The Major League Baseball season is underway, and there have been pleasant surprises and massive disappointments so far. Let’s take a look at some of the big storylines.
Shohei Ohtani is the real deal
The scouts probably got it wrong when they said that Ohtani couldn’t adjust to big league pitching. After a very rough Spring Training (2-20 with 10 strikeouts at the plate, 27.00 ERA) questions swirled around whether or not he would start the season in the minor leagues to make the adjustments.
Then he went on to have three straight games with a home run, including a 449-footer off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber. On top of that, he had a strong performance on the rubber against Oakland (where a three-run homer by Matt Chapman was really the only blemish over his six-inning start with six strikeouts). He’s only going to get better from here.
Side note, he pitched on Sunday. It was nothing special. He only went seven shutout innings with 12, yes, 12 strikeouts while retiring the first 19 batters he faced. And here’s a tidbit of history for you you: he became the third pitcher in the modern era to hit home runs in three straight games and strike out at least 10 in a game, joining Babe Ruth and Ken Brett as the only other players to do so. Lesser known fact, Ohtani became the first player since Jim Shaw in 1919 to record two winning decisions and hit three homers in his team’s first 10 games.
What about Didi?
The big talk (pun intended) surrounding the Yankees this offseason was the pairing of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. And while they have put up respectable power numbers (on base plus slugging percentages of .831 and .930 respectively), the focus has shied away from shortstop Didi Gregorius. Gregorius leads the team in home runs and runs batted in, and nine of his 11 hits on the season have gone for extra bases. On top of that, his plate discipline has been through the roof, having struck out just three times and walked eight times over the first nine games. Unreal for a guy who was only figured to be a stopgap solution in replacing a legend in Derek Jeter.
The Mets have met the Meds
The Mets had their 2017 season ravaged by injuries, as the majority of their Opening Day lineup spent a good portion of the season on the disabled list. David Wright is still dealing with his spinal stenosis diagnosis, and the only starter to pitch 200 innings for the season was Jacob deGrom.
In what turned out to be a in absolute disaster in terms of communication throughout the organization regarding player health, New York knew that they needed to try something different. Over the offseason, they cleaned out their medical staff and started over. They hired Jim Cavallini, who served in a similar role in the United States Army, into a newly created role called director of performance and sport science. They fired head trainer Ray Ramirez and replaced him with Brian Chicklo.
The way-too-early returns for this turnover have made the Mets a formidable adversary to the Washington Nationals. If that rotation can not only stay healthy, but return better than before, they have a shot to challenge Washington in the division.
Big trades not paying dividends in San Francisco
The Giants were looking to boost their offensive output in a year that saw them finish near the bottom in terms of homers and score just under four runs per game. They made a huge trade with Tampa Bay to acquire third baseman Evan Longoria, then followed that move with a trade with Pittsburgh for outfielder Andrew McCutchen. Both figured to add a boost to a lineup that needed one.
So far, that has not happened. Longoria has two hits for the entire season. Just two. That is unacceptable for a guy you agreed to take on for the next four or five years at $22 million a year. McCutchen needed a 6-7 performance in a game on April 7 to boost his average over .200. Now slow starts do happen, but when Joe Panik, who has 30 career homers, is the only source of offense in the first four games, there is a problem.