The first month of baseball: a few surprises
Among the biggest surprises from the (lockout-shortened) month of April in baseball has been the abysmal record (currently 3-22, or .120) of the Cincinnati Reds. Baseball Digest had the Reds pegged to finish in third place this year, but that seems extremely unlikely right now. Aging star Joey Votto is currently batting .122, almost exactly the same as his team's win-loss record. At age 38, he is a contemporary of recently-retired Nationals' star Ryan Zimmerman. Maybe Joey should have followed Ryan's example. Only the Arizona Diamondbacks have a lower team batting average (.190) than the Reds (.203) do. As for pitching, the Reds have by far the worst team ERA: 6.86.
Baseball Digest also forecast that the Chicago White Sox would win the AL Central Division, which is currently led by the Minnesota Twins. How long can that situation last? I don't even remember the last time the Twins were postseason contenders. The White Sox have won four games in a row, and I got to watch them beat the Red Sox in Fenway Park on Apple TV+ this evening. The Chisox' ace pitcher Lucas Giolito has actually been eclipsed by a slightly younger (age 26) pitcher named Dylan Cease. (And desist?)
Another big surprise is that the Boston Red Sox -- picked by Baseball Digest to win the AL East -- are now in last place, behind the Baltimore Orioles!!! That inevitably leaves the field open for the Yankees to dominate the division, and they currently lead the majors with an 18-7 (.720) record. Payroll, payroll, payroll... But close behind are the perennially underfunded yet overachieving Tampa Bay Rays, who are now 16-10 (.615).
To me it's no surprise that the Los Angeles Angels are in first place, but for some reason Baseball Digest had them pegged at fourth place. Anthony Rendon, who signed a fat contract with them after leaving the Nationals following their World Series triumph in 2019, is recovering from an injury-plagued 2021 season.
Likewise, the big lead in the NL East currently enjoyed by the New York Mets is no surprise to me, but Baseball Digest had them finishing in second place behind the Atlanta Braves. It's pretty clear that their forecasts were made before the 2022 rosters had been finalized -- another side-effect of the MLB lockout that postponed all the hot-stove wheeling and dealing until mid-March. Any team with both Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer in their pitching rotation is almost guaranteed to make a deep postseason run in October.
Finally, the Milwaukee Brewers are ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, and the L.A. Dodgers have a slim lead over the San Diego Padres in the NL West. The Giants have fallen into fourth place, but they're only three games behind the Dodgers.
The Nationals' s-l-o-w rebuilding
The Washington Nationals are also in last place, likewise badly underachieving, but they are at least showing occasional glimpses of a brighter future. Believe it or not, the Nationals briefly had the second-highest team batting average in the majors, and are now tied for third (at .254) with the Cleveland Guardians. Their slugging star thus far is first-baseman Josh Bell, who is tied for fourth place in batting average (.348) in the National League. Last year's second-place MVP candidate Juan Soto has gotten off to a slow start, and for a couple days actually had a lower batting average than perennial under-achiever (?) Victor Robles, but has improved recently. Robles started to improve recently, and in the Nats' memorable 14-4 triumph over the Giants in San Francisco on April 29 (ending an awful 8-game losing streak), he went 4 for 5 at the plate. The Nats took two of three games in Oracle Park, knocking the Giants out of first place. That was a big surprise!
Pitching is another matter, however: the Nationals' 5.03 team ERA is exceeded only by the Cincinnati Reds. (See above.) That number is artificially inflated, however, by a few bad outings of Patrick Corbin and Erick Fedde, both of whom have shown much improvement lately. Because of the lack of run support, however, Corbin has yet to register a win. He actually pitched a complete game (8 innings) in a loss to the Rockies in Denver on Wednesday. Josiah Gray (acquired from the Dodgers in the big trade for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner last year) had a couple rough starts, but is showing great promise now. Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross are both recovering from injuries and/or surgeries last year, and may be available to pitch later this month, finally.
The Washington Nationals page has been updated with roster and salary information as well as data for April, when they went 7-16. (They are now 9-18.) As a reflection of the extreme roster turnover, there are photos for only four of the nine starting players on that page. (Since the National League has adopted the Designated Hitter rule this year, I will need to modify that starting-team graphic to include the Nats' DH, Nelson Cruz.) Tonight the Nationals begin a three-game series in Anaheim, after losing two out of three games to the Rockies in Denver.
Stadiums by class
Another one of my favorite web pages was recently updated: Stadiums by class. The tentative classification of "Postmodern" stadiums (the recently-built ones that were formerly classified as "Neoclassical" but don't even pretend to harken back to the early 20th century "glory days") has been definitively confirmed. Among the enhancements to that page, there is a new "mass rollover effect" instantly showing the baseball vs. football configurations for all 14 dual-use stadiums, which will provide delight for many a stadium geek. That technique was previously done for the "football stadiums used for baseball" classification, which now includes (Baltimore's) Memorial Stadium and (Montreal's) Olympic Stadium. That was done at the suggestion of Angel Amezquita. I'll probably do likewise for the classic-era stadiums as well, since all of them hosted football games at one point or another. Another change on that page is that the MLB lifetime of each stadium is now shown under each one's thumbnail image, with a gray background to indicates which ones have been demolished. Enjoy!
The unusually intense spring semester is over, allowing me time (at last) to get back to refining stadium diagrams, along with other website maintenance tasks. I'll also be able to respond to recent e-mail inquiries and acknowledge the monetary support kindly extended by several fans.