MLB Cold Starts: Worried or Not?
As I’ll often do during the early weeks of the regular season, we’re in “Small Sample Size” territory. Until you hit June 1, it’s hard to really buy stock in numbers or in the standings one way or another. Baseball is a game of averages; both players and teams have ebbs & flows.
One bad month does not a season make; this was the official mantra of Mark Teixeira fantasy owners for years. That being said, one could look back in August at a poor April and realize that it was an indicator of trouble to come for the entire season.
Stumbling out of the gate doesn’t mean writing a player or team off for the rest of the year, but it can cause some natural worry. Here are some colder starts I’m keeping my eye on, and how troublesome they might be.
All stats as of 4/10/19
Boston Red Sox (3-9, 6.5 GB)
“No way, I’m not worried about the Sox at all, I picked them to win the division, didn’t I?” said me, shakenly drinking a cup of water & laughing nervously.
3-9 isn’t exactly an inspiring start to the season. You know the old saying, “You can’t win if you can’t score?” Well, you can’t exactly win if everyone else scores on a ton on you, either. Early-on the Sox are 27th in baseball in ERA, behind staffs that have to pitch in Colorado & Philadelphia. Both David Price & Chris Sale (more on him later) have ERAs over 6.00, which is not what you’re looking for from your 1-2 punch in the rotation.
The Sox will hit, considering they’ve got three MVP candidates in their lineup, but their rotation is relying heavily on strong seasons from their starters, which right now they aren’t getting. I still expect them to be there in October, but this is a less than ideal way to start out.
Jesus Aguilar – MIL Brewers (.111/.238/.111)
After breaking out last year with a .891 OPS & 35 HRs in the middle of the Brewers’ lineup, Aguilar has started 2019 with Tim Tebow-like numbers. Just four hits, all of them singles. Not great when you’re a guy who was in the Home Run Derby last year.
Aguilar should start tapping into his prodigious power soon, but a slow start like this is the last thing you want to see from a surprise breakout guy like he was last year. A few more weeks at this rate, however, and you might have to wonder if his highs of last season were a mirage.
Chris Sale – BOS Red Sox (13 innings, 9.00 ERA)
For a guy who’s been as lights out as Sale has been throughout his career, normally it’d take a lot more than three rough starts to have me pressing the panic button.
However, after being on the shelf down the stretch last year, and having an early velocity dip this year, I’m more worried than I’d like to be. Sale clearly hasn’t been as sharp with his stuff or his command as you’d like to see, as Red Sox fans & Sale fantasy owners were probably hoping he’d put those health concerns to bed quickly to start the season.
That being said, Sale’s track record still works in his favor, as personally all I really need to see is one sharp outing with crisp velocity & results to be fully bought back in.
Chicago Cubs (3-8, 4.0 GB)
Call the fire department, and by fire department I mean Craig Kimbrel’s agent, because the Cubs & their bullpen are a dumpster fire right now. Which team is just behind the Red Sox in ERA in all of MLB? The Cubs, with their 6.43 mark.
The NL Central might be the most competitive division in baseball, so coming out of the gate ice cold is the last thing the Cubs wanted to happen. Yu Darvish’s return from injury hasn’t gone swimmingly, & they’ve just lost Jon Lester to a hamstring injury. Yes, it’s very early, but the Cubs are already littered with red flags.
But hey, Jason Heyward is hitting like a guy with a $200M deal, so that’s something.
Jose Ramirez – CLE Indians (.154/.190/.205, 0 HRs)
A potential MVP candidate entering the season, Ramirez has been anything but in the first couple weeks.
This I believe can be attributed to health. He had that knee scare right before Opening Day, then fouled a ball off his left foot last week. Tough to hit without your legs under you.
Once Ramirez gets some distance between himself and his health woes, I’d expect him to make a run at another 30 HR season.
By Kyle Bandujo