance -- without allowing a run. Enjoy the spoils of glory and conquest, Mr. Pressly.
In 2018, the Red Sox won 108 games in the regular season, plowed through a brutal playoff slate, and wound up winning the World Series. Primed to contend for the belt and title once again in 2019, the Red Sox have instead played .414 baseball despite grading slightly below average in terms of strength of schedule. Thanks to the Orioles, they're not in last place, but Alex Cora's squadron is on pace right now for 95 losses.
And here we have Boston's problems writ small. Fresh off a $145 million contract extension, Sale's had inconsistent velocity and consistently terrible results in 2019. He's got a 6.30 ERA, he's allowed seven home runs in 30 innings, and opposing hitters are slugging .534 against the veteran lefty. Not optimal!
Know who's got a worse ERA than Sale right now? Yep, Thor. At present, Syndergaard has a 62, and he's allowed 26 runs in 34 innings. Nothing's particularly off about his underlying indicators, which suggests better days are head. There's no disputing, though, that he got terrible results in April.
Remember Dusty Baker? The Nationals opted not to bring him back after he led the team to 192 wins in two seasons and back-to-back NL East titles. But in large measure because he endured a controversial loss to the Cubs in the 2017 NLDS, he was let go. Davey Martinez replaced him. Last season, Martinez presided over a sloughing off 15 wins from Baker's last season (97 wins under Baker to 82 wins in 2018), and this year the Nats at the moment are on pace for their first losing season since 2011. One has to think Martinez is on the hottest of seats in D.C.
That Aaron Boone's team has more wins than losses and is in spitting distance of first place is pretty remarkable considering the injuries they've endured. Right now, they've got 13 (!) players on the injured list -- most of them core contributors -- and they just recently welcomed back Gary Sanchez from the IL (CC Sabathia was also laid up for a time). Giancarlo Stanton has yet to hit a home run, and Luis Severino has yet to throw a pitch. The carnage is implicit in the lineup that Boone trotted out on the final night of April:
Those No. 5-8 slots say a lot. It's a minor miracle the Yankees are where they are in the standings. Oh, and look out for them when they get healthy.
Until next month!