The White Sox' Jose Abreu has been all the team has imagined, and much more. After homering off of the Rays' David Price yesterday, Abreu took sole possession of the Major League lead in home runs with ten and extended his record for most home runs in the month of April by a rookie. His two-run homer gave him 31 RBI, which gives him another rookie April record, passing the newest member of the 500 home run club, Albert Pujols, who had 27 RBI in 2001.
Now let us break down Abreu's torrid start. At his pace, if Abreu received just 600 at bats, he would hit 58 home runs and drive in 180 RBI. Now if Abreu just receives the 503 at bats he needs in order to qualify for the batting crown (162*3.1), he would still hit 48 home runs and drive in 151 RBI. Talk about a fantastic start for a rookie. The record number of home runs for a rookie is 49, by Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics. In order to break the record number of RBI for a rookie, Abreu would have to top the great Ted Williams, who drove in 145 runs in 149 games for the Red Sox in 1939.
"You know, I go to the field to play baseball, help the team," Abreu said through a translator. "I really don't go looking for records, but they're definitely welcome."
Abreu signed a six-year, $68 million contract with the White Sox last October. It is very early, but it definitely looks like the contract might pay off. We all know about Yasiel Puig's fantastic rookie season last year; could Abreu's be better? Could Jose Abreu have the best rookie season ever? There are only six players who have at least six home runs and 15 RBI before May 1 in their first season in the Major Leagues (h/t to CBSSports.com). Abreu has more home runs and RBI than all of them.
I personally have no idea where the limits are for Jose Abreu. Abreu could easily hit over 40 home runs and drive in over 100 RBI. All I know is where he has been, rounding the bases in an unbelievable month of April. Abreu could be one of baseball's primer power hitters. He could have the greatest power-hitting by a rookie ever. And when you think of all the greatest power hitters (Aaron, Ruth, Mays, etc.), you know how amazing he has been this season. And how amazing he could be.
On December 3, the Cincinnati Reds completed a three-team trade with the Diamondbacks and Rays. As a part of the trade, the Reds traded catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Tampa Bay Rays, and received David Holmberg from the Arizona Diamondbacks. While this trade seems insignificant, Hanigan and then 25 year old Devin Mesoraco split the catching duties in 2013, with Hanigan taking 66 starts. With the trade, the Reds ensured that Mesoraco would be the starting catcher in 2014.
Fast forward about four months, in March, when the Reds began playing Spring Training games. Mesoraco went 8-for-29 with 3 runs batted in during his Spring Training tenure, but had to begin the 2014 season on the disabled list with a side injury. The Reds would have to be playing without their starting catcher. Mesoraco would have to wait to begin playing baseball.
Devin Mesoraco headed to the Reds' Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, on Thursday, April 3 to begin his rehab assignment. He caught three games, but only got on base twice, on walks. It turns out that would be the last time that anyone would be able to shut Mesoraco down, and keep him in a "mini-slump." He drove in one run, but nobody could have expected that he would begin his Major League season as hot as he has been.
Mesoraco appeared in his first regular season game against the St. Louis Cardinals on April 8. He hit two doubles, scored a run, and caught an entire game of Reds pitching. It turns out that would be only the beginning of troubles pitchers would have facing Mesoraco. Eight games later, and Mesoraco has posted an average higher than what his average was on April 8. He is 17-for-33 (.515) with three home runs and 11 runs batted in so far in his nine games.
If that wasn't all, Mesoraco has yet to be hitless in a game so far this season. He has a hit in all nine of his games, including six multi-hit games, and nine extra-base hits. If he qualified (with more at bats), Mesoraco would lead the National League in average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. That just goes to show how hot he has been to open up his 2014 campaign.
The Reds can only hope that Mesoraco keeps up his pace. It is super unlikely that Mesoraco ends his season with a .515 batting average. But for now, the Reds decision to make Mesoraco their starting catcher seems genius. Of course, until he has a bad game. But he might just have to go back to Double-A to do that.
This article could not have been possible without Hayden Wetmore (@Hay_Hayden on Twitter). He pointed Mesoraco's hot start out to me, and told me to write about it.
On a day where Andrew Cashner's one-hitter remained baseball's only complete game, three pitchers went the distance on Wednesday. Let us take a look at all three.
Johnny Cueto vs. Pirates
Reds' ace Johnny Cueto went the distance against the Pirates yesterday, allowing three hits while striking out twelve. He allowed only one extra base hit. Of his 107 pitches, 71 went for strikes. Cueto has not thrown a complete game since June 12, 2012 against the Cleveland Indians. The 28 year old Cueto loves facing the Pirates, as he is 14-4 with a 2.22 ERA and a 0.972 WHIP with three complete games and two shutouts against them, the most against any team. Two of Cueto's three career shutouts have come at Great American Ballpark. The Reds beat the Pirates, 4-0.
