Thanks to a subpar performance from essentially my whole fantasy team in the BYB staff league, I am the lucky loser who gets to suffer from the first punishment. Commissioner Rob has tasked me with conjuring some very clear and insightful predictions from the first weekend of the season.
Without further ado, here are four observations based on definitely adequately-sized samples!
Party like it’s 2008
The Cleveland Indians were far and away the favorite to win the AL Central title this season, with the Minnesota Twins a popular Wild Card choice. However, two games into the year it has become clear that the Chicago White Sox are truly the team to beat. The South Siders earned a pair of victories in Kansas City to open up 2018 and were only slowed by the weather.
The White Sox lead baseball with 199 wRC+ and it is tough to see them slowing down. Matt Davidson is already worth 1.6 fWAR more than last season, seven relievers have yet to give up a run, and Chicago is in first place despite a bottom-10 ERA from its starters. While it looked like it might be a tough year for the White Sox, they are set up to be an unstoppable force this season.
...except it’s 2018
The San Francisco Giants must have thought it was around a decade ago when they acquired both Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. It was a bold decision to steal the aging face of not one, but two, franchises, and the results are going just about how everyone expected.
Longoria and McCutchen sit at the bottom of Fangraphs’ leaderboard at -0.4 fWAR and -0.3 fWAR, respectively, and have combined for one hit in 31 at-bats this season. The have been just as solid with the glove, each posting -1 defensive runs saved (DRS) already despite only playing four games. The Giants were apparently sad to miss out on the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft and are looking to secure the spot for next season.
La La LOBsters
While their rivals are headed toward the bottom, the Los Angeles Dodgers are contending for the best rotation in major league history. Through four games their starters have a combined 0.36 ERA, 9.72 K/9, 100 percent LOB rate, and 0.9 fWAR.
The numbers would be slightly higher if weak-link Clayton Kershaw had not allowed a run, but it did come on a solo shot, preserving the group’s perfect left on base percentage. Already projected by most to win the division, the Dodgers are chasing the 1907 Cubs’ record 1.69 ERA; they are on pace to beat this mark easily.
Empty juice carton
For the past couple of seasons, all we have heard about was the juiced baseballs and the fly-ball revolution. As suspected, the first weekend of the season proved both of these ideas to be a myth. With homers on just 2.8 percent of at bats, MLB saw the home run rate drop to its lowest figure in three years.
This clearly proves that 2016 and 2017 were anomalies. Pitchers have been very concerned about all of the extra home runs and looked for excuses like changed baseballs, but the numbers show that this is simply not the cause. Look for the numbers to improve slightly as the season carries on, but not enough to cause any alarm like the past two years.