Top Ten A. L. Performances In April

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Top Ten A. L. Performances In April

By Administrator | May 1, 2007

April is now history… and as we all know, there were numerous noteworthy performances in the season’s first month:

Number 10: The Texas Tango…

Just as the tango is a venerable old dance, the Texas Rangers turned to two respected old(er) ballplayers to salvage something close to a respectable month in April [although 10-15 isn’t exactly ‘respectable’ and the franchise doesn’t seem to understand that it won’t become a contender until it invests HEAVILY in some pitching].

In the interim, 39-year old Kenny Lofton is leading the American League in stolen bases with eleven (while hitting an acceptable .262 with a disappointing .323 OBP)… and while Lofton is busy sprinting around the bases, 38-year-old Sammy Sosa has been busy jogging around the diamond. Sosa is tied for third in the American League with seven home runs… and while his batting average was only .244 for the month, he has hit .348 over the last week and has shown signs of heating up with the warmer weather.

Number Nine: ‘Rey’ Reyes

We’ll get to King Felix in a little while, but for now let’s concentrate on the league’s ‘other’ king, Al Reyes. The Tampa Bay Devil Rays won eleven games last month… and Reyes saved nine of them. Maybe not so surprising unless you consider that he had only fifteen saves in 309 career appearances over eleven seasons previously… and that he didn’t even PLAY major league baseball last year. And it’s not like the nine saves have been ‘cheap’—he has a 1.50 ERA and a 0.58 WHIP.

Number Eight: The Tribe Is On The Warpath

One of the two team performances to be recognized on this list, the Cleveland Indians earned recognition by jumping out to a 14-8 mark in the highly-competitive AL Central… and the record would have been that much better if not for a series meltdown against three Yankees rookie pitchers in the middle of the month.

In compiling the league’s second best record for April, the Indians went 6-2 against key division rivals (4-2 vs CWS and 2-0 vs Minnesota), and overcame bad weather—losing a full series against Seattle (snowed out) and relocating the subsequent ‘home’ series against the Angels (played in Milwaukee). The team was led in the batter’s box by Victor Martinez (.386 BA) and on the mound by C C Sabathia (3-0, 3.18).

Number Seven: Youth Being Served At Second Base

Statistically, second base has been the thinnest position in the league for several seasons… but behind several young stars-in-the-making it is quickly becoming one of the deepest.

The best of the bunch is Texas Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler… whose arrival was much-anticipated in Arlington, but who is proving to be MUCH better than advertised. Lost amidst all of the hubbub created by Alex Rodriguez was the month put together by Kinsler: .298, with 9 HR, 22 RBI and 4 stolen bases.

A converted shortstop, Tampa Bay’s BJ Upton may be a liability defensively but he has always swung the lumber… as is evident by his production line for April: .365, 5 HR, 20 RBI, and 5 Stolen Bases. Toronto’s Aaron Hill (.313 / 5 / 20), LAA’s Howie Kendrick (.327/2/4/2) and Seattle’s Jose Lopez (.323/3/8) also had good starts .

If Josh Barfield ((CLE), Robinson Cano (NYY), and Dustin Pedroia (BOS) ever get it together, the young second basemen in the A. L. will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the year—on the field AND on the fantasy ledger.

Number Six: Papelbon Perfect

The Red Sox had him in the rotation for most of Spring Training but blinked when Joel Pineiro and other options at closer proved ineffective… thank God!

Jonathan Papelbon was a perfect 10-for-10 in April save opportunities as a rookie in 2006… and thus far in 2007, he has proven that the sophomore slump doesn’t effect every ballplayer (knock on wood!). Before Mariano Rivera had recorded his first save of the season, Papelbon was already 8-for-8 this year… but it is not just that he is 8-for-8, it is HOW he has done it.

A 0.00 ERA.

2 hits and 5 walks in 9.1 inning pitched—a 0.75 WHIP and .067 batting average against.

15 strikeouts in those nine innings pitched.

He went 35-for-41 last year (and won four of the six games he blew)… with a 0.92 ERA. And 2007 is off to an equally auspicious start. Ladies and gentlemen, if the torch hasn’t been passed from Rivera to Papelbon yet, Rivera is holding the torch out and Papelbon has reached out for it… it is just a matter of time.

His snear on the mound looks almost funny—because he has such a boyish look… but his ‘stuff’ is VERY, VERY SERIOUS. Opposing batters don’t get to laugh when stepping into the batter’s box against him. If you don’t get to see him very often, he is amazing… and he IS the heir apparent to Mo’.

Number Five: The King Held Court

On April 11th, Felix Hernandez left the American League his calling card…

He faced off against the Boston Red Sox and their new import, Daisuke Matsuzaka… and while most of the pre-game attention on that evening was focused on Dice-K, and his impending face-off against Ichiro Suzuki, ALL of the post-game focus was on “The King”.

