AL MVP- Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit- A .373 average with 42 RBI’s and the third best WAR in the AL will give Cabrera the early leg up on his second consecutive AL MVP.
NL MVP- Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati- Look past his six homers and 20 RBI’s and gravitate towards his .346 average and absurd .473 OBP. He’s second in the NL in WAR to two Brewers and led the Reds to a 26-17 record.
AL Cy Young- Yu Darvish, SP, Texas- The Japanese righty leads the AL in wins and strikeouts and is third in WHIP for the first place Rangers.
NL Cy Young- Matt Harvey, SP, NY Mets- Clayton Kershaw came close to topping the Mets sensation and has a better ERA, but Harvey has more wins, strikeouts per nine innings, a better walk ratio, a better xFIP and a higher WAR.
AL Rookie- Nick Tepesch/Justin Grimm, SP’s, Texas- No AL rookie has been impressive at all, but this duo has six combined wins and an ERA around four. They’ve been instrumental in helping an injury ravaged Rangers rotation.
NL Rookie- Shelby Miller, SP, St. Louis- This top prospect has more than lived up to the hype, posting a 1.40 ERA in over 51 innings to help the first place Cardinals. He narrowly gets this award in a stacked rookie class with Arizona starter Patrick Corbin and Atlanta hitting phenomenon Evan Gattis.
AL Manager- Terry Francona, Cleveland- Tito has taken all the additions the Indians amassed during the offseason and transformed it into a legitimate playoff contender. Joe Girardi gets an honorable mention as well for the job he’s done with the Yankees.
NL Manager- Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh- The Pirates do nothing exceptionally well, but they’ve been just good enough and have won enough close games to be just 2 1/2 games out of the division and league lead.
Assorted Scouting Notes
After attending three games in the last seven days (probably too many), here are a few things I’ve noticed from being around the part and (knock on wood) not catching cold yet.
- I really, really like the Diamondbacks a lot. They’re solid at every position (the bullpen may be a tad shaky), there’s no real hole in the lineup now that Cliff Pennington isn’t playing every day, and they’re chock full of really good defenders and contact hitters. Gerardo Parra, Cody Ross, A.J. Pollock, Martin Prado and (eventually) Adam Eaton are all strong defenders and good hitters. I picked them to make the playoffs before the season and I’m even more sure about that prediction after seeing them twice at Yankee Stadium last week.
- Didi Gregorious was incredibly impressive in his first game on Thursday. Besides for his home run and double in his first two at bats, his fielding looked smooth and effortless. He was gliding around the field at shortstop and looked the part as a major league player who will make an impact for a long time.
- Bryce Harper still has improvements to make, but you could see why people refer to him as the LeBron of baseball. He didn’t have an especially good day on Sunday at Citi Field, striking out and mishandling a ball in the outfield, but his first at bat showed patience and poise. He took what Dillon Gee gave him and served a ball out into right field. He’s so good and will only improve. That’s scary.
- Dillon Gee located his pitches well on Sunday and was probably told before the game to just be aggressive and throw strikes. He followed that mantra and led the Mets to a 2-0 win over Washington on Sunday. The bullpen is not going to be able to sustain itself as currently constructed, but they got the job on Sunday.
- It’s rare you get to see two of the worst fielding shortstops in the same game, but that happened with Ian Desmond and Ruben Tejada on Sunday. Desmond made a couple of costly mistakes and is 20th among 26 eligible shortstops in UZR, according to Fangraphs. Tejada is dead last.
- I saw Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes make starts last week for the Yankees and neither are overly impressive. But even without their star players, the Yankees are still using the longball and a really strong bullpen to stay in, and win, games. Robinson Cano looks great after a slow start and Travis Hafner looks reinvigorated by his chance to be a relevant big league player again. But Eduardo Nunez doesn’t look very good at the plate, and the Yanks may need a more permanent replacement for Derek Jeter.
This Week’s Series To Watch
Series Beginning Monday
A’s @ Red Sox- Boston got swept in a doubleheader by Kansas City, but this series at Fenway features two of the three best records in the AL. While Brett Anderson struggles for Oakland, Jon Lester is excelling with the Red Sox (3-0, 1.73 ERA). The two pitchers close out the series on Wednesday.
Cardinals @ Nationals- These two teams should be better than 10-8, which means one of them will be worse (and panicking) after this crucial series. Adam Wainwright (28 K’s, no walks) pitches on Tuesday, while Stephen Strasburg goes on Wednesday.
Braves @ Rockies- These two teams sport the best records in the NL (13-5), with Atlanta coming off losing three straight in Pittsburgh over the weekend. Some of the game’s hottest hitters, Justin Upton, Dexter Fowler and others, will be on display.
