The Does April Really Matter in MLB Debate… April Struggles Can Bring Later Success

May 3, 2011

Read the opposing argument from and Bleacher Fan.

We’re just over a month into the Major League Baseball season, and some surprises have evolved. The Cleveland Indians have been baseball’s biggest surprise, as through May 2, they lead MLB with an overall record of 19-8, though it’s unclear if anyone in Cleveland (outside of Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek) are paying attention. The Florida Marlins likewise have gotten off to a hot start at 18-9. Meanwhile, on the other end of the spectrum, teams like the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox, teams that were expected to contend for division titles, have gotten off to mediocre starts and are in an early hole in their respective divisions.

Our judge in today’s debate, Sports Geek, has asked us to determine if the month of April is too early to determine the probable success or failure of a team. Sure, we’d love for our favorite team to win 18 games every month. But I say it is way too soon for fans of teams like the Braves, Red Sox – and even the Twins – to panic.

Folks, most teams played around 26 games through April 30, which was this past Saturday. Just 26 games! That’s less than twenty percent of the full 162 game schedule, and far too early for struggling teams to be making changes. You would think the Braves would be concerned about the slow start of Dan Uggla, who has used a recent hot streak to get his average above .200. However, the team and management realize that Uggla is traditionally a slow starter and there’s no way this guy, who has hit at least 30 home runs in four consecutive seasons, won’t rebound and post the same stats he is accustomed to posting. Is that stacked Boston lineup, highlighted by the struggles of Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkillis, really going to hit .245 all year long? Nope! Is Minnesota really going to finish last in the improved AL Central? Not with Joe Mauer coming back!

Let’s take a look at the MLB standings at the end of April 2010. Go ahead and give them a look. The New York Mets lead the NL East over the Washington Nationals. The Padres and Cardinals both led their divisions, as did the Angels. Four out of the six division leaders did not make the playoffs at all. The Mets, Cardinals, and Angels all finished with losing records. The Giants, the eventual World Series winner, trailed the Padres by 7.5 games as late as July 4. I can top that. As late as July 21, the Phillies trailed the division leading Braves by seven games. But energized by the acquisition of Roy Oswalt from Houston, the Phillies went on a tear and won the division by six games, making up an outstanding 13 games in the standings in a little over two months.

Reading that, how can Bleacher Fan say that April is a sign of things to come? I mean, do we really expect Lance Berkman to hit over .400 for most of the year? Keep in mind that this is the guy who struggled offensively in the telephone booth known as Yankee Stadium.

Yeah, it causes less stress when teams get off to good starts. But more so than any other sport, baseball is a marathon, and most definitely not a sprint. So to all the fans in Atlanta, Boston, Minnesota, and even San Francisco (currently sitting at 13-15 with very little offense)… it’s only early May! The end of the regular season is five months away!

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The 2010 MLB Sleeper Debate… The Fish Could Swim to the Playoffs

April 14, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Sports Geek.

We are ten days into the Major League Baseball season and there are some things happening that do not surprise me. Albert Pujols is raking the ball. The Houston Astros are terrible. The San Francisco Giants have an awesome pitching staff. Chipper Jones already has a nagging injury. I could go on and on. But for the purposes of this debate, we are looking at possible sleeper teams in baseball this season. Babe Ruthless has chosen to go with the Royals, while Sports Geek has decided to go with the Rays. Both of are good picks in contrasting ways. But I am going to go with the Florida Marlins.

Did you know that last season’s Florida Marlins team won 87 games? I happen to know that since I follow the National League East quite regularly. The Marlins seemingly fly under the radar every season, and that is one of the essential reasons why they have to be considered a sleeper. Despite having a solid team returning, do you want to guess how many fantasy players from the Marlins are actually on a team in The Sports Debates fantasy league? I counted three, with those being the obvious choices of Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, and Dan Uggla. No one really knows about this team, and that includes the residents in South Florida, as the Marlins historically rank near the bottom of the league in attendance.

We have shown the Marlins a little bit of love in the past month. I highlighted the N.L. East as the best division in baseball a couple of weeks ago, and just last week Sports Geek said that the Marlins had the “best rotation for the money.” That rotation starts with Johnson, obviously, but veterans like Ricky Nolasco and Nate Robertson can definitely win double digit games.

Everyone knows about Ramirez and Uggla, but did you know that last season’s National League Rookie of the Year plays for the Fish? That’s right! Introduce yourself to Chris Coghlan. He is off to a slow start this season, but in 2009 he was a nuisance for opponents as he seemingly always was on base. I like to call him a “contact hitter specialist.” Some like to call him a “professional hitter,” but I do not think that gives him enough credit.

Another player who is off to a hot start this year is Jorge Cantu. Cantu already has 13 runs batted in this season. He has at least one RBI in eight straight games. He also flies under the radar. Until writing this argument I did not realize that he had 100 RBI last season.

All of these guys are managed by Fredi Gonzalez, who I think could be on the short list to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta next year. Gonzalez was a third base coach for the Braves from 2003-2006. His ability to get these young guys in Florida to come together is underappreciated by a lot of people, but it is hard to ignore the results.

The fact that you probably do not know much about the Marlins is what makes them a sleeper. But if they make a serious run towards the postseason, which is quite possible, then you just may hear more about those elusive Marlins that no one can reel in!

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