With 30 teams to follow, it’s hard to know everything that is going on in the game. For this week’s column, I just wanted to highlight some of the things that I’ve paid attention to during the first weeks of the season.
If you’ve been following baseball, you know that the biggest storyline through the first few weeks of baseball was the Tampa Bay Ray’s undefeated start. The Rays started the year winning 13 straight, sweeping their first four opponents in Detroit, Washington, Oakland and Boston, outscoring them by a total of 101 to 30. Their 13 wins to start the season were the most to start a season since the 1982 Atlanta Braves and the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers did so in their respective years. Technically, that is not an MLB record, as the 1884 St. Louis Maroons started 20-0, but it’s been the best start to a season in 36 years. Tampa Bay brought their streak into Toronto only to lose their next two games before finding the win column again on Sunday.
Miami Marlins starter and 2022 NL Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara had a rough outing that surprised many. In a game against the Phillies on April 10, Alcantara gave up nine earned runs in four innings to bring his ERA for the year up to 5.79. In his 2022 campaign, Alcantara never surrendered more than six earned runs in a game and allowed just eight earned runs in his five starts in August alone. For a pitcher who was the leading pitcher in WAR (7.8), innings pitched (228.2) and complete games (6), one bad start won’t define his season, but it’ll be interesting to see how he’ll respond.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have played unexpectedly great baseball this season, which not many experts saw coming. They came into Fenway taking three games from the Red Sox and just split a series with the St. Louis Cardinals to improve to over .500. Outfielder Bryan Reynolds came out of the gates hot to start the year. He currently leads the team in both home runs and RBIs. Andrew McCutchen has shined in his return to Pittsburgh, hitting third in their lineup serving as the team’s designated hitter. Not only is the team playing well, but they also produced a first in baseball history. Teammates Ji Man Choi and Ji Hwan Bae became the first pair of South Koreans to homer in the same game for the same team in the history of the MLB. The Oneil Cruz injury definitely impacts the team, but they could end up impressing a lot of people by year end.
Cody Bellinger made his first return to Dodger Stadium, now in a Cubs uniform. He robbed what would have been a Jayson Heyward home run in his first game back. The very next day, the center fielder hit a home run that padded the Cubs lead which extended Chicago’s win streak to three. With Chicago, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and St. Louis all in the same division, the NL Central is shaping up to be one of the more competitive divisions for 2023.
Left-handed pitcher Martin Perez had a career season in 2022 in his return to the Rangers and through his first three starts, he looks great. Perez leads the Texas staff in ERA and innings pitched with a 2.87 ERA in 15.2 innings. This is a Rangers team that signed Jacob deGrom, Nathan Eovaldi and Andrew Heaney this offseason to bolster their rotation, but Perez has had the best start to the season out of all of them. The 32-year-old lefty is coming off his first all-star appearance and looks to sustain his success through another year for Texas.
Free agent signing Franchy Cordero has dominated in his short stint so far in New York. The slugging lefty collected 10 RBIs in his first six games as a Yankee, tying him with Robin Ventura for most RBIs in a player’s first six games in New York since 1920. Gerrit Cole, one of the team’s stars, has had a nice start to his season as well. In all of 2022, Cole never pitched a complete game shutout, a feat that took him just four games into 2023 to complete. He has a 0.95 ERA through his first four games, earning wins in every one of those starts.
Boston’s Rafael Devers and Mets first baseman Pete Alonso look to be the early candidates for this year’s home run crown. Through the first few weeks of the season, the two infielders have been mashing and lead the league in home runs so far. Marlin’s infielder Luis Arraez was the last qualifying batter to have an average over .500 on April 15 before a hitless outing during his game on Sunday. Toronto’s Matt Chapman and Arraez are the only two hitters left that remain above .400 on the season with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bryson Stott not too far behind. Baltimore is in the top three for stolen bases this year, with Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins leading the league in that category.
Good thorough report! I’ll be following throughout the season.