A month in, let baseball begin

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Updated: May 11, 2015
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The first month of baseball is over and done with. We’ve watched each team play at least 25 games, which means we’ve witnessed 1/6 of the season already — when it seemed like I was wishing for April to draw nearer just yesterday.

With a month in the books, it’s time to discuss a few fun facts, highlight individual performances, and discuss the early breakout candidates of 2015.

Fun Facts

  • Dee Gordon is currently set to finish the year with a .437 batting average. If he manages to keep up this ridiculous pace, he’ll finish as with the second best batting average of all-time in a single season, holding the best average of any player within the last 125 years.
  • Joc Pederson has nine home runs this year, putting him in good position to hit 30 or more this season. If he accomplishes this, he’ll join only 10 other players who have hit 30-plus home runs in their rookie seasons.
  • Since 2013, no starting pitcher to log more than 150 innings has had a better ERA than Clayton Kershaw. This season, Kershaw’s ERA (3.72) is twice as high as his previous two seasons combined (3.60).
  •  Ted Williams walked 107 times in his rookie season, which is the highest mark of any rookie since 1900. In 20 games, Kris Bryant has walked 17 times, while Pederson has walked 24 times in 29 games. They both currently own on-base percentages above .420.
  • The best win streak recorded since 1920 belongs to a fork-ball pitcher named Elroy Face, who put together an impressive 17-game winning streak to open the 1959 season. Michael Wacha, Felix Hernandez, Collin McHugh, Zack GrienkeJames Shields, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray and Dellin Betances have all started with four or more wins and currently have a chance to surpass the current record.

Breakout Candidates

Kolten Wong gave us a taste of what we could expect from him in upcoming seasons, hitting .249/.292/.388 with 12 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2014. Wong is already hitting .340/.375/.505 in 29 games this year and there’s no reason to suspect it’ll dip back to .249 any time soon. He’s known for making great contact on the ball, which should help keep his average from dipping too much. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit .300 by the end of the year. The 24-year-old second baseman is definitely taking on the roll of a typical St. Louis Cardinals-type hitter.

Wil Myers made an immediate impact his rookie year, showcasing his raw power and speed with the Tampa Bay Rays. An injury in 2014, however, would cause him to miss half the season, where Myers finished hitting .222/.294/.320. With the San Diego Padres, Myers has already shown that he’s back to form, hitting .293/.354/.478 with 26 runs scored and five home runs in the first 30 games. Maybe a change of scenery was all he needed to truly breakout.

People have been waiting for an Eric Hosmer breakout performance since 2012. What we’ve received? One solid season sandwiched between two underwhelming years. Well, here’s the start everyone has been waiting for. In his first 28 games, Hosmer has 23 RBI, five home runs and is batting .319/.395/.549, which is much better than his start last year. In 2014, Hosmer didn’t hit his fifth home run until July 9, while also destroying the patience of his fans and fantasy owners. This reinvented Hosmer certainly looks like he’ll deliver on the performance we’ve all been waiting for. Finally.

Bryce Harper was widely considered the “most overrated hitter” in baseball this following season, even though he won’t turn 23 until October. Well, Harper heard your remarks and raised you a breakout performance. It’s looking more and more every day like he’ll finally live up to the 30/100 hype that we’ve expected since his college days. While it’s unfair to consider a player overrated for putting high expectations on an 18-year-old kid that may have been rushed too quickly to the majors, that’s exactly what the majority of fans and journalists have done. Harper’s not only currently tied for second among the home-run leaders (10), he’s also fifth in RBI (25) and leads the league in walks (26), hitting .284/.426/.627 along the way. At this rate, a 30-home-run, 100-RBI season isn’t out of the question. Man, do I love baseball.

Surprising Starts

Nelson Cruz was the only player in the entire league to hit 40 home runs in 2014, so him hitting home runs in bulk isn’t exactly a surprise to us. However, the fact that Cruz is hitting .339 and has 14 home runs through Seattle’s first 29 games — wait, I thought the new ballpark was supposed to contain his power? I guess people forgot that half of their games are played on the road. His splits are astronomical and pretty comical. In 13 games at home, Cruz is batting .288 with three home runs, which isn’t exactly terrible. But, over the course of 16 road games, he’s sporting a .381 average with a whopping 11 home runs. It’s almost impossible for him to keep this pace up, but is another 40-home-run season out of the question? Not at all.

Dallas Keuchel made waves last season with the Houston Astros. Keuchel’s 2013 season was filled with forgettable performances that led to a 5.15 ERA through 31 games, including 16 starts. The following year, Keuchel managed to pitch 200 innings even, with five complete games, one shutout and a stellar 2.93 ERA, in what was considered an impressive breakout year. He’s currently trying to one-up his previous season, while simultaneously rocketing himself into Cy Young discussions. Through six starts, Keuchel holds a 3-0 record to go along with a .80 ERA and .76 WHIP. He’s also pitching deep into games and has only failed to pitch seven or more innings in one outing, where he struck out seven and allowed no earned runs. This pace is highly unstable, but doesn’t look too far-fetched after seeing his pitching come to life last season.

Paul Goldschmidt is as good as they come, which is why his current start doesn’t surprise me too much. We all know Goldschmidt is one of the better first basemen on the base paths and has the ability to steal double-digit bases. But, he’s currently on pace to have the first 20/20 season of his career. In 2012, he managed to hit 20 home runs and steal 18 bases, while hitting 36 home runs and stealing 15 bases in 2013. If he keeps hitting at least .333 at the plate, it wouldn’t be crazy to think Goldschmidt could log the first 30-home-run/20 stolen-base season since Mike Trout and Ryan Braun crushed both of those barriers in 2012. If his .352 average doesn’t impress you, maybe his .435 OBP will. Still not impressed? How about the fact that he’s currently eighth in runs scored, second in RBI, tied for sixth in home runs and tied for 17th in stolen bases, while still managing to keep the Arizona Diamondbacks relevant. Talk about the complete package.

 

Photo Credit: (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images North America)

Alex Cole

Alex Cole

Alex is a 23-year-old MLB writer from Phoenix, Arizona. He's a fan of the Phoenix Suns in the NBA and the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. You can contact Alex via email at ACole331133@yahoo.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @AlexColeMLBMiLB.

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