What April Suggests about the Baseball Season

May Days, May Days

April is a cruel month for baseball fans, as anyone who has sat through a game north of Atlanta can attest. (Full disclosure: I support a shorter season.) April is also a prankster that can make dandelions look like tulips. (Last year's Diamondbacks, anyone?) Here are some thoughts now that about 18 percent of the season is behind us.

The Real Deals:

Right now there are just two sure things: the Dodgers and the Astros. Each has a powerful lineup—Bellinger is white hot right now–but more importantly, each has a pitching staff that should hurl them deep into the postseason.

Stick a Fork in 'Em; They're Already Done:

Compost the putrid Marlins and call a taxidermist for the once-proud Orioles. The Royals are more like a deposed monarchy and the Angels are bound for hell once again. What was Mike Trout thinking when he signed a long-term contract with Anaheim. Do you see any hope in the next 4-5 years? I don't.

How are those Sonny Gray, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp acquisitions working out for the Reds? You can probably stick the tines in San Francisco as well. The Yankees AAA players just blew them out of the water and made the Giants look like midgets in the process.

Not as Bad as You Think:

The White Sox probably won't make it .500, but they won't embarrass themselves. Some of their younger players–like Anderson and Moncada–are figuring things out.

The Rangers might have the most potent lineup of any lousy team. They will score a ton of runs, but they'll give up a ton and a half. The Padres are the NL West equivalent of the Rangers. Machado isn't hitting much right now, but he will, as will Hosmer and Tatis. Myers will continue to tantalize and disappoint, as will any pitcher not named Yates. 

The Tigers are in rebuild mode and need to shed some onerous contracts, but they're not pushovers. These cats are starting to flex their paws.

Wait Until Next Year:

We already know about Vlad Junior, but he's not the only thing to like about the Blue Jays. They are just an arm or two away from making the AL East a four-horse race. It won't happen this year, but you do not want to go to sleep on these guys or they'll lay some hurt on you.

Call it a hunch, but the Braves look as if they are going to take a step backward this year. It's a team dependent upon a handful of vets to close the holes of youthful inconsistency. That might happen, but I'm not seeing a pitching staff that can take them to the Promised Land. This needs to be redressed before some of those vets (Freeman, McCann, Markakis) reach the end of their productiveness. Next year?

I Don't Believe In You:

The Diamondbacks are playing above their pay grade right now. You know–just like 2018. It won't last.

I said it last year and will say it again: the Cubs pitching isn't very good. Plus Bryant and Rizzo aren't hitting their weight. I'd not be surprised if they miss the playoffs.

Never bet on the Pirates. You get the team you pay for and Pirates' ownership keeps its riches buried in a bank somewhere far from where the three rivers join.

Parsimony and young players who fuzzed out but never blossomed are the reasons I don't believe in the Twins. They're not a bad team, but in the long run they'll struggle to rise above mediocrity. Even if they click on all cylinders, they simply can't match the Indians' pitching.

I'd be remiss not to mention the perpetually tightwad Oakland A's. Look down their roster and tell me how many names you recognize other than Khris Davis. (Semien is good, though.)

They'll Probably Break Your Heart:

The Phillies spent like drunken gamblers to sign Bryce Harper. He's hitting .250, which is just about right for a player who might be the most overrated in all of baseball. The Phils should have bought some pitching. Arrieta is on the downside and Nola and Elfin have yet to rise.

The Mets are the opposite: potentially great pitching but if McNeil and Alonso cool off, where's the offense?

The Mariners are on fire at present, but I'd be higher on them had they not traded their best pitcher (James Paxton) to the Yankees. Their lineup consists of a lot of castoffs, has-beens, and late arrivals. I think this holiday will soon sink back to workaday tedium.

Don't the Nationals always break hearts? They show signs of sorting things out, but when you look at their roster, you'd think they should be great. The Nats are like brilliant students content to earn a C. 

Waiting to Catch Fire

The Brewers have too much in the bank in addition to Yelich to be playing penny ante baseball. In fact, without Yelich they'd be in serious trouble by now. Time to man up in Cheesehead Town.

Exchange the cheese for bad beer and the same is true for the Cardinals, who plucked Goldschmidt from Arizona and Ozuna from Miami. (Did I mention the Marlins should be in the Eastern League?)  About half of the Cards' pitching staff needs to step up or move out.

The Indians have been only middling good in a bad division. Cheapskate management is a problem in Cleveland as well, but the Indians should be fine when Kipnis, Naquin, and Lindor heat up. There's really no reason in the world why the Tribe shouldn't waltz to another division crown.

Mysteries Wrapped Inside Enigmas

In a sense, the Red Sox were destined to disappoint. They had a season for the ages in 2018, and no serious fan expects them to duplicate a .667 winning percentage. But to be a tick above the Orioles? I can't imagine that will last, but there's got to be concern that signing Sale to a big contract instead of re-signing Kimbrel was a bonehead move given that Sale hasn't been brilliant since the middle of 2017. Porcello thus far has been in the "other" side of his every other year effectiveness, and there is also concern that Moreland, Pearce, and Bradley had career years in '18. Commonsense says that Bogaerts ought to be moved to third and Devers should become a DH. Devers' glove is simply B-A-D. But if you ask me if the Red Sox will finish below .500 this year I'd reply, "Are you nuts?"

The Yankees are a mystery in the sense that one wonders how in the hell they are winning with 15 players on the disabled list. LeMahieu was a great signing, Voit was a steal, and getting Paxton a fleecing, but the only way you make any sense of their early success is to concede that their minor league system was every bit as good as touted. Nonetheless mystery surrounds the Bronx Bombers. Will Sanchez figure out how to catch and hit consistently, or is he a bum receiver who is all or nothing with the stick? Will the Yanks go on a roll when the big guns return? Logic dictates they should, but baseball has a habit of making fools of the Stat Heads. The biggest mystery of all is why the team hasn't fired every single one of its conditioning coaches. It baffles my mind how MLB thinks launch angles and pro wrestling sized muscles are more important than flexibility and durability. For the record, Detroit has the deepest fences of any stadium: 420 feet to dead center. So who gives damn if a homerun travels 470 feet?

The Rays are also an enigma. I like Pham and Diaz, but I don't see enough bats on this team to justify their otherworldly record in April. Morton and Snell are proven pitchers, but are Glasnow and Chirinos for real? I don't think the Rays have enough, but if the Red Sox don't start winning, the Rays might steal a playoff spot.

Let's end with the yearly mystery team: the Rockies. The hitting is there, but the staff has an ERA the size of Mount Elbert. I think they'll be in the middle of the pack, but it seems that nobody really knows how the Rockies will fare until the season is over.

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