You know, even with a week's deficit thanks to the tail end of the lockout, April felt like a pretty full month as far as baseball is concerned. Lots happened, lots of stories came about, the Phillies got no-hit, it was wonderful.
First, as we usually do in these month recap posts, let's go back to the predictions I made for this month before the season started, and see how I did there.
1. The Astros will not end this month in 1st, and there will be outcry. 'ARE THE MIGHTY ASTROS DEAD?' 'WHAT'S WRONG WITH JOSE ALTUVE'S SWING'. DINGDINGDING. The Astros, despite a nice win against Toronto the other night, are a bit behind schedule, with a lot of the core struggling and Altuve himself hitting under .200.
2. There will be three unbreakable deadlocks for first in three separate divisions. I'd say the AL East, the NL East and the NL Central. One out of three ain't bad. The only real deadlocks for first are in the AL East and the NL West.
3. Seiya Suzuki is going to very quickly become a hero in Chicago. That's 100% correct, the man's already having a great season, and he's still hitting over .300.
4. The biggest initial disappointment of the year will be the San Diego Padres. ...no, not really. I'd say the biggest disappointment so far has either been the Red Sox or the White Sox, as neither are performing with the rest of their divisions' standards.
5. A major MLB star, other than the ones we're already aware of, will miss substantial time due to an injury. So not deGrom, not Tatis, someone we're not thinking about. And I pray to the baseball gods that it's not a Yankee or Phillie. Well, Kris Bryant did wind up on the IL, but I don't know if it's a substantial injury yet. I guess maybe Altuve counts for this category as well? Could also be Eddie Rosario and his eye issue, but is he a major star?
I...surprisingly did pretty well with those. Alright. So now we go into 5 things from April 2022 that surprised me:
1. First Place Yankees. Yeah, I was such a cynic about this team in the leadup to the season because I thought they didn't make the necessary moves. Turns out they did. Anthony Rizzo has been breathtaking at first, Jose Trevino and Josh Donaldson have been excellent defensive decisions, we didn't need a replacement for Aaron Hicks, and we didn't need extra pictures thanks to Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes being incredible. And these wins have been coming at the expense of not just easier teams like Baltimore, Kansas City and Detroit, but a genuinely good Cleveland team that seemed to be headed for first themselves. The Yankees stopped Steven Kwan in his tracks. Actually, speaking of Steven Kwan,
2. STEVEN KWAN. Like a bat out of hell, the rookie outfielder comes out of nowhere into the Guardians lineup and starts hitting like hell and making beautiful plays in the outfield. I was beginning to think the Guardians' farm system didn't have much left after spitting out Eli Morgan last year, but man is Kwan something, especially in April. In 14 games, Kwan has hit .341 with 15 hits and 7 RBIs, and a 1.0 WAR, dwarfed only by Jose Ramirez, who is as incredible as ever. In the first month of the Guardians' existence, people like Kwan have made this team count.
3. I mentioned this briefly, but the White Sox sinking like a stone. I knew they'd be fighting an uphill battle without Lance Lynn and Yoan Moncada, but now without Eloy Jimenez they're treading even more water. They haven't won a series since April 17th, and have dropped bouts with Cleveland, Minnesota and Kansas City, as well as headed for a booming Angels squad. A lot of pieces aren't working, and the team is relying on a lot of replacement players, like Michael Kopech, Jake Burger and Gavin Sheets, to do heavy lifting that I don't know if they were prepared for. There are great performances here, like Dylan Cease and Andrew Vaughn, but the core that had built up so well last season seems to be falling inward.
4. Kyle Wright picking up the ace status in Atlanta. I talked at length about this a few posts ago, so I'll just sum up. I had always expected Kyle Wright to come into his own for the Braves. I never expected it to do so in a moment where so many Braves arms seem to be letting the team down. Without Fried's best numbers, Soroka's health or Morton's peak, it really may be up to Kyle Wright to lead this rotation, and with his 1.13 ERA and 3-0 record, I think that's an outcome a lot of people might be okay with.
5. Edwin Diaz didn't give up a hit in a save-or-die situation Friday night. I'm still not over it. Nor will I ever be, I reckon.
Conversely, here are 5 things from April 2022 that I definitely did see coming.
1. First Place Mets. I wasn't going to delude myself. I knew the Phillies would take a while, I knew that the Braves needed time to find their base without Freeman, and I knew the Marlins and Nats would be disappointing. And that left the Mets. While I was a bit unnerved by the team being without deGrom again, I also knew that they would still have Scherzer, Megill, Walker, Bassitt and Carrasco, and also David Peterson. As well as continuing to have a great lineup made even better by Canha, Escobar and Marte. So I kinda figured they'd be well out in first, and they are, and they're killing it. I'm not even mad about it. Except for the no-hitter, that I am mad about.
2. The Reds' Inexperience Does Them In. I'll say that I expected this, but not a 3-17 record. THREE AND SEVENTEEN? LORD ALMIGHTY. I kinda thought the Pirates had last for a little while, but the Reds, without Winker, Suarez, or even a healthy Luis Castillo, have completely self-destructed. And even if I thought starting Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Vladimir Gutierrez and Reiver Sanmartin altogether would provide a fun youth core, their inexperience is showing. NOBODY HAS AN ERA LOWER THAN 5. NOT EVEN TYLER MAHLE. Votto's not hitting, nobody's hitting, it's downright depressing...but I did kind of figure it would happen if the ownership let things go like this.
3. The Angels are finally ready. Once I knew that Trout was back to his old self and there was a healthy pitching staff, I figured it would be their turn. And so it has. While I expected a bit more from Ohtani, I'm so glad this team's finally come into its own, and is using the patented Maddon tricks of using random bench players in big roles. I hope they keep it up.
4. Four Teams Fighting for First in the NL West. I kinda figured it was 3 again, but the Rockies wanted in too. This was exactly how I thought- the Dodgers are as good as advertised, the Padres have learned from their mistakes and are running on Machado fumes, the Giants are leading and playing Kepler-ball to the best of their abilities, and the Rockies were doing really well til the Phils took 4 from 'em. I figured it'd be a bloodbath, and it already is.
5. The Contracts Don't Immediately Work in Texas. The Rangers spent a lot of money on Jon Gray, Corey Seager, Kole Calhoun and Marcus Semien, and I don't think they spent money on three of them doing absolutely nothing right now.
Next, here are, in my opinion, the 5 Most Important Players of April 2022:
1. Byron Buxton, Minnesota Twins
2. Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Guardians
3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
4. Max Scherzer, New York Mets
5. Anthony Rizzo, New York Yankees
And to end the post, 5 Predictions for May 2022:
1. Somebody takes off. The Astros? The Braves? The Red Sox? Somebody.
2. A very big team goes cold, in a way that will make people question if they're a contender this year at all. Unlike some teams that had lucky Aprils, this team will use this as a way of having the other teams underestimate them, and they'll be dominating again soon enough.
3. Ronald Acuna Jr. makes up for lost time immediately and rises to the head of the pack.
4. There is some controversy regarding an unvaccinated player not participating in a trip to Toronto. Knowing my luck, it will likely be Aaron Judge.
5. There will be another combined no-hitter. It will not be against the Philadelphia Phillies.
That's all for April, let's bring on May!
Coming Tonight: A big, beardy fella looking for justice in LA.