Beast of the Week: Despite pitching on a staff with two former CY Young winners, Red Sox starter Chris Sale is quickly staking his claim as the staff ace. Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski has made a name for himself by trading top prospects for top major league talent, and Sale is his latest acquisition to immediately pay dividends. David Price hasn’t thrown a single pitch this year, and it really hasn’t mattered thanks to Sale. The wiry lefty has been insanely dominant and a victim of poor run support, resulting in a 1-1 record. However, if he makes 32 starts this year, Sale’s currently on pace for 336 strikeouts over 237 IP, with a microscopic 0.71 WHIP. Dallas Keuchel is having an excellent rebound season, but Sale so far is the AL CY Young front-runner, and worthy of the Beast of the Week Award. Honorable mention goes to Bryce Harper, who is leading MLB with a .393 AVG, and the NL in Runs, RBI, BB, OBP%, and OPS. When Harper is clicking, nobody in baseball can put up better power numbers. However, his lack of consistency keeps him from becoming the best in baseball, and let’s not forget he actually got off to a nice April last year before tanking to finish 2017 with a .243 AVG and .441 SLG %.
Opening Thoughts: Sour grapes from Cubs Pitching Coach Chris Bosio and starter John Lackey this week, as I’m sure they wouldn’t recklessly be insinuating Brewers first baseman Eric Thames is on steroids if he was mashing the ball on their team– especially considering they defended 2016 NL CY Young Winner Jake Arrieta from steroid whispers…it’s sad that anytime a player puts up impressively unexpected stats, the immediate suspicion is they’re on steroids.
Weak Sauce of the Week: On Wednesday, Pirates Centerfielder Starling Marte tested positive for steroids and was suspended 80-games without pay. In his obligatory apology, Marte chalked up the positive test of Nandrolone to, “Neglect and lack of understanding,” but I’m not buying it. How many times have we heard this before? The substance he tested positive for is a known steroid that needs be injected with a needle. Professional athletes taking injections via a needle know what they’re doing, and claiming ignorance is a weak copout – highly worthy of the Weak Sauce of the Week Award. The head scratching events didn’t end there, with Madison Bumgarner easily taking an honorable mention after hurting his pitching shoulder and ribs in a dirt bike accident. Bumgarner, a three-time world champion, injured one of the most important left shoulders in the world. Besides being a big fan of Bumgarner, he selfishly also ruined my prediction for the 2017 NL CY Young Award…a dirt bike accident…really? So much for my crystal ball…will we see another Beast of the Weak go from hero to zero?
Things to Know: Aaron Judge continues to pulverize the baseball, hitting an absolute moonshot three quarters of the way up the left field bleachers in the Bronx, followed by a 458-foot blast at PNC Park against the Bucs. His right handed power has been a huge lift with the injury to Gary Sanchez, and whether or not you’re a Yankee fan, his at bats are can’t miss TV… is it possible we actually take Mike Trout for granted? Don’t look now, but the 25-year old is leading the AL in SLG%, OPS, and Total Bases and is the closest thing to Mickey Mantle since, well, Mickey Mantle….also currently manhandling the ball, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman and Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper each have On-Base-Percentages hovering around .500 and could win NL Player of Month… at the tender age of 43, Ichiro Suzuki became the oldest player in a decade to homer in a game. Despite the future Hall-of-Famer wanting to play till 50, it may have been the final homer in front of his faithful Seattle fans…last in the majors in home runs, the Red Sox are proving a winning offense takes more than hitting the long ball. Brewers first baseman Eric Thames individually has two less homer than the entire Red Sox team through 19 games, but the Sox finished the week 2nd in the majors in team battering average. The David Ortiz-less lineup still has more than enough quality hitters to consistently win ballgames, and given the game’s growing acceptance in trading strikeouts for home runs, I love their refreshingly low strikeout rate…Chris Sale is pitching like the second coming of Pedro Martinez…as disgraced outfielder Starling Marte goes on the restricted list, another disgraced player came off the list this week – Mets closer Jeurys Familia. Without Familia their bullpen has been a weak spot, and despite only being April, they’ve slid to 4th place in the NL East and are now 4.5 games out of 1st. In additional Met news, Yoenis Cespedes is batting a hamstring injury and David Wright was officially placed on the 60-day DL. While the Mets have slim to no expectations for Wright this year, Cespedes, fresh off a 4-yr $110 million dollar deal, is being counted on heavily as a game changer. In Cespedes’s case, it’s tough to not pull muscles when you’re built like one big muscle…the Texas Rangers officially released 2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton, most likely ending a career filled with historic lows…and highs…the Royals should be thrilled with the return of Jason Vargas after two injury riddled seasons. Vargas in three starts has thrown 20 2/3 IP, while striking out 23 and only allowing two walks, leading to a perfect 3-0 record and major league leading 0.77 ERA…the Tigers placed two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera on the 10-day DL with a strained groin, remarkably only the second trip he’s ever made to the DL. Cabrera has a chance to put up all-time great career statistics, so let’s hope he stays healthy to see what he can do…it’s early, but I’m close to sticking a fork in Tim Tebow – he’s hitting .196 in Low A with a below average .333 SLG%, despite power being his best tool at this point.