We’re done with April, if you can believe it. As far as the calendar is concerned, we’re 1/6 of the way through the season. Here are some things I think we’ve learned:
1. Matt Kemp is the new super-human superstar of the game. I knew last year was an unbelievable year for him – nearly won the triple crown, and was one home run from a 40/40 season – but, I needed a little more evidence that he was for real, and not a flash in the pan. I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced of how great he is at this point: 12 HR, 25 RBI, .417 avg., .893 slg., 1.383 OPS – all of which leads the league. If the Dodgers make any kind of run at the playoffs, he should be the runaway favorite for MVP.
2. The Angels aren’t the best team in the AL West, let alone the entire American League, as some were claiming before the season started. Already 9 games behind the Rangers (who probably are the best team in the AL), they will do well to even make the playoffs. Only the Oakland A’s have scored fewer runs or have a lower OPS in the entire AL. And, their bullpen isn’t helping, as they have an ERA of 5.08 – third worst in baseball. I’m hoping this doesn’t cost Mike Scioscia (the longest tenured coach in the game right now) his job. It’s not his fault the front office put together a team of tired veterans who strike out too much, and can’t run. They seem to have forgotten how they won the World Series in 2002 – a team that was fast, smart on the base paths, played good defense, and pitched well. They had one guy hit 30 home runs (Glaus), and only two others that hit 20 or more. The current makeup of this team isn’t going to go very far.
3. The Nationals’ pitching staff is for real! The best team ERA in baseball, at an amazing 2.33, and they’re tied with the Dodgers for most K’s (195). IF the offense could improve to somewhere around middle-of-the-pack (instead of 27th – where they rank in runs scored & OPS), they could sustain some success, and have this franchise in the playoffs for the first time since 1981, and just the second time ever.
4. The Marlins better turn it around soon. They aren’t in as much trouble as the Angels, because the team they’re chasing in their division (Washington) isn’t running away with it like the Rangers. But, if the Marlins offense doesn’t get their act together soon, they’re going to be stuck with some bad contracts on a bad team (Reyes, Buehrle, Bell, etc.).
5. Here are my April award-winners:
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton – .395, 9 HR, 25 RBI, 1.182 OPS – he’s the center-piece of a dynamic offense.
NL MVP: Matt Kemp – see #1 – ‘nuf said
AL Cy Young: Jake Peavy – that’s right. He has a quality start in every appearance in April, and is 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, and opponents are batting a ridiculous .162 against him.
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg – 5 quality starts only netted him 2 wins, but that’s because of the Nationals’ poor offense. He’s only allowed 4 runs in 5 starts for an incredible 1.13 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, and an opponents’ average of .195.
AL ROY: Yu Darvish – since his less-than-impressive first start of the season, Darvish has allowed just 3 runs in 27.1 innings, lowering his ERA to 2.18. He’s also near the top of the league with 33 K’s.
NL ROY: Kirk Nieuwenhuis – not sure too many non-Mets fans know who this guy is, but he leads all rookies in batting (.325), OPS (.861), and runs created (14.9). Plus, he plays all-out in CF, and you’re bound to see some highlights if you haven’t already.