Rangers @ Angels- Anaheim just swept Detroit over the weekend to climb back into the AL West. Texas wants to knock the Angels back down in the standings. Alexi Ogando and Jason Vargas are Tuesday’s starters, with Yu Darvish pitching on Wednesday.
Series Beginning Tuesday
Royals @ Tigers- These teams are going in opposite directions; and it’s the Royals who are currently ascending after strong showing against the Red Sox and Braves over the last week. Detroit just dropped three to Anaheim and will send Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez to the mound against Kansas City.
Dodgers @ Mets- Perhaps Matt Kemp could solve his woes at Citi Field, against a Mets team that just took two of three from Washington. Clayton Kershaw opens up the three-game set on Tuesday, while the phenomenon known as Matt Harvey goes on Wednesday.
Series Beginning Monday
Padres @ Dodgers- After Thursday night’s brawl in San Diego that left Zack Greinke injured and Carlos Quentin suspended, bad blood will linger in this week’s set at Chavez Ravine. Clayton Kershaw pitches for L.A. on Wednesday.
Mets @ Rockies- The NL’s two most unexpectedly good teams face off for a four-game set in Denver if the rain, snow and cold doesn’t ruin the entire series. Aces Jhoulys Chacin and Jon Niese pitch on Thursday.
Series Beginning Tuesday
Red Sox @ Indians- Terry Francona faces his former team for the first time in Cleveland, with the Red Sox actually off to a very good start. Former Boston starter Justin Masterson faces the Sox on Wednesday against Alfredo Aceves,
Royals @ Braves- Kansas City leads the AL Central and Atlanta is off to an amazing 11-1 start fresh off a sweet sweep of the Nationals in Washington. Jeremy Guthrie is off to a strong start for the Royals, and he’ll oppose Kris Medlan on Tuesday.
Stats & Trends
-The 10-1 Braves are off to its best start since it began the 1994 season 13-1. Atlanta is 7-0 this season when scoring first.
-St. Louis has thrown three consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1988. Wainwright is the first starter since 1900 to have at least 24 strikeouts and no walks in his first three starts. Wainwright became the first Cardinals pitcher to get two hits in an inning since Braden Looper did it in 2007.
-Cubs backup catcher Dioner Navarro became the first pinch hitter since 1992 to homer in consecutive days from different sides of the plate, according to Elias.
-The Mets had seven straight batters who got hits in the fifth inning on Saturday, the first time that’s happened since August of 2001.
-Even after R.A. Dickey allowed one run over 6 1/3 innings on Saturday, Toronto’s rotation still has a 7.55 ERA.
-Milwaukee hasn’t scored in 25 innings.
-The White Sox are 0-5 on the road for the first time since 1972.
We’re just about eight games into the baseball season and while the sample sizes are small, the concern or excitement (depending on who you root for) is probably substantial. I’ll use this column to explain why some teams and players are doing so well or so poorly.
What’s Wrong With The Angels?
A lot, actually. It begins with situational hitting. Anaheim is 9-75, a league worst .120, with just two extra base hits with runners in scoring position. Josh Hamilton looks like the psychologically frail Alex Rodriguez from years past (I’ve been referring to HamBone as “2012 A-Rod” until he gets his act together) and the team is repeating its slow start from last season that doomed its 2012 playoff hopes.
The starting pitching, which they tried to fix in the offseason, is still struggling. Jeff Weaver’s broken left elbow will keep him out at least a month, and Joe Blanton just isn’t good. He was hammered by Oakland on Wednesday night after a poor first start in Cincinnati where he gave up far too many home runs in a loss. Until these two issues are worked out, the Angels are going to be grounded.
How Does John Buck Lead The NL In RBI’s?
He has five home runs and 15 RBIs (five more ribbies than Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier, who’s in second), and is a major reason why the Mets are 5-3 despite not being a very good team. He always seems to perform better in April than other months, but his production has been staggering so far.
No matter what the explanation is, Buck has already matched the team’s 2012 total for home runs at the position, so Terry Collins and company will take it.
How Are The Royals 6-3?
General Manager Dayton Moore made it his business to acquire quality pitching in the offseason, and so far it’s worked quite well. Kansas City is fifth in baseball in team ERA and both their starters and their relievers have sub-3.5 ERA’s right now. All five of their starting pitchers, James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana, Wade Davis and Luis Mendoza, have ERA’s of four or lower and relievers Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera, Aaron Crow and Bruce Chen, have combined for one win, three saves and 17 2/3 scoreless innings.
Stats & Trends
-Six of John Jay’s 19 career home runs have come against the Reds.
-Arizona OF A.J. Pollock had as many home runs (two) in the first four innings against Pittsburgh on Wednesday than he did in his previous 37 games.
-When receiving four or more runs of support, Barry Zito has a 41-3 record as a member of the Giants.
-In his last two starts against the Phillies, Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner has allowed a total of 12 earned runs in the first inning alone.