Hot Aprils don’t make a season (see Harper, Bryce, 2013, etc.), just as lousy starts don’t mean all’s lost (see Ortiz, David, 2010, etc.). But the first month can provide an idea of what to follow over the course of the summer, when storylines will either take hold or fade. With that, a few April surprises worth keeping track of – at least for another 30 days.
The Brewers: In a division that produced three playoff teams a year ago, Milwaukee was 5 1/2 games better than anyone through April. The return of Ryan Braun (.318/.361/.591) from PED suspension has helped. More important has been a pitching staff with a 2.82 ERA anchored by starters Yovani Gallardo, Willy Peralta, Kyle Lohse and Marco Estrada, who went a combined 11-3 with a 2.50 ERA.
Charlie Blackmon: The 27-year-old Colorado outfielder had never been an everyday starter until this year. Given the chance to lead off and play every day, he hit an MLB-best .374 in April, stole seven bases, and had 13 of his 38 hits go for extra bases. That outshines Rockies stalwart Troy Tulowtizki, off to his own torrid start (.364/.477/.727).
Atlanta’s rotation: When Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy went down with season-ending surgeries in spring training, the Braves – carrying an offense filled with holes — were easy to write off. Yet fill-ins Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang have helped Braves starters lead the majors in ERA (2.32), WHIP (1.06) and batting average against (.219).
Jose Abreu: The White Sox knew their new first baseman from Cuba had talent, but this? He led the majors through the end of April with 10 homers – a rookie record – and 32 RBI and the American League in slugging percentage (.617). All this while dealing, for the first time, with cold weather.
Scott Kazmir: Remember when the lefty was a key building block that helped form the guts of the Rays? That was 10 years and a trip to independent ball ago. He went 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA for the incredibly solid, no-name Athletics, the best team in the AL.
Prince Fielder: The biggest name (and body) to change uniforms has picked up where he left off during his postseason fizzle in Detroit, hitting two homers with a .206 average and .314 slugging percentage for the Rangers.
Indians and Pirates: The two surprise playoff teams from 2013, lifting two cities badly in need of baseball revivals, went a combined 21-33 in April. It’s early, but …
“Somebody picks up the stats and they say, ‘They are hitting almost 100 points better at home than they are on the road.’ So yeah, you’re always thinking conspiracy theory.”
– Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez, whose team wondered aloud whether the Marlins might be stealing signs in Miami. Through Thursday, the Marlins were hitting .307 at home and .215 on the road.
By the numbers
Appearances without allowing a go-ahead home run for Red Sox closer Koji Uehara before giving up Yunel Escobar’s tie-breaking shot Thursday night in a 6-5 loss to the Rays.
Batting average for Mariners 2B Robinson Cano, who returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time since departing as a free agent
Batting average for Yankees second basemen this year, through Thursday.
Home runs combined for Cano and all Yankees second basemen this year.