Special to GreensboroSports.com from Stuart Barefoot…..
When 30 teams get together and each plays 162 games per season, doing previews and recaps of each is a tall task. Doing a broadly encompassing monthly recap, however, is within reason. So let’s look at the major talking points month that was in Major League Baseball, as 2014 is now well under way.
The Former Hoppers are Repping Greensboro Well
If you’ve followed Grasshoppers baseball over the last few years then the names Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Steve Cisheck, Tom Koehler, and A.J Ramos might sound familiar. All of these former Hoppers are members of the Miami Marlins and doing quite well.
Yelich is the every day left fielder and leads off for the Fish, while Stanton continues to terrorize pitchers. The 24-year old righty has an NL best 32 RBI’s through April, eight homers and an .OPS of .892.
But perhaps most impressively, is Jose Fernandez. The reigning NL rookie of the year is off to an historic start. In fact, the 21-year old ace is pitching so well, he’s in exclusive company that includes Babe Ruth. According to MLB.com, since 1916 only for pitchers 21 or younger have finished the month of April with at least four wins and an ERA below 1.60. Fernandez finished April at 4-1 and an ERA of 1.59. The other three? Babe Ruth in 1916, Vida Blue in 1971, and Dwight Gooden in 1986. Both Gooden and Ruth led their teams to World Series victories in those same seasons; perhaps Fernandez will do the same.
The Braves Are Also Good at Pitching and defense.
Okay they’ve been good pitching for 20 years now, but after Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy went down with Tommy John Surgery, there was a collective groan throughout the Southeast. But never fear, the Braves went out and signed Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang, and with the addition of Alex Wood and David Hale to their rotation the Braves starters sported the best ERA in the majors.
Even more impressive has been their stellar defense. By now, you already know, or at least should know, about Anderlton Simmons. The Braves young shortstop has a highlight reel that would impress even Ozzie Smith, but his teammates play good defense too. There’s and advanced statistic known as Defensive Runs Saved, or DRS. It’s a complicated statistic, but basically, it measures how many more or fewer successful plays a defensive player will make than league average. The Braves currently sit atop the majors in this category at 24. Right Fielder Jason Heyward currently leads all players with 14.
Fool Me Once….
Yankees starting pitcher, Michael Pineda got away with something many pitchers probably do. Using Pine Tar. Well, he sort of got away with it. He was caught on camera with the pine tar on his hands against the Red Sox on April 10. Since it was never brought to the umpire’s attention, Pineda was not ejected from the game. During his next start against the Red Sox on April 23, he was not so lucky. After having control issues in the first inning, Pineda rubbed pine tar on his neck, presumably to use on his hands so he could grip the ball better. Red Sox manager John Farrell notified the Umpires and after confirming it was in fact Pine Tar, Pineda was ejected.
Say Hello to Jose Abreu
All the Cuban native did in April was set MLB records for Home Runs by a rookie (10) and RBI’s for a rookie with 31. Abreu began his career in Cuba, but signed with the White Sox after his defection in October to a six -year deal. Paul Konerko had been manning first base since 1999 in the South Side, and signed a one-year extension before the season, in what is likely to be his last season. Wally Pipp was a good baseball player and first baseman, but lost his job to Lou Gerhig in 1925. So it can happen to everyone.
The Success of Instant Replay
It was bound to happen sooner or later, and now baseball finally has a form of instant replay. While people are still understandably skeptical of this new component of the game it has, for the most part, gone off without a hitch. To prove it, here are a few stats to think about. According to MLB, instant replay has been used 191 times. 85 calls have been overturned, 53 calls stood, and 50 were confirmed. On average, the process takes 2 minutes and 6 seconds, which is about 30 seconds longer than the under seconds goal set earlier n the year. Given that its still in it’s maturation stages, there’s only room for it to improve.