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Cringeworthy And Binge-Worthy Starts To The MLB Season

As the MLB 2020 season nudges its way toward the 20% completion mark, it’s time to look at the squads that hit the ground hard and those that started lackadaisically. Except for about a fifth of the league, a majority of teams have played 10-plus games as of Wednesday evening, painting a picture of what the expanded postseason may ultimately resemble. 

No surprise here, the New York Yankees are the team to beat in the American League, but the Minnesota Twins (10-2) may give them a run for their money. In the National League, the San Diego Padres have come out swinging, showing that their rebuilding years may finally be at an end.

An 85-77 record placed the Arizona Diamondbacks second in the NL West in 2019, so they made a splash in the offseason to sign SP Madison Bumgarner to a multi-year deal. But an underperforming roster and a poor start to the season sees the Diamondbacks sitting last in their division. Another team coming off a big free-agent signing year was the Los Angeles Angeles. Owners of a lineup headlined by Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, the Angeles can credit their pitching staff for their lack of wins.

All statistics in this article are based on the completion of Wednesday’s (Aug. 5, 2020) matchups. 

The New York Yankees (9-2)

Aaron Judge. Photo courtesy of Elsa/Getty Images

Coming off back-to-back 100-win seasons, the Yankees got even better by signing the best pitcher in baseball, Gerrit Cole. And so far, he has not disappointed by going 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, and 16 strikeouts. The Yankees’ pitching staff have had relatively relaxed outings, as the offense has exploded and outscored opponents 61-46 over the first 11 games. 

OF Aaron Judge has led the offensive onslaught with seven home runs, 17 RBIs, a 1.227 OPS, and a monster .310/.370/.857 slash line. OF Giancarlo Stanton found his groove at the plate, slashing .300/.462/.567 with two home runs, six RBIs, and a 1.028 OPS. Third baseman Gio Urshela also has been swinging a hot bat over his last seven games, slashing .375/.444/.792 and notching 10 RBIs. Although catcher Gary Sánchez has been struggling offensively (.074/.167/.111), he should still have a firm grasp on the starting job over Kyle Higashioka.

Cole is the clear ace of the rotation, but the rest of the starters have been less impressive. James Paxton and J.A. Happ have had rough starts to the season. Even the aforementioned offensive powerhouse hasn’t managed to save them from a loss. 

Aside from losing Tommy Kahnle to Tommy John surgery, the bullpen has been phenomenal. Chad Green has been dominant by pitching eight innings with a perfect 0.00 ERA and 11 strikeouts while holding opponents to a minuscule .040 batting average. Zack Britton secured the closer role until Chapman returns, going a perfect 5-5 in save attempts with a spotless 0.00 ERA. 

Ranked sixth in the AL in ERA (4.29), first in home runs (23), first in slugging percentage (.491), first in OPS (.830), and third in runs scored (61), the Yankees have everything working for them. And as long as stars like Judge, Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, and Gleyber Torres can stay healthy, there should be no doubt that the Evil Empire will be crowned champions of the AL East.

The San Diego Padres (7-6)

Fernando Tatis Jr. Photo courtesy of Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos

Rebuilding time is over. The Padres are here, and they didn’t just come knocking on the door, they came kicking it down. A hot start to the season sees the Padres sitting one game above .500, and any slack by the pitching staff has been picked up by the batters.

The 2019 MLB saves leader CP Kirby Yates (0-1) recorded his first save of the year Monday, but has imploded to a 13.50  ERA and 3.00 WHIP. RHP Emilio Pagán owned a 2.31 ERA with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2019 but has showed signs regression. Pagán is 0-2 in save opportunities this season and has struggled to a 9.64 ERA and 1.93 WHIP over 4.2 IP. However, LHP Drew Pomeranz has looked sharp. He is a perfect perfect 2-2 in save opportunities and a taut an impressive 0.00 ERA, 0.56 WHIP, and eight strikeouts.

SP Chris Paddack (2-0) is back to his 2019 ways, pitching 17 innings to the tune of a 2.65 ERA with 15 strikeouts. But the true ace is Dinelson Lamet (1-0), who has a marvelous 1.72 ERA and 17 punch out over 15.2 IP. Lamet has yet to yield a home run, even after facing the Rockies at Coors Field and a strapping Dodgers lineup. 

Amid his sophomore campaign, SS Fernando Tatis Jr. picked up where he left off last season before landing on the IL with a stress reaction in his lower back. Tatis Jr. has slashed an outstanding .294/.400/.647 with a 1.047 OPS, four doubles, one triple, four home runs, and 13 RBIs. 

