The MLB has only completed one month of the regular season and there are already a stack of stories that deserve the attention of all fans. Whether it be aces on the mound, winning streaks, or rookie sensations these are the stories that made April 2021 special.
1) Pitchers making history
Pitching has been on full display this season and what makes it especially noticeable is that hitters are only hitting .232 which made this the third worst April batting average in MLB history behind only 1943 (.223) and 1968 (.230). Here are the pitchers who gave hitters nightmares.
Corbin Burnes has been a decent performer in the early years of his career with the Milwaukee Brewers, but he has been better than most would have expected in 2021. In his five starts so far this season he has made history by striking out 49 and giving up zero walks. The previous record of most strikeouts without allowing a walk to start the season by a starting pitcher was Adam Wainwright of the St. Louis Cardinals with 35 in 2013. He is chasing reliever Kenley Jansen of the Los Angeles Dodgers who holds the record among all pitchers at 51. Burnes is currently on the injured list, but he will be hunting this record as soon as he returns.
It is only right that Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets won the Pitcher of the Month for the National League to start the season as he continues to fool hitters all day long. In his five starts he has pitched 35 innings, allowed five runs, walked four, struck out 59 and has an opponent batting average of .136. He holds a 0.51 ERA bringing his career ERA in April to 2.52 which, remarkably, is the best April ERA for any pitcher in the history of baseball. Sadly, he is 2-2 on the season because he has not gotten any run support which ultimately led to him getting the loss when they lost to the Boston Red Sox 1-0. The run support has diminished his success on the mound, but he is not letting that stop him from going out and doing what no other pitcher can do. It is incredible what deGrom has done so far in his career and the way he is pitching it looks as if he wants his third Cy Young (2018 & 2019).
2) Oakland Athletics 13 game win streak
In a shortened 2020 season the Oakland Athletics finished with a 36-24 record which helped them to claim the AL West title for the first time since 2013. After taking down the powerful Chicago White Sox in the new wild card round they were unable to perform at their highest level in the Division Series against the Houston Astros who took the series 3-1. Following this disappointing finish to the season they hoped to come out in 2021 with a full 162 game season ahead ready to dominate.
Unfortunately, in their first eight games they went 1-7. In those eight games they scored an average of 2.38 runs per game and only hit three home runs. The only way a team could win with such poor run support is with perfect pitching, but their pitching was the exact opposite. Their pitching staff gave up an average of 7.38 runs per game including eight or more runs in their first five games. To dive even deepering into their pitching, their starters made it difficult for their team to be successful. They gave up an average of 4.25 runs per game, which with an offense scoring just over half of that per game gave them little hope from the outset. They were barely able to make it past the halfway mark of the game with an average of 4.83 innings pitched. All of these statistics would make it appear that the A’s season might be doomed with no offense and terrible pitching, but they made fans very aware of how quickly baseball changes.
After losing their seventh game of the season to the Astros they proceeded to win the next two games to win their first series of the season, but they did not stop there as they went on to win the next 11 before their win streak was snapped at 13. In those games that stretch their offense and pitching were on a whole new level of dominance. The average outing length for starting pitchers went up to 5.5 innings and they were able to bring their average number of runs allowed down by over twice as much at 1.69. They went six or more innings in eight of the games. It was not just the starters who showed up each game, but their bullpen as well. Their pitchers allowed two or less runs in eight of the 13 games. To make it even better their offense averaged 6.23 runs per game as they scored seven or more runs in eight of 13 games. They completely upped their home run numbers as they were able to smash three in their first game of the streak and finished with 23. They were consistently dominant from all angles during their win streak and they put the MLB on notice of their potential this season.
3) Rookie sensations
Each year there is a new batch of rookies who attempt to make their mark on baseball. Many fall through the cracks, but the ones who take advantage of their opportunities make their name known league wide. There are two so far in 2021 who are going to battle it out in the American League for Rookie of the Year.
The White Sox have stocked up on talent over the past few seasons with Tim Anderson, Luis Roberts, Yoan Moncada and MVP winner Jose Abreu, but their vault is overflowing with young talent. This season they have been lucky enough to see the talents of Yermin Mercedes be put on display. It did not take long for him to make history as he became the first player in the modern era (since 1900) to start the season 8-8 at the plate. The best hitters in the game are not able to start the season perfect. He was tied for the most hits in all of baseball with 34, second in batting average (behind only Mike Trout) with .415, third in On Base Percentage (OBP) with 0.455 and On Base Plus Slugging percentage (OPS) with 1.153, and seventh in slugging percentage with 0.659. He is putting up numbers that rival those of the best in the game and although he is not setting records at the same pace as early on he is still continuing to be a threat at the plate.
Being a Detroit Tiger fan over the past several years has been filled with anguish as they have finished with one of the worst records in the MLB over the past couple years, but they have been given some hope in 2021 with the emergence of Akil Baddoo. At only 22 years old this young star is not afraid of the big stage and he proved that immediately. In his first at bat in the majors he swung at the first pitch he saw and drove it 372 feet to left field for a home run. He was off to the races. As if that was not big enough, he stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth, in a game where the Tigers were getting routed by the Twins, with the bases loaded and launched a grand slam. To put that into perspective it took NL MVP Freddie Freeman, of the Atlanta Braves, 10 years to hit his first grand slam. But of course the sensation only became bigger the very next game when he came up to bat in the bottom of the 10th in a tie game with two outs and two on and hit a walk off RBI single. He does not have the crazy offensive numbers like Mercedes, but he has quickly become a name to keep an eye on.
There is so much more this MLB season has had to offer through only one month and after so many years of existence there are things happening that have never been seen before, are extremely rare or are highly unique. The season has only just begun which means there are so many more stories to be written as the season progresses.
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