Since spring training games only started on March 17, if we project the normal number of spring training contests, the majority of teams would have completed their spring schedule around April 24. So last week at major league baseball was probably effectively the end of the prep season. Unfortunately for the Cincinnati Redstheir 2-13 start counts, but no one in the American League East was more than four games away from first – and that team, the Orioleswas in the same division as the team with the best record, the Toronto Blue Jays.
Spring was cold and windy in the majority of markets, which could explain the decrease in the number of circuits; likewise could the ball be used, wind patterns, increased contact attention across the league, and half the at-bats of normal spring training. The difference between April 2021 and 2022 is small; on April 24, the 2021 season was offensively superior in batting (.232-231), OBP (.308-.307), slugging (.390-.366), OPS (.699-.673) and XBH average per at -bat (1 per 11.96 AB vs 1 per 12.92). The slugging difference is the only significant one, but it stands out even more as we would expect the slugging to tilt in favor of 2022 as the universal DH needs to be taken into account.
“It’s a really bad time to be a hitter,” says an American League pitching coach. “Three years ago the game tended to adopt the Houston model of four-seam fastballs with curveballs. Now there are many more double seams running down and to the side of the glove, with custom cutters and cutters that allow for very different and unique actions.
Offense isn’t the only thing that defies expectations. We thought the shortened spring would lead to a rash of injuries. In April 2021, 177 players were on the injured list, but if that number were reduced to the comparable number of calendar days, the number would be 100. There have been 83 players placed on the injured list as of the day opening; 62 were related to COVID-19, and the only pitcher deemed to need surgery at Tommy John due to action this month is John means of the Orioles (obviously, several players were put on longer injury lists before the start of the season in 40-man cuts).
Maybe there will be pitching injury issues in July, August or September, but April has often been the month with the most injuries. Credit goes to MLB for allowing two additional roster spots through April and allowing clubs to carry up to 15 and in some cases 16 pitchers, allowing a pitching staff to Tampa Bay with nine pitchers injured from using seven pitchers. hit Boston in the 10th inning, then won it on a home run by Kevin Kiermaierwho had never reached a walk-off at any level – from Little League above.
So, by dawn on April 24, the supposedly best division in the game (four teams were one game away from the playoffs last year) had played 15 games each. That’s 60 starts, and Kevin Gausman of Toronto on April 21 was the only pitcher to pitch eight or seven innings in those 60. Yankees had two six-inning starts, the Rays four, the Jays that one, Boston none. In 60 starts, half a dozen completed six innings. Each of the managers on those teams admitted to being cautious because those pitchers would be needed for the final two months.
History tells us that if a pitcher is healthy on May 1, there’s a good chance they’ll be healthy on July 31. Some teams may hope that young pitchers who started the season as fly-half or multi-inning relievers will occasionally be able to enter rotations. before July 1 and fill a rotational position that would otherwise require a trade. The Red Sox are a good example. Chris Sale and James Paxton are optimistic of being in rotation by June, but there are no guarantees.
In their place, Boston has Garret Whitlockwho started with four shutout innings on April 3 and allowed an earned run in 16 2/3 innings, and Tanner Houck, who showed flashes of brilliance and developed a splitter that Baseball Savant lists as having the second best downstroke of all splitters in the majors. Completing them will require two or three additional 2-3 inning relievers, but Kutter Crawford is close to the command he needs for his power, which he shows in flashes. General manager Chaim Bloom is hoping to get midseason help from Connor Seabold and Josh Winckowski, who were acquired in trades. They have two interesting local pitchers in Double-A Portland: Bryan Bello, who was 98-100 and last weekend had struck out 18 in 10 innings in two starts, and southpaw Brandon Walter, whose first two RBIs were dominant.
Surprisingly interesting is 24-year-old Frank German, who the Yankees gave to Boston for taking Adam Ottavino’s contract before last season. For all but five appearances in 2021 with Portland, the German had an ERA over 5.00 and pitched in the mid-90s. He showed up at Fort Myers this spring with a 98- 100, and says when he moved to the bullpen for five appearances last September, he was much more excited and the speed picked up. He hadn’t allowed a run in five outings at Portland in April, consistently hitting 99 with the occasional 102 and big swing-and-miss numbers. With questions remaining in the middle of the bullpen, he is very much on Alex Cora’s watch list.
Trades for starting pitchers can be difficult to make. Oakland’s Frankie Montas will be in high demand. He’s only 29, his business – especially his splitter – is constantly improving, he earns $5.05 million and hasn’t been a free agent for two years. This brings us to the subject of a disturbing team, the Oakland Athletics. Sure, in years past the A’s traded players when they needed big contracts, but David Forst also traded for Jon Lester, Matt Holliday and Jeff Samardzija, trying to win.
But this season is different. Owner John Fisher is not taking over any major league contracts. They traded four top players – Sean Manee, Matt Chapman, Matt Olson and Chris Bassit – and lose about $22 million in 2022 payroll. The 2021 payroll was $83.8 million; this year it should be around $44 million. Receiver Sean Murphy is really good. Expect Ramón Laureano, Montas and Lou Trivino, who earn a combined $10.7 million, will be gone soon enough. The general managers believe the Reds’ Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo could be available. If one needs entries, the wait is the hardest part, minors or majors.
It’s been an incredible season for young power pitchers, starting with Cincinnati’s Hunter Greene, who hit 100 a record 39 times in his first start. Then, we have Jhoan Duran in Minnesota, who throws his slinker at 96.8 mph and his fastball nearly 100. All he did was modify his fingers on his split and now he does things he said “I do not really understand.”
The return of Luis Severino and the development of his cutter as well as the development of Nestor Cortes make the Yankees staff deep, and very good. Toronto is also deep and has money and trade prospects. Seattle is fascinating, acquiring Robbie Ray join Chris Flexon, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales and Matt Brashwith George Kirby in Triple A.
Brash is one of the most interesting rookies in the game, with a lead-slider combination that gives him two pitches that, in the eyes of the batter, look the same, then run in different directions. Jerry Dipoto got it from the padres for Taylor Williams. He also got a fireball reliever Andrés Munoz pads with France for Austin Nola. Muñoz hit 101.3 with a dirty power slider.
With the position of talented players that Dipoto gained in the trades, the draft and internationally, he allowed some players to develop in the major leagues. In a year, he may not be able to do it anymore. Julio Rodriguez in the making of a star. His numbers so far haven’t been that impressive, and those of Bobby Witt Jr.or to a lesser extent Spencer Torkelson. But it is clear that much more is to come. Count Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout among those who underperformed on their first glimpse of major league action. not everyone can be Fernando Tatis Jr. or Juan Soto or Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and look instantly at ease.
This latest band reminds us of the impact the international market has had on the game. To celebrate, the best new song hitting the Apple Music Marketplace is “Major League Blues” by Costa Rican blues guitarist/singer Jose Ramirez. Not that Jose Ramirez. The only Costa Rican player who made the majors was Ray Stoviak, born in the city of Nicoya (before attending Villanova University in the United States) who played 10 games for the 1938 Phillies and didn’t get a shot. Obviously, he had the major league blues.
The Foundation to Be Named Later, founded by brothers Theo and Paul Epstein, and the Peter Gammons College Scholarship Program, which has distributed more than $1.25 million in grants to more than 225 students, are hosting a auction that will be active until 10 p.m. ET Saturday. . More information can be found at FTBNL.org.
(Photo by Julio Rodriguez: David Berding/Getty Images)