If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times — the MLB regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. A good start to the year guarantees players and teams nothing come September and October. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t still welcome it with open arms, though.
Baseball is a game defined by peaks and valleys, with the goal always being to maximize the peaks while minimizing the valleys as much as possible. The following 10 players — five hitters and five starting pitchers — have managed to maximize their peak level of play throughout March and April.
These are the players who you should watch if you’re participating in daily fantasy or betting on baseball. If you’re interested in either of these, you should check out this review of FanDuel which highlights the benefits of playing at this daily fantasy and sports book site.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
March/April Stats: 1.009 OPS, .240 ISO, 6 home runs, 18 RBI, good for a 172 wRC+ and 1.3 fWAR in 99 plate appearances
If there’s one image to describe Tim Anderson’s April, it’d probably be this:
LET'S GO HOME.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 27, 2019
Bat flip (or spike) aside, he’s off to a tremendous start. It’s almost as if he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder after the White Sox tried really hard to convince Manny Machado to come and play for them over the winter. Whether Anderson is on his way to a career year or not, some stats still need to come back down to reality a bit.
The young shortstop is entering May with baseball’s highest BABIP among qualified hitters (.435) despite producing just a 29.3% hard-hit rate. And after making strides in his plate discipline last season (career-high 5.0% walk rate), that number is back down to 2.0%. If the season ended today, that’d be a career-low mark.
Anderson is among the league leaders in chase rate (44.8%), but he’s also in the same spot with regard to swings in the strike zone (79.4%). The increased contact he’s experienced has helped him have a tremendous month at the plate.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
March/April Stats: 1.052 OPS, .271 ISO, 6 homers, 16 RBI, good for a 179 wRC+ and 1.9 fWAR in 119 plate appearances
Mike Trout making his way onto this list is a tad surprising only because his performance hasn’t been otherworldly since returning from a groin injury (.226/.414/.340 triple slash since April 15th). That just goes to show you how incredible he was over the season’s first couple weeks, though.
One of many things that sticks out with regard to Trout’s early-season performance is yet another drastic improvement in plate discipline. He leads the league with a 24.4% walk rate, which would be a new career high, as would his current 11.8% strikeout rate. How has the outfielder done this? Well, he’s stopped swinging at balls out of the strike zone.
Mike Trout has been thrown 139 pitches clearly outside the strike zone this season. He's only chased *four* times. pic.twitter.com/Y9re45JD5W
— David Adler (@_dadler) April 30, 2019
The dude is just a machine. His 33.5% swing rate would be the lowest of his career if the season ended today, but his 92.2% contact rate, which includes a 96.4% clip inside the strike zone, would both be career-best marks. When combined with a 43.1% hard-hit rate and just a 31.9% ground-ball rate, good things are going to happen rather continuously.
Hunter Dozier, Kansas City Royals
March/April Stats: 1.133 OPS, .337 ISO, 7 homers, 17 RBI, good for a 195 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR in 103 plate appearances
For a team that’s in the beginning stages of a rebuild and entering May with a 9-20 record, Hunter Dozier is the kind of bright spot Royals fans need. Through his first 409 MLB plate appearances, Dozier put together a -0.9 fWAR with just 11 home runs. As you can see from his above stats, he’s already surpassed or is poised to surpass those numbers in short order.
The 27-year-old’s plate-discipline stats have also improved quite a bit (50.1% swing rate in ’18, 37.0% so far in ’19), but there’s been a significant shift in his batted-ball profile. His current 46.4% hard-hit rate isn’t much different than last year (44.9%), but his 31.9% ground-ball rate (41.3% in ’18) and 49.3% fly-ball rate (36.6% in ’18) sure have changed.
This increase in fly balls has also been accompanied by a drop in infield flies — after posting an 8.6% rate last year, that number is currently sitting at 0.0%.
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
March/April Stats: 1.264 OPS, .451 ISO, 14 homers, 34 RBI, good for a 214 wRC+ and 2.4 fWAR in 124 plate appearances
Now that we’re in the top two, there are no more surprises happening. We recently talked about Christian Yelich’s very strong (albeit lopsided) start to 2019, but it’s worth talking about again. The biggest change has been an increase in fly balls for the reigning NL MVP — after hitting them at a 23.5% clip last year, he’s currently doing so at a 41.0% clip to go along with a 56.6% hard-hit rate.
That increase helped him accomplish this feat.
Yelich has proven to be an equal opportunity masher throughout the season’s first month, too. He’s seen six different pitches at least 24 times so far (four-seamer, slider, changeup, sinker, curveball, and cutter). Of those six offerings, the only pitch he hasn’t produced a 200-plus wRC+ against is the changeup, which is a measly 188 (insert sarcasm here).