MLB

MLB April awards: The best and worst of the month, featuring Braves’ Ronald Acuña and Twins’ Byron Buxton

The first month of the 2021 MLB season is freshly behind us, and that means it’s time to take a look back over those first four weeks for purposes of enriching, life-affirming internet URL clicks. So come with us, won’t you?

We’ll conduct this retrospective by handing out some nonexistent hardware and generally declaring the best/most notable/most memorable baseball phenomena from the month that was. Remember that this can only end if it first begins, so let us do that — i.e., begin. 

Note: All stats, team records, standings, and references thereof are current as of Thursday morning.

The Buccos were universally expected to be a superfund site in the standings this season, thanks largely to ongoing roster disinvestment. Given that they won at just a .317 clip during the abbreviated 2020 season and then bid adieu to useful contributors like Joe Musgrove, Josh Bell, and Jameson Taillon via trade. Their lone major league free agent addition? That would be lefty starter Tyler Anderson. As a consequence of all that plus the low baseline, it wasn’t unusual to see the 2021 Pirates projected for a loss tally well north of 100. That may still happen, but at this writing Derek Shelton’s squadron is a thoroughly respectable 12-12 and only a half-game back of second place in the NL Central. No, they’re not likely to continue playing .500 ball over the long haul, but thus far Pittsburgh has majorly defied expectations in a good way. 

Also in the discussion: Kansas City Royals; Yermin Mercedes, White Sox

The Mets swung a blockbuster trade with Cleveland to acquire the All-Star shortstop this past offseason, and not long before Opening Day they signed him to a $341 million extension. Suffice it to say, expectations for Lindor in Queens were swelling leading into the 2021 season. After the first month, however, he’s undershot those expectations by a grim margin. Right now, Lindor owns a slash line of .203/.317/.261 with just two extra-base hits in 19 games. To put those numbers in perspective, Lindor coming into the 2021 season had a career line of .285/.346/.488. Obviously, Lindor is going to find his level at some point, and the defense and base-running remain elite. Until the bat comes around, though, he’ll likely keep hearing the boos

Also in the discussion: Minnesota Twins; New York Yankees; Eugenio Suarez, Reds; Kyle Hendricks, Cubs; Marcell Ozuna, Braves

Buxton, when healthy, has long been in the elite class of defensive center fielders, and he’s also perhaps the fastest player in MLB, which helps him add big value on the bases. This season, he’s added stratospheric production at the plate to the mix. Presently, Buxton is slashing a patently absurd .438/.471/.938, which comes to a no less absurd OPS+ of 304. That kind of production would put him in the April MVP discussion even if he weren’t an top-of-the-scale fielder at an up-the-middle position.

While this particular exercise isn’t concerned with what is or isn’t sustainable, Buxton’s tremendously strong batted ball indicators suggest he’s going to continue producing at a high level

Also in the discussion: Mike Trout, Angels; Yermin Mercedes, White Sox; Shohei Ohtani, Angels; Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays; Nick Solak, Rangers; Yuli Gurriel, Astros

Of further note is that three of the names above — Buxton, Trout, and Mercedes — are still hitting above .400 for the season. It’s way too early to start paying serious attention to that sort of thing, but that would be a nifty little subplot should one of them make a serious charge at the hallowed mark that hasn’t been reached since 1941. 

April NL MVP: Ronald Acuña Jr., Braves

The Braves’ young star is batting .341/.441/.718 on the season. He’s tied for the major league lead in home runs and runs scored, and he leads the NL in OPS, OPS+, slugging, and total bases. On the baserunning front, Acuña is 3 for 3 in steals, he’s taken the extra base an impressive 73 percent of the time, and he’s yet to hit into a double play. On top of all that, he remains tremendous with the glove. 

Also in the discussion: Jacob deGrom, Mets; Bryce Harper, Phillies; Justin Turner, Dodgers; Carson Kelly, Diamondbacks; Omar Narvaez, Brewers; J.T. Realmuto, Phillies; Buster Posey, Giants; Yadier Molina, Cardinals (yes, it’s been a good month for NL catchers)

April AL Cy Young: Danny Duffy, Royals

Duffy hasn’t logged quite as many innings as some of his competitors for this fake award, but it’s hard to look away from that 0.39 ERA and 4.50 K/BB ratio. While Duffy has a five-pitch repertoire, he throws the fastball or slider almost two-thirds of the time. Opposing hitters are batting just .189 and .174, respectively, against those two offerings this season. 

Also in the discussion: Carlos Rodón, White Sox; John Means, Orioles; Tyler Glasnow, Rays; Gerrit Cole, Yankees; Shane Bieber, Indians

April NL Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, Mets

DeGrom carries on as the most dominant starting pitcher in all baseball. He’s been that for some time, and this season he’s added a touch of fastball velo to his already devastating repertoire. In 35 innings, he’s struck out 59 batters against just four walks and pitched to a 0.51 ERA with no unearned runs allowed. In matters related, deGrom has averaged 98.9 mph with his four-seamer. 

Also in the discussion: Joe Musgrove, Padres; Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Trevor Rogers, Marlins; Anthony DeSclafani, Giants; Corbin Burnes, Brewers; Brandon Woodruff, Brewers; Tyler Mahle, Reds

Play of the year, April edition: Mookie Betts

Honestly, you can argue that Randy Arozarena‘s diving snare was slightly more impressive. Maybe you can argue the same about Clint Frazier‘s similar play. Once you bake in the importance of the moment, however, it’s got to be Mookie Betts’ walk-off catch against the Padres on April 18. Dig it: 

Bottom of the ninth, two on, two out, Dodgers up by two, Tommy Pham lines one to center, and Betts preserves the win. If he doesn’t make that catch, the game is tied and Pham might be in scoring position. Throw in the tensions of this burgeoning rivalry, and, yeah, that’s your play of the year so far.  



 Source link

Back to top button
SoundCloud To Mp3