Rounding the Bases in MLB: one month down, six to go.
With the first month of the season in the books, let’s round the bases in Major League Baseball in search of the best teams, players and Cinderella stories in baseball through these first four weeks of play.
Best Team: Chicago Cubs (17-5)
The Cubs wrap up April with the best winning percentage in the sport with a .773 mark, and coincidentally are tied with their same-city AL counterpart White Sox for the most wins in baseball with 17 victories each. While the Nationals and Mets have been strong as well, the Cubs have proven to be the most well-rounded team from top to bottom in the first month of the season. They average a meager 2.6 runs against on the mound, which is tied with the Nationals for the lowest mark in baseball. The combination of Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester has a collective 1.93 ERA, a 0.91 WHIP, and 87 strikeouts over 94.1 innings-pitched. No team has a stronger rotation as of right now. But even if the pitching isn’t there, the Cubs can still beat you with their potent offense, which ranks first in the league with 6.2 runs scored per game. Their catalyst, leadoff man Dexter Fowler, has established himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Through his first 75 at-bats, Fowler has managed an incredible .347/.474/.613 slash line with a 1.087 OPS. Anthony Rizzo continues to establish himself as one of the game’s best 1st basemen. The 26-year-old is tied for fifth with eight dingers, and is tied for the league lead in RBI with 24.
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Pitching continues to be the name of the game for the Nats as their arms continue to dominate. They lead the league in ERA with a 2.36 mark, and rank second in opposing OPS with a .595 mark. Their starting rotation ranks second in BAA, fourth in WHIP, and fourth in strikeouts. The D.C. offense, aside fromBryce Harper
, continues to struggle. They rank 17th in the league with 93 runs scored, and 15th with a four runs-per-game average. The Chisox have adopted a similar model as the Nats, relying heavily on pitching to reach 17 wins.Chris Sale
continues to make his case for the ALCy Young
award with a 5-0 record, a 1.66 ERA, and a league-leading 0.68 WHIP. Underrated 27-year-oldJose Quintana
has also dazzled for the White Sox. The lefty ended April with a 3-1 record, a 1.47 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and 32 strikeouts in 30.2 innings-pitched. Offensively, the White Sox continue to struggle scoring runs consistently. In their 25 games this season, the Chisox have scored five runs or more just 10 times, and have scored three or fewer 12 times. Newly acquired 3rd sackerTodd Frazier
has supplied the power at the plate with seven homers and 17 RBI, but he’s batting just .229 on the season.
MLB STANDINGS (through games of Sunday, May 1st)
NL East Division
NL Central Division
NL West Division
AL East Division
AL Central Division
AL West Division
Crazy early MVP candidates
NL: Nolan Arenado
While the likes of Bryce Harper, who I featured two weeks ago, and Anthony Rizzo have been impressive, Colorado Rockies 3rd baseman Nolan Arenado is solidifying his status as the best player in the game at the hot corner. Arenado’s all-around game was on full display in the month of April as he finished tied for first in home runs (10) and two RBI shy of the NL lead with 22. His slash line of .297/.366/.670 and 1.037 OPS shows just how special a player Arenado truly is. And he is just 25 years of age, just beginning to full tap his potential while playing half of his games in one of the most hitter friendly home ballparks.
AL: Josh Donaldson
Last year’s AL MVP has picked up right where he left off in 2015. The Toronto Blue Jays 3rd baseman has posted a slash line of .292/.387/.646 and an OPS of 1.033 through the first month of the season. He’s also tied for the AL lead with eight dingers, and sits second with 20 RBI. Donaldson is on pace to replicate his numbers from 2015 when he hit a monstrous 41 homers and drove in 128 runs with a .939 OPS.
Crazy early Cy Young candidate
NL: Jake Arrieta
Arrieta, my choice two weeks ago, remains as the crazy early favorite to earn the 2016 NL Cy Young. During his 36 April innings, the Cubs ace dominated on the mound en route to a 1.00 ERA, an NL-leading 0.78 WHIP, and an NL-leading .151 BAA. On top of that, Arrieta has won all five of his starts, thanks to a healthy amount of unneeded, but greatly appreciated, run support. Oh, and he tossed a no-no for good measure. Yeah, he’s really good.
AL: Chris Sale
Sale is another repeat from two weeks ago. He continues to be the clear crazy early favorite to finally earn the AL Cy Young award. While tied for the AL lead with five wins on the season, the left-hander sports a miniscule and AL-leading 0.68 WHIP to go along with his 1.66 ERA. Sale has also been a complete workhorse for the surprising White Sox, as his 38 innings pitched lead the league. At this pace, Sale will finally claim that elusive first Cy Young in his sixth big league season.
Biggest April Surprise: Trevor Story
The Trevor Story story wrote the final lines for chapter one, titled: April 2016.
Puns aside, the rookie shortstop wrapped up his first month in the big leagues by tying an MLB rookie record with 10 home runs in the month of April. Story began the month by blasting seven homers in his first six games, but he endured a power outage for a spell, going deep just once over his next 13 games. However, Story found his groove in the final three games of the month by blasting a pair of homers and collecting five hits overall in his final 15 April at-bats. Overall, the Colorado Rockies shortstop finished with a .261/.324/.696 slash line, a 1.019 OPS, 10 home runs, and 20 RBI for the month. Have yourself a month, rook.