After excellent Spring Training and Summer Camp results, OF Trent Grisham earned the No. 2 spot in the batting order. Through Grisham’s first 13 games, he has yet to disappoint — he owns a respectful .271/.386/.604 slash line with four home runs, seven RBIs, and a .990 OPS. He is also a perfect 3-3 in steal attempts.

Before a non-COVID-19 illness forced 1B Eric Hosmer to the 10-day IL, he was seeing pitches like a beachball. Before his IL stint, retroactive to July 29, Hosmer record five hits with one home run and seven RBIs. 

The Padres rebuilding years are over. Ranked second in the NL in runs scored (66), first in stolen bases (18), and fifth in hits (92), the Padres should be considered the favorites to dethrone the Los Angeles Dodgers atop the NL West.

The Arizona Diamondbacks (4-8)

Madison Bumgarner. Photo courtesy of Matt York/AP Photos

After a second-place finish in the NL West in 2019, the Diamondbacks find themselves sitting in last place. The dreadful start to the season is due to mediocre hitting and poor pitching. 

SP Madison Bumgarner (0-2) was the headline free agent acquisition the Diamondbacks so desperately needed, but he hasn’t nearly lived up to expectations. Through three starts (15.1 IP), the four-time All-Star’s ERA has imploded to a horrendous 7.04 mark. SP Robbie Ray (9.45 ERA) and SP Luke Weaver (14.73 ERA) also have been lit up by opposing batters. Neither Ray nor Weaver have pitched into the fifth inning in there combined four appearances. On the flip side, SP Merrill Kelly (2.63 ERA) and SP Zac Gallen (2.70 ERA) have been lights out.

As bad as the pitching staff has been, so has the offense. In 12 games, the Diamondbacks have been outscored 43-67 and are slashing .216/.294/.329 as a team. But it looks like INF Ketel Marte is finally starting to heat up. Over his past seven games, Marte slashed .308/.333/.500 and slugged his first home run. Unlike Marte, INF Eduardo Escobar hasn’t snapped out of his cold spell yet. Escobar (.159/.229/.273) is batting well below the Mendoza line and leads the team in strikeouts (13).

The Diamondbacks are ranked in the bottom half of several NL team batting and pitching categories. On offense, the Diamondbacks are 13th in home runs (6) and slugging percentage (.329), and 14th in OPS (.623). The pitching staff is also ranked 15th in home runs allowed (24), and 14th in ERA (5.71) and walks issued (56). A slow start to the season could erase any postseason hopes Diamondbacks fans may have had, especially when they are in the same division as powerhouse teams like the Dodgers, Padres, and Rockies.  

The Los Angeles Angels (4-8)

Shohei Ohtani. Photo courtesy of Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images.

Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon. So, where are all the wins? Well, its hard to win without any pitching. After signing Rendon to a seven-year deal, the Angels lineup was solidified with Trout, Albert Pujols, David Fletcher, and Justin Upton, but failed to address their greatest need — pitching.

The 2018 Rookie of the Year will unlikely pitch again this season after suffering a Grade 1-2 forearm strain. Ohtani (0-1, 37.80 ERA) was barred from pitching in 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery but served as the Angels’ DH for 106 games. Andrew Heaney (1-0) and Dylan Bundy (1-1) have been the diamonds in the rough in an otherwise awful starting rotation. In the Angels starting rotation (min 10 IP), Heaney (2.35) and Bundy (2.84) have the best ERAs. The bullpen has been fictional, evident by RHP Hansel Robles, who is 1-2 in save opportunities with a 22.09 ERA. It is clear Ty Buttrey (5.68 ERA), Keynan Middleton (6.23 ERA), Kyle Keller (7.71 ERA), and Mike Mayers (8.31 ERA) are not getting the job done either.

The offense hasn’t been the problem. Trout has been his typical MVP-self, blasting four home runs, driving in nine RBIs, and slashing an MVP-worthy .323/.389/.742 with a 1.131 OPS. Rendon’s batting average is below the Mendoza line (.148), but it is just a matter of time before he finds his stroke at the dish — he hit 40-plus home runs in each of the past three seasons.

If the Angels want to find success in this short season, their pitching will have to take it up a notch. The Angels are currently ranked in the bottom half of most AL team pitching categories, such as 13th in runs against (66), 14th in hits allowed (108), 12th in ERA (4.90), and 13th in walks issued (56).

Sebastian Moore View All

My name is Sebastian and I am a senior at Northern Arizona University. I am a double major in journalism and communication, along with a minor in German. I have been in various editorial positions and have contributed articles to The Lumberjack, NAU's student-run newspaper.

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