Five Things: Major League Baseball’s Top Five Headlines in April
- The Nats’ Hot Bats
No team in the MLB is hitting better than the Washington Nationals. Led by Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, the Nationals boast a team average of .289, a significant lead over the next-closest team, the Houston Astros, at .276. Their bats are accompanied by an ability to drive the ball. The Nationals have hit 43 home runs this season, trailing only, the New York Yankees at 44 and the Milwaukee Brewers at 47. This consistent hitting, combined with their power, has seen them score the most runs in the league to date. Their power was on display on Sunday, when they beat the New York Mets 23-5. Washington’s formula is sustainable, as they are able to both to go out of the park and play excellent small ball. They lead the Majors in doubles, sit second in walks and have the best on-base percentage in the MLB at .366. The Nationals appear to be running away with the NL East despite having some of the worst pitching in the league, and, with a fairly loaded rotation it is fair to assume the best of their pitching is yet to come. Could this finally be the year that the Nationals break through and make the World Series?
- Not Your Everyday Korean League Player
Despite leaving the MLB at the end of the 2013 season, Eric Thames was determined to find a way back to high-level professional baseball. Having been buried in Triple-A baseball for a year, Thames was willing to try anything to get his career back on track. While playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, Thames was scouted by the NC Dinos of the Korean League and signed to a one-year deal for $800,000 USD. From there he would go onto be a two-time all-star, be the first player in Korean League history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in a season, and win the 2015 MVP. His success caught the eyes of the Milwaukee Brewers, who signed Thames to a three-year, $16 million contract in late-November. Thames has made an immediate impact, recording 11 home runs (tied for 2nd in the Majors), 20 RBIs, a .326 batting average and a .761 slugging percentage (4th in the Majors). Catching many experts by surprise, Thames has proven that anyone can make it. Using his powerful bat and the momentum of a second chance Thames has captured baseball’s attention and imagination. However, the ride seems a little simpler to Thames. When asked why he chose Milwaukee to be his choice of destination Thames summed it up simply, “they have great beer”. The man who loves a good beer, is just having fun playing baseball. With Thames back in his native United States of America, I doubt the MLB will let him leave home anytime soon again.
- Blue Jays Lost in the Wind
The Toronto Blue Jays had an ugly April. Despite entering the season with high expectations, the Jays struggled out of the gate. The team went 8-17 on the month, leaving many fans and news stations calling for accountability. However, the Blue Jays have ramped it up of late. The Jays have shown a pulse in their last eleven games, going 5-6 and winning three in a row at one point. They now find themselves trailing the Chicago White Sox by six and a half games for the final wild card spot. Consequently, the Jays will need to have good months from here on out, Management has not been safe from outside criticism. Manager John Gibbons voiced his opinion on the Fan 590 on Monday, calling in as “John from the Bronx” to criticize host Mike Wilner, after he had questioned Gibbons’ decision to start Luke Maile over veteran Russell Martin. Gibbons spoke highly of Marco Estrada and Maile, and had some fun with Wilner, who seemed unaware of the caller’s identity at the beginning of the call. As the Jays have struggled, some players have answered the call for help. Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar carried the load offensively for the Jays, with Troy Tulowitzki and Josh Donaldson both sidelined from ailments. The Jays will need more from the likes of Jose Bautista, Devon Travis, and Steve Pearce if they wish to push for a playoff position. With the bats starting to show more life, and a steady starting rotation, the Jays can get back on track with relative ease.
- 34: The New 25
34-year old Ervin Santana was the best pitcher in baseball during April, going 5-0 and sporting an earned runs average of 0.66. In 41 innings, Santana has allowed just three earned runs and, 16 hits, which leaves him with an equally impressive walks and hits per inning pitched (W.H.I.P.) of 0.71. The right-hander is having arguably his best season since 2008, and has carried the Minnesota Twins to second place in the Central division. Those batting against Santana are hitting .120, as the Dominican relies on his fastball for just over 50% of his pitches. Santana can effectively use his slider and his changeup to strikeout batters, though, and can mix in a two-seam fastball when needed. Santana’s turnaround is a nice story, having been suspended for 80 games back in 2015, for drug use. While it will be near-impossible to keep up this torrid pace, do not be surprised if Santana finds himself in the AL Cy Young race well into September. Maybe he could even help the Twins get back to the post-season for the first time since 2010.
- The Judge of New York’s Supreme Court
Given his 6’7’’, 282-pound frame, and unique last name, one would expect Aaron Judge to be a WWE Superstar, rather a professional baseball player. Instead, he finds himself dominating for the New York Yankees, leading the MLB with 13 home runs and having tallied 27 RBIs on top of that. The behemoth has even consistently got on base for the New York Yankees, as he is batting .330 with a .433 on-base percentage to compliment his impressive batting average. Judge is only a rookie, too, having only played 27 games last season for the Yankees. Judge is just the third Yankee since 1913 to hit at least 12 home runs in the first 25 games of a season, joining the likes of Babe Ruth (1921) and Alex Rodriguez (2007). Elite company for the 25-year old, who has helped bring the Yankees back into contention for the AL East’s crown this season. Judge clearly practices just as hard as he plays, as he sent a rocket off the scoreboard, which then went down to terrace and destroyed a television. My sources tell me that the television is on its way to Cooperstown. The jury is in, and Judge is slamming everyone with home runs.
Note to my readers: Sorry I could not provide you with the tidbits this week! As I have been adjusting to being back home in Ottawa and have been quite busy! I hope you enjoyed this week’s piece, though, and hope you stick along for the ride in the summer! Enjoy the playoffs! And all should return to normal this coming week, my Facebook and Twitter will give updates if that changes! Thank you for your support as always!
Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.