Julio Teheran at Phillies
Prior to a Ryan Howard single in the bottom of the fifth inning, Braves pitcher Julio Teheran was perfect. And with only one run of support, Teheran had to be, or at least close to. He fired a 115-pitch three hitter, while striking out four Phillies, and walking none. He allowed two hits following Howard's, to Carlos Ruiz and Jimmy Rollins. And with a groundout from Chase Utley, Teheran was able to close it out. Teheran's complete game shutout was the first of his career in both categories. Teheran is 2-2 with a 3.90 ERA and a 0.867 WHIP against the Phillies all time. The Braves bested the Phillies, 1-0.
Cliff Lee vs. Braves
Since his eight run outing versus Texas, Cliff Lee has only allowed four runs in three starts. Yesterday's was arguably his best. Although Lee allowed eleven hits, none went for extra bases. He went the distance after throwing 128 pitches, the most since April 25, 2013, when he threw 122. Ryne Sandberg, the Phillies manager, kept Lee in the game perhaps past the end of his line. Lee was able to come through, although he did have to take the loss, due to an Evan Gattis home run in the fourth. Lee has three complete games against the Braves, tied with the Angels for most complete games against one team. He has a 2.65 ERA and a 1.003 in 16 starts versus Atlanta. The Phillies fell to the Braves, 1-0.
On April 15, 1947, the Boston Braves were playing the Dodgers in Brooklyn. In the bottom of the first, Jackie Robinson stepped to the plate against the Braves' Johnny Sain. Robinson grounded out to third base, and the rest is history. He was the first African American to ever play Major League Baseball. As for the rest of the game, Robinson went 0-for-3 with a run scored.
Every April 15 since 2004, Major League Baseball celebrates "Jackie Robinson Day," which is a day completely dedicated to Robinson and his achievements. Every player will wear number 42 (Jackie's number), and for the first time ever, there are no active players wearing 42 on a regular basis. That stopped with the retirement of Mariano Rivera in 2013, whom was grandfathered in when the number was retired from the entire Major Leagues in 1997.
Robinson was a fantastic player over his ten year career with the Dodgers. He hit a .311/.409/.883 slash line with 137 home runs, 734 RBI, and 197 stolen bases over his career. Robinson drove in 124 runs and stole 37 bases in 1949, which was arguably his best season ever.
Now today, on April 15, 2014, celebrate and embrace the toughness of Robinson, and how his perseverance changed the baseball world forever. I really enjoyed watching the movie 42, which showed Robinson's struggles and how he got to the Major Leagues. Even if your favorite team may be rained out, just enjoy one of baseball's greatest moments, the debut of the world-renowned Jackie Robinson.
As ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted yesterday, the Diamondbacks were 4-9 heading into their game and are viewed by rival executives as candidates for early change. It did not get much better after that. The Diamondbacks were shutout until the fifth inning, and after bringing it to a three run game in the ninth, Kenley Jansen shut the door. They are now 4-10. It does not look good for the Diamondbacks' front office. But should they really be making changes this early? Let us investigate.
In general manager Kevin Towers' first season with the Diamondbacks, he lead the team to the National League West title in 2011, just one year after finishing at the bottom of the division with 97 losses. Since the 94 win campaign in 2011, the Diamondbacks are 162-162, finishing 81-81 in both of the past two seasons, even after many picked them to do much better. But now, the Diamondbacks, at 4-10, are falling fast. They need a serious hot streak to get back on the top of the division.
Towers moves in the past offseason show the urgency of the situation. The Diamondbacks have the highest payroll in team history. They have committed $112.2 million to 29 players, including a combined $14.3 million to their two biggest additions, pitcher Bronson Arroyo and outfielder Mark Trumbo. Both Arroyo and Trumbo seemed to be fantastic deals in the offseason. The Diamondbacks were able to bolster their pitching staff with a starter and add to their lineup with a right-handed power hitter.
Trumbo has done his job. He is hitting .236 (13-for-55) with 5 home runs, which leads the National League, and 15 RBI. The Diamondbacks expected him to do just that; hit for a low average, but with some serious pop. Arroyo has allowed five runs in 9.1 innings pitched, which may need to improve in order to stockpile wins. However, this has just come in two starts, which is a extraordinarily small sample size.
The Diamondbacks extended Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson in February. These two have kept them in the mix, and did lead them to the division crown in 2011. But, now that the Diamondbacks are not playing well, and are on a two year playoff drought, some changes may have to be made in order to get the talented roster to perform.
Towers and Gibson should be waited out. Almost any team many can lose 10 of their last 14 at any point in the season without a whimper from anyone. Since the Diamondbacks are starting off poorly, more people, including many baseball executives, have taken notice. Following the month of April (where they finished 13-13), it took the 2013 Dodgers until July to get back to .500. They waited out then. The circumstances are not the same, but the Dodgers waited out Mattingly and their team. And it paid off.
In summary, if the Diamondbacks cannot improve by the middle of the season, then we should worry about the futures of Kevin Towers and perhaps Kirk Gibson. But for now, it could just be a bad stretch that they need to shake off. It could take one game before they get rolling. With a small sample size, practically anything can happen, including a winning season for the Astros. All joking aside, the Diamondbacks just need to be waited out, then changes can be made in their front office.