Beast of the Week: In a Ruthian first week, my pre-season pick for NL CY, Madison Bumgarner, easily wins Beast of the Week. Bumgarner currently leads the NL in CG, IP, Batters Faced, and is 2nd in strikeouts with 16.
Not only was he a force on the mound, but he had an even more ridiculous week at the plate, hitting two homers 400+ feet. For perspective, the Red Sox, Cardinals, and Pirates each have 3 home runs – as an entire team. His 18 career long-balls make him the MLB active leader for pitchers, and he’s only 27. Bumgarner currently has a .400 AVG, .500 OBP, 1.600 SLG %, and Manager Bruce Bochy has hinted at using him in the future as a pinch-hitter – beast mode. Honorable Mentions: J.T. Realmuto, Noah Syndergaard, Daniel Murphy, Salvador Perez, Miguel Sano , Dallas Keuchel, , Jake Arrieta, Lance McCullers, Julio Teheran
Weak Sauce of the Week – and the honor goes to Jeremy Guthrie, who in his Nationals debut allowed a whopping 10 ER without finishing the 1st inning. That’s a 135.00 ERA and one tired bullpen! Yesterday, the Nationals officially designated Guthrie for assignment, etching that 135.00 ERA in stone. Ouch.
Honorable Mention – Twins outfielder Byron Buxton. Off to arguably the worst start in all of baseball, Buxton’s struck out in 52% of his AB’s, while going 2 for 26 with 1 BB and 14 K’s. Hitting .077 as a strikeout machine without power isn’t what the Twins had in mind when they drafted him 2nd overall in 2012. The only reason he’s runner up is Guthrie no longer has a job after his performance.
American League: Finishing spring training with the best record in all of baseball, The Baby Bombers are off to a rough start. Apparently they forgot to save some hits for the regular season, as Judge, Bird, and Sanchez collectively posted a .145 AVG with 5 RBI and 16 strikeouts. Staff “ace”, Masahiro Tanaka, was in the running for the Weak Sauce of the Week Award, leading the league with 10 ER and 2 HBP, and the bullpen squandered two games against the 1st place Orioles. Making matters worse, Gary Sanchez strained the bicep in his throwing arm, sending the Yankees catcher and number two hitter to the DL. In an MLB rarity, Matt Holliday walked five times on Sunday against the Orioles, becoming the 2nd Yankee since 1962 to accomplish the feat. The Baltimore Orioles sit atop the AL East on the strength of their bullpen and power bats. Yesterday, they became the last AL undefeated team to finally take a loss. The Minnesota Twins and LA Angels surprisingly sit atop the AL Central and AL West, respectively. The Angels staged an epic comeback on Sunday, scoring 7 runs in the 9th inning to stun division rival Seattle. While I’ve picked the Twins to lose over 90 games, they could be a sleeper team if Santana, Hughes, Santiago, and Gibson pitch to their potential. They currently lead all of baseball with a 2.04 ERA. A nasty virus ran through the Red Sox clubhouse, sidelining MVP candidate Mookie Betts, Rookie of the Year hopeful Andrew Benintendi, 1B/DH Hanley Ramirez, and P Joe Kelly, among others. Some shoddy starting pitching has placed the defending AL Champs with a 3-3 start, led by star shortstop Francisco Lindor’s three bombs. The 23-year old switch hitting Lindor could develop into a superstar this year with added power to accompany his Gold Glove defense. Staying in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers are off to an optimistic 3-2 start on the heels of quality starts by Verlander, Fulmer, and Zimmermann. They’re especially banking on Jordan Zimmermann returning to form and fulfilling the $110 million dollar deal they gave him after the 2015 season. If Zimmermann can deliver, the Tigers will be in playoff contention despite a below average bullpen. Trailing the Angels at 4-3, the Houston Astros should feel incredibly relieved by the revival of 2015 AL CY winner Dallas Keuchel. This past week Keuchel allowed one measly run in 14 innings looking like his former self. One of my favorite sleepers and unsung heroes on the Astros, Chris Devenski, has thrown 8 IP of one run ball while dominating by allowing only 1 BB and 14 K’s. After quietly posting an 0.91 WHIP in 108 IP during his rookie season, Devenski and his devastating changeup will continue to make strides as an integral part of the Astros pitching staff – keep an eye on him. In addition to the Yankees, the Mariners, Blue Jays, and Royals also had forgettable weeks making them basement dwellers. Salvador Perez went yard in four straight, but with 56% of their lineup hitting .200 or worse, the Royals need a team effort to get above the mendoza line. The Blue Jays should move out of this list next week on the strength of their starting pitching, which saw their front four average 6 IP and a 3.45 ERA in Week 1.
National League: Sitting at .500, the 3-3 Mets should be ecstatic their big three are all healthy and pitching to their potential, especially Harvey. Syndergaard, deGrom, and Harvey combined to throw 25 2/3 innings while striking out 26 with a microscopic 1.05 ERA. Most impressive, they combined to walk only one batter while consistently throwing upper 90’s heat. This trio will not only be exciting to watch all season, but probably will carry the Mets past division rival Washington. The Nationals also boast one of the top rotation trios in baseball, receiving quality starts from four of their five starters this week. With Bryce Harper off to a nice start posting a .976 OPS, the Nationals will be one of the best teams in the NL all season long. Sitting atop the NL Central, the defending World Champion Cubs got a 3.03 ERA this week from their five starters, highlighted by Jake Arrieta going 2-0. Their offense hasn’t started clicking yet, but when it does the Cubs will coast to another division title. A popular pre-season pick to make serious noise this year, the Colorado Rockies are off to a 5-2 start thanks to 3 wins from a resurgent bullpen. Having missed all of 2016 to a potentially career ending arm injury, the importance of Greg Holland’s 4 no-hit innings can not be overstated– the dynamite fireman is back to doing what he does best, consistently close out victories. I’m not a believer in the Rockies as their starting pitching is below average, but they’re on the right track. Owners of the best record in baseball at 6-1, the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks are moving past a disappointing 2016. A healthy AJ Pollock in center and Zach Greinke at the top of the rotation will keep the Diamondbacks relevant for 2017. The Diamondbacks also lead MLB with a .313 AVG, .873 OPS, and runs scored with 47. Also noteworthy in the NL West, the Dodgers bullpen has thrown 22 1/3 IP and posted a 1.61 ERA. Currently 4-3, their lineup also has four players with a .950 OPS, including my pre-season NL MVP pick, Corey Seager.
I posted my 2017 MLB Preseason Predictions on Instagram @therealbaseballbeast last week, but here they are:
While it’s only the 1st week of approximately 24, a rough start like the Mariners at 1-6 is all it takes to miss the playoffs. The parody in today’s game gives greater meaning to every single game, so let’s revisit in October to see if the Mariners barely miss the playoffs. Bring on Week 2.