Around The Horn: musings on this week in baseball
Manny Machado, holy padre of hitting
Through the first five weeks of the year, Manny Machado is the favorite for the NL MVP. He has pretty much been the entire Padres offense alongside Eric Hosmer, who is hitting like the player he was with the Royals in 2017. The problem moving forward for the Padres is that Machado has been personally responsible for around 34% of San Diego’s total WAR, which is a higher individual share than any successful team in history. It’s not often a team can rely on one player keeping up this level of form and sustaining his club to the postseason. We can safely assume his performance will settle down as the season progresses, as such it will be up to his teammates to pick up the pace and share the load. San Diego’s outfield could do with drastic improvements. The return of star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. can’t come soon enough.
Somethings brewing in Milwaukee
The Brewers have the best pitching staff in baseball. The Dodgers might have been performing like the best pitching staff in baseball, but the Brewers should be. Freddy Peralta and Brandon Woodruff’s ERA sits in the mid-5’s, but their xERA suggests they have been pitching more like starters with a 3.50 ERA. Now, expected ERA doesn’t change what happens on the field but it can change our perception of the players moving forward. We knew Corbin Burnes was one of the top starters in the National League with Woodruff and Peralta rated quite highly too. Eric Lauer however has snuck in the back door and is matching Burnes for gaudy numbers. If Peralta and Woodruff can turn around their early season hiccups then, well, watch out. The AL Central is all but theirs for the taking.
Chicago White Sox, worst defensive team in the majors
The Sox were tied with the Pirates for the major-league lead with 26 errors in 29 games as of Wednesday, including an MLB-high nine by Tim Anderson, their shortstop. Apart from Luis Robert in center field, this is not an elite defensive unit. They will need to improve however in order to beat out an improved Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. The starting rotation has looked very good early on with Dylan Cease, Micheal Kopech and Lucas Giolito forming an intimidating front three. There is plenty of talent on this team and it should be better once Andrew Vaughan, Lance Lynn and Eloy Jiminez return from their niggling injuries; Tim Anderson is key, he is such a good pure hitter that his bat is essential for the success of the White Sox. Getting him to cut down on his mistakes and errors will determine how far this team can go.
Philadelphia Phillies are underperforming
The Phillies are built for power, a true three-outcome offense that will live and die with the long ball. The results have been mixed so far this season, they rank third in team OPS yet are 12th in team runs created. They’ve been hitting ok yet rank 30th according to fangraphs clutch hitting ranking, indicating that they have been bad in key moments so far this season, which is reflected in their 14-17 record and fourth place in the NL East. This lineup just hasn’t been good with runners in scoring position, positive regression could come however! A lineup with free agency additions Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber in addition to Bryce Harper, Segura and Hopkins should do better. Unfortunately for the Phillies two of their best pitchers, Zach Eflin and Zack Wheeler, are going on the COVID-injured list just in time for a road trip against the Mariners and Dodgers. They’re really going to need their hitters to step up as they head west without two of their best arms.
LA Dodgers will never be bad again
Even after losing two two of three games against the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates, the Dodgers are still 20-9 which represents the second-best record in the majors and puts the Dodgers on pace for a 112-win season! Los Angeles have been able to do this despite cold starts by hitters Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy and their two biggest financial commitments going to Trevor Bauer (banned for two seasons) and David Price (battling injuries and age). How have they managed this? For one, Dodgers pitchers lead the majors in ERA (3.25), WHIP (0.99) and batting average allowed (.196). Despite their slow start the batters still get on base at a very good rate which when coupled with an uncanny ability to find, develop and rehabilitate quality pitching they are able to stay competitive for nine innings; needing a few timely hits which invariably come from a lineup that features three former MVPs. Which are all reasons why the Dodgers are favored by oddsmakers to win their second World Series in three years. I wouldn’t like to bet against a team that has yet to ‘click’ in 2022.