A while back, I made a habit of doing month-capper posts, trying to predict the big stories and making sure future readers would know the big ticks in progress as this season goes by.
So, as we continue those, let's start with the predictions I made on the first of last month:
1. The Tampa Bay Rays are gonna disappoint people. It's gonna be April 30th and they're gonna be in fourth place, and the fans are gonna be screaming 'WHAT HAPPENED?'. Not quite. Right now they're in second behind the Red Sox, but they definitely have been playing a bit less-majestically than last year, with Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames and Kevin Kiermaier struggling right now. They are still technically a good team, but they're not a great one.
2. First place Astros, because that's what tends to happen around here. It was looking this way for a while, but slowly the A's and Mariners snuck up upon the 'Stros and as of now they're in fourth.
3. Fernando Tatis is gonna claim the MVP talks almost immediately by getting off to the best start of his career and jumping out to a home run lead early. Also not quite. Tatis is hitting .262 with 7 homers, which is one short of the league bar for home runs. He was doing amazing to start the season but an injury slowed him down a wee bit.
4. The chorus of people calling for Joe Girardi's firing will begin partway through the month and get louder as the Phillies continue to lose. We're not entirely there yet. The Phils are in second behind the Braves, have been playing decently recently, and have been thriving off of Nola, Realmuto, Harper and Wheeler. Girardi seems to be safe for the moment.
5. Five crucial Yankees will be injured, and this will not affect their still-great place in the standings. Oooooh, don't be so cocky. Luke Voit is still injured, but injuries are not the problem with this team.
Okay, so I was off on most of these. Let's examine why. Here are 5 Things from April 2021 that No One Could Predict
- The Return of the Boston Red Sox. Led by J.D. Martinez, a revitalized rotation, and a new, island-of-misfit-toys approach to roster-building, the Red Sox quickly scaled to 1st place and have stayed there for the entirety of the month, as the Yanks and Jays struggle, and as the Rays fight to be a first place team again. The Sox have been human over the last week or so, but right now they have two guys with over 20 RBIs, and 3 pitchers with 3 wins or more [E-Rod is 4-0]. They are off to a fantastic start, and it'll be interesting to see how they do in the next month.
- The Fall of the New York Yankees. With a strong, healthy roster, a lot of new contracts in the rotation, and confidence from Sanchez and Stanton, this was not the outcome many people expected. At the end of April, the Yankees are circling last, losing games due to the lack of run support, and trying desperately to get people like Giancarlo Stanton and Clint Frazier to hit for average. It's a very sad sight, and I hope this changes.
- Carlos Rodon. A last-minute re-addition to a roster he was cut from last year, Carlos Rodon responded to a return to Chicago by delivering the year he'd been promising since he came up. In 4 starts he has 4 wins, a 0.72 ERA and 36 Ks, just refusing to let people hit his stuff. He even managed to fit in a no-hitter that was 5 outs away from perfection. As great as the Sox' rotation is right now, Rodon may be the most important piece, and his starts have been a big factor as to why the White Sox have been inching back to the top in the AL Central.
- Giants > Padres. The NL West dichotomy had sort of been settled before the season- the Padres would come in second, the Giants in third, and then the other 2. Well, after a relatively sane first week or so, the Padres started dropping games. And slowly, thanks to Buster Posey and Kevin Gausman among others, the Giants rose and rose in the standings every week, to the point where they'd be tied for 1st place with the Dodgers by the end of the month. That Gabe Kapler has driven this team to the top is not surprising, but that he's done it this quickly and with this many great performers is impressive. And I hope he keeps it up.
- Ryan McMahon, the Power Hitter. Since McMahon was brought up as a potential 1st baseman before the 2018 season, the front office people have been assuring people that the infielder can hit for power, and while McMahon did hit 24 homers in 2019, he hasn't been wholly impressive outside of some occasional contact stuff. McMahon came alive with several multi-homer games, bringing his total to 8 by the end of the month, more than Trevor Story and C.J. Cron combined.
- First Place Dodgers. I mean, come on. Even with their slippage in the past week or so, I still knew they'd be surging. And if you said that Kershaw and Turner were running the team, I'd have bought that as well
- League-worst Tigers. I didn't think they'd be THIS bad [8-18], but I knew they'd be pretty bad. There is quite a drop-off after Matt Boyd on the WAR rankings.
- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hitting up a storm. With his Spring Training numbers, I figured he'd be red-hot this year, and sure enough he's really that powerful right now.
- Insane pitching in Milwaukee. I went into this season with Corbin Burnes as my Cy pick, but seeing Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader all surging is also really affirming
- Ohtani the Pitcher returns with a smash. I mean, I didn't think he'd be worrying on the mound forever, and this season felt prime for a comeback from him.
- Jacob de Grom, New York Mets
- Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
- Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians
- J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
- Yermin Mercedes, Chicago White Sox
- A clear frontrunner in the NL East. Either the Mets, Phillies or Braves...just pull ahead and save my suspense.
- The second the Marlins bring Sixto Sanchez back up he's gonna start throwing fire and pulling them away from Washington.
- One of the Cardinals, Reds and Pirates to decide to chase the Brewers. Or maybe more.
- One of the big cinderella teams [Royals, Red Sox, Mariners] to still be the real deal, while one or more of the other two revert as the month goes on.
- Monumental rookie call-up that shakes the balance of an entire division.