Rays have pitching depth, Red Sox and Cubs have pitching problems and everything else we learned in MLB this week
Here's what you need to know from the last seven days of MLB action
With Opening Day behind us, we're moving onto April baseball. The matchups during this month won't necessarily tell us a whole lot about who will be playing in October, but the wins and losses still count the same. We'll be taking a look at the most interesting takeaways every week this MLB season. So, here's what we learned from week two in MLB:
Tampa Bay's pitching depth looks good
While the rest of the American League East is off to a sluggish start to the 2019 season, the Tampa Bay Rays are looking really good. The Rays have nearly doubled their postseason odds from 29.1 percent on Opening Day to 50.4 percent on Saturday, according to FanGraphs. The club's early season success is due in part to its deep pitching staff, headlined by the reigning American League Cy Young winner Blake Snell. Tampa Bay's 2.09 ERA is the best in baseball. The Rays got their season started with two series wins against two playoff teams from last season (Houston and Colorado) as they have continued their strategy of using "openers" while operating a three-man rotation (Snell, Charlie Morton, Tyler Glasnow). Tampa Bay also can send out Yonny Chirinos to the mound as a starter, and they've got Ryne Stanek and Hunter Wood to deploy as openers. And it doesn't end there. Opponents have to get through Tampa Bay's hard-throwing relievers Jose Alvarado and Diego Castillo. The depth goes as far as the Rays' minor league system with three of their pitching prospects ranked in MLB Pipeline's Top 100 (Brent Honeywell, Brendan McKay, Matthew Liberatore). The American League East will definitely tighten up as the Red Sox and Yankees figure to get back on track, but Tampa has the pitching depth to sustain their early season success and make the division race even more intriguing.
Cubs, Red Sox have early season woes
A slow start to the season doesn't always mean that a team will miss its chance at a title in October. MLB is a very, very long season. There's time. But still, every team would prefer to start the new season strong so that they're not playing from behind. Unfortunately for the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, they're both doing just that. Both squads sit in last place at four and a half games out of first place in their respective divisions. Considering both franchises' track records, the fan hysteria is a given. Bottom line is that it's not worth it for Sox and Cubs fans to go into panic mode just yet, but it is worth taking a closer look at each of these teams' weaknesses thus far in the season.
The Cubs snapped their six-game losing streak on Saturday night with a 14-8 win over the Brewers. The Cubs are now 2-6 on the season. This team is off to a great start offensively and as a whole, they're batting .307 and rank in the top five of MLB in hits, runs, RBI and home runs. The Cubs scored 10 or more runs in four of their eight games, but Chicago's bullpen has 9.51 ERA with 24 walks in 29 1/3 innings. So it's obvious where the they need to improve. They finally started making some adjustments with Saturday's flurry of moves in which they optioned Carl Edwards Jr. to Triple-A, placed Mike Montgomery on the injured list, and brought up a pair of relievers in Kyle Ryan and Allen Webster. We'll have to wait and see to find out if that'll be enough for a complete fix.
Meanwhile the Red Sox, last year's World Series champions, have now matched their worst start (2-8) in franchise history after dropping Saturday's game 5-4 to the Diamondbacks. It was their third straight loss. Maybe Boston's just homesick? They've been on an 11-game road trip (Seattle, Oakland, Arizona) to begin the season, and finally return to Fenway for their home opener on Tuesday. Similar to Chicago, Boston's pitching is the team's biggest downfall. Right now, every Sox starter has an ERA of 6.00 or higher. The team ERA of 6.97 is second-to-worst in MLB (Chicago has the worst at 7.87 ERA), and the club's minus-27 run differential is the league's worst. The Red Sox obviously has time to swing things around but they've dug themselves an early season hole.
Alonso, Bellinger fueling their first-place clubs
Yes, it's the first week of April, but it's still worth taking a look at some of the players who are powering their teams to first place in the standings. Let's take a look at their numbers through the second week of games.
Through 8 games, Alonso is slashing .367/.406/.733 with an OPS of 1.140. He has five doubles, two home runs and eight RBI. Alonso, 24, has displayed raw power so far during his time in the big leagues, and he's already earning the love of countless Mets fans, thanks to his part in Alonso's also gotten praise from Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen and teammate Robinson Cano.
"He earned it," Van Wagenen told reporters on Friday. "Pete is not afraid of competition. He is a hard worker and he has risen to every occasion in front of him. When he came to spring training he knew that this opportunity was in his control and he seized it. It shows you this guy has prime-time potential."
"He's got a beautiful swing," Cano said of Alonso after their series sweep of Miami.
Nine games in, Bellinger leads the league in runs (13), home runs (6), RBI (17) and total bases (38). He has a .425/.452/.950 batting line in 40 at-bats. Bellinger, 23, is in his third year in the big leagues and the Dodgers have to be excited about what they're seeing from the youngster. Last year Bellinger hit his sixth home run in his 41st game. This year he got his six homers in eight games. Also, Bellinger's six home runs are the most ever for a Dodgers player in their first eight games. Since Monday, Bellinger is 7-for-20 with two home runs, a triple and nine RBI. Bellinger is well on his way to earning his second All-Star nod in three seasons.
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