A month of MLB action is in the can. For some, a new month represents nothing more than a new day. For others, new month represents new hope.
Half of the teams we’re going over are hoping they fall into Category A. The other half are clamoring for Category B.
Winner: New York Yankees
April was kind to the Bronx Bombers.
The first thing to notice is the record. At 15-8, the Yanks finished April tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the best record in the American League.
But how the record was achieved is far more impressive.
New York’s starting pitching was a question entering the 2017 season. But Yankee starters finished the month with a 3.76 ERA, the fourth-best total in the American League and ninth best in all of baseball. Their 1.17 WHIP is the best mark in either league.
Aaron Judge entered the year with some promise. But in 84 Major League at-bats in 2016, he slashed at .179/.263/.345 and struck out 42 times. It was fair to wonder if he was MLB ready.
Loser: San Francisco Giants
The Giants couldn’t stay healthy in April. Buster Posey spent time on the concussion DL. Brandon Crawford enters May on the disabled list. Thanks to a dirt bike accident, Madison Bumgarner is out until somewhere around the All-Star Break.
The healthy San Francisco players have been largely ineffective. The Giants are 24th in batting average, 28th in on-base percentage, 29th in slugging, 29th in runs scored, 29th in home runs, 23rd in overall ERA, 20th in starter’s ERA and 24th in bullpen ERA.
Bruce Bochy has under performed as the manager. His lineups are unimaginative and don’t put his best hitters in optimal spots. His use of the bullpen is formulaic, which doesn’t work when you only have two or three truly reliable arms — and that’s being generous.
Winner: Washington Nationals
In four of MLB’s six divisions, the top two teams are separated by a game or less. The Houston Astros closed April with a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the American League West. But no team’s cushion is bigger than Washington’s. The Nats hold a five-game lead over the second place Philadelphia Phillies.
While the pitching has been an overall disappointment, the Nationals’ offense has been overwhelming.
Loser: Toronto Blue Jays
Even with the loss of Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays entered 2017 with reasonable expectations. This team has made the ALCS in two straight years, after all. But April was not kind to Toronto.
Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki closed the month out with a combined four home runs. Donaldson and Tulowitzki both start May on the disabled list.
The starting rotation has been okay, but even that comes with an asterisk. J.A. Happ is on the disabled list. Aaron Sanchez spent most of April on the DL, returned for one start, and is heading back.
Winner: Chicago White Sox
As far as baseball in the Second City goes, most of the attention goes to the Chicago Cubs. And deservedly so. The Cubs are the reigning World Series champs and lead the National League Central. But we expected them to be good. Their cross-town rivals are a different story.
The White Sox are rebuilding. This was known entering 2017. With a rebuilt farm system, Chicago had reason for optimism in the future. But 2017 was going to feature far more wins than losses. The 2016 team was 78-84 and two of its best players (Adam Eaton and Chris Sale) were traded for Minor League guys.
But the White Sox finished April at 13-10, only one-half game out of first place in the American League Central. Avisail Garcia has certainly been the catalyst. He leads Chicago in essentially every offensive category. But other hitters like Matt Davidson and Leury Garcia have also performed.
Loser: New York Mets
When healthy, the Mets’ starting rotation is as formidable as any in the league. It just doesn’t get more formidable than Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and then two of Steven Matz, Seth Lugo and Zack Wheeler.
But for two years in a row, that rotation has been a MASH unit. Every one of those pitchers is either currently on the disabled list, or has been on it as recently as the end of last season.
Joining Syndergaard, Matz, and Lugo on the disabled list are Yoenis Cespedes, Lucas Duda, Wilmer Flores, Brandon Nimmo and David Wright.