King Felix threw a one-hitter against the Red Sox in Fenway Park that evening… while walking two and striking out six batters. He was DOMINANT. The performance was, hopefully, a harbinger of things to come… although the 21-year-old Hernandez was shut down with a forearm injury later that week. [NOTE: he is scheduled to return to the rotation this coming weekend against The Evil Empire]

When he was shut down for a couple of weeks, he was 2-1, with a 1.56 ERA, a 0.69 WHIP and a .107 batting average against. Here’s hoping we get to watch him pitch for many years to come…

Number Four: Beckett Becoming An Ace Against Clubs

Before last season, the Red Sox traded the soon-to-be 2006 NL Rookie of the Year (Hanley Ramirez) and a rookie pitcher who threw a no-hitter (Anibal Sanchez) in exchange for would-be ace, Josh Beckett… whose first season in the AL East was somewhat forgettable (16 wins, but a dismal 5.01 ERA). Boston fans started to questions the wisdom of trading the young Ramirez…

…but those questions seem to be fading with each Beckett outing in 2007.

Beckett is one of only three Red Sox pitchers to win five games in April… the other two were guys named Babe Ruth and Pedro Martinez. If the 26-year-old righy puts up numbers anywhere close to those other two guys, people will be asking: Hanley who? Beckett’s other April numbers were also quite remarkable… unlike last year when the Boston bats earned him his wins, this year he has earned his own. He has handcuffed opposing hitters and become an ace against the other clubs in the A. L. Unbeaten at 5-0, he has a 2.48 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP… opposing batters are hitting only .218 against him… and while he frequently had problems with his control in 2006, he has walked only seven batters in 32+ innings pitched thus far in 2007.

Number Three: The Dominican Dynamic Duo

Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz.

Need I say more?

Guerrero has started 2007 on fire: .366, with 7 HR, 23 RBI and 1 stolen base.

Ortiz isn’t far behind at .297, with 7 HR and 22 RBI… and if not for an exaggerated defensive shift that has robbed him of at least a half dozen hits, he too would be hitting above .350.

At the end of the year, it seems likely that three Latino’s will finish 1-2-3 in the AL MVP balloting… these two guys will be in the mix. The third guy in the mix is Number One on this Top Ten list.

Number Two: The Red Sox Ride Pitching To League’s Best Record

Boston’s ‘Boys of Summer’ have the best record in baseball at 16-8… and, importantly, they went 5-1 against their arch-rival (the NY Yankees). They have the largest division lead in the major leagues (4 games)… and in spite of the fact that they play in the AL East and have faced the Yankees (baseball’s highest scoring team) a half-dozen times in the first month, they allowed the fewest runs in the major leagues (84, tied with the NY Mets).

And they have done all of this with three of their biggest run producers hitting WELL BELOW their career averages… Manny Ramirez (.202), Coco Crisp (.235) and Jason Varitek (.239) have all had miserable offensive starts to the season. Only one starter has a batting average above .300—Mike Lowell (.314… 4 hr, 20 RBI and 8 doubles). Free agent signees J D Drew (.278) and Julio Lugo (.256) have yet to show signs of being the players for whom the team is shelling out $22 million per year.

Yet the Red Sox are still at 16-8—thanks to its pitching. These are NOT your daddy’s Boston Red Sox!

Josh Beckett (see above), Curt Schilling (3-1, 3.27), and Tim Wakefield (2-3, 2.59) have been outstanding… while Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-2, 4.36) has pitched very well except for one inning in each outing. Additionally, the bullpen has been phenomenal… Jonathan Papelbon (see above) has led the way… but he has been joined by the other new Japanese import, Hideki Okajima (1 save, 0.71 ERA), and West Coast import, Brendan Donnelly (0.00 ERA) in setting the tone for the ‘pen.

Number One: Alex Rodriguez Silences Bronx Cheers

Controversy swirled around A-Rod right from the start of Spring Training.

The baseball world talked endlessly about the love-hate relationship he has had with Yankees fans (and some teammates)… the ‘out clause’ in his contract, his agent (Scott Boras), and his agent’s client who exercised his own ‘out clause’ this past winter (J D Drew)… and so the pundits wondered aloud: will he opt out.

And while A-Rod said ‘no’ and proclaimed he wants toi stay in The Big Apple, very few people believed him… and even fewer people believe him now. He is well on his way to putting up huge numbers and earning millions of dollars above and beyond what his current contract—already the richest in baseball history—will provide for him. It says here he will be in a Red Sox or Angels uniform on Opening Day, 2008.

A-Rod is hitting .355, with 14 HR and 34 RBI on May 1st… tying the major league records for HR in April and missing out on the record for the most RBI by a single ribbie (35, Juan Gonzalez). He missed out on both records because he did not have a single HR or RBI in the last five games of the month…

…but over the last three years May has EASILY been A-Rods BEST month of the year, so his quest for a new home uniform for 2008 begins anew tonight amid high hopes – and higher expectations.

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