Week 2: The story on April stats

Colorado rookie shortstop Trevor Story hit four home runs in his first four games and seven in his first two weeks. He leads not just rookies and not just Rockies but all of baseball in long balls, a long shot of a, uh, story.

It’s typical of April stats, which are a lot like blind dates. The rush of the introduction doesn’t last long.

Story is hitting .294 and slugging .804, gaudy numbers for a 23-year-old in his first two weeks in the majors. Story’s a legitimate hitter — he has a career .817 OPS in the minors — but he’s never hit more than 20 homers in a season, and that with the help of it in Albuquerque.

Story need not get used to his perch atop MLB sluggers or anticipate his invite just yet to the Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game.  Truth is, he’s unlikely to lead the Rockies in home runs, let alone the National League or MLB.

He’s not the best shortstop in MLB and not the best rookie,  and compared to the Dodgers’ Corey Seager, not even the best rookie shortstop in the NL — to say nothing of the Phillies J.P. Crawford (.310 at AA) or Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia (.278 in AAA at Colorado Springs), who have yet to be called up.

The jersey Story wore at the Rockies’ home opener was sold at auction Sunday for more than $12,000. If someone spent that money as an investment, anticipating Story’s career will be like Derek Jeter’s, here’s hoping they have a considerable nest egg. Story may not be Tuffy Rhodes, but he’s about as likely to go to some of the places Rhodes did as he is to make it to Cooperstown.

(And for the record, the Cubs lost to the Mets, 12-8, on the 1994 Opening Day when Rhodes hit three homers. Tuffy hit six in April and eight for the season.)

If nothing else, Story will allow the Rockies to sever their relationship with Jose Reyes, their previous shortstop who was suspended because of a domestic assault allegation  (prosecutors are dropping the case). It’s a lot easier to stand on principle when you have a capable replacement.

You hear a lot more about Story’s homers than you do his 22 strikeouts and three walks in 51 at-bats, a pace and ratio that would make Rob Deer blanch. It’s going to be hard to maintain his average or slugging percentage with that many misses.

April stats are part of the glee that is baseball’s return. Only in the first month are they so quirky, like endearing eccentric characteristics of an intimate. When else can J.P. Howell pitch a scoreless inning and cut his ERA in half by 27 runs, from 54.00 to 27.00? When else can Ryan Goins stroke three hits and jump from a .250 hitter to a .321 hitter?

There’s an old baseball adage about not judging players by their stats in April or September, and here’s why: 18 players, going into play on Monday, have OPSes of more than 1.000, including  Cardinals rookie Jeremy  Hazelbaker, who has a career OPS of .775 in the minors, and Diamondbacks infielder Jean Segura, who has a career .671 OPS in nearly 2,000 major-league plate appearances. Anyone think they’ll endure?

Thirty pitchers who’ve made multiple starts have ERAs greater than 5.00, including Jose Fernandez (5.06), Matt Harvey (5.71), Zack Greinke (6.75) and Justin Verlander (7.16). Anyone think those will last?

The longevity of the season tempers the fluctuations. Like Story’s start and the Rockies near first place, enjoy them while you can.

What else happened in the second week:

  • Kansas City’s Terrance Gore has now played in 21 major-league games, 29 if we include the postseason. He has more stolen bases (12) than plate appearances (6) and more caught stealings than hits (1-0). Somewhere Herb Washington is smiling.
  • With Ben Revere hurt, the Nationals continue to bat Michael Taylor leadoff, which begs a question: Why? Taylor batted .229 with a .282 on-base percentage as a rookie last year, which prompted the Nats to deal for Revere. But when Revere got hurt, the Nats went back to Taylor as if 2015 was a blip. Revere batted 42 times in spring training without walking; Taylor, perhaps mimicking that, has batted 39 times this season and walked once. He’s hitting .154 with a .171 on percentage and in 595 career at-bats, has a .222 average, 35 walks and a .274 on-base percentage. A walk may not be as good as a hit, but it’s better than an out, of which Taylor makes a lot.
  • Bryce Harper is batting .359, slugging .857 and has 15 RBIs, second in MLB behind Nolan Arenado (16). How many might he have if the Nationals had a leadoff hitter who could lead off?
  • Odubel Herrera walked 28 times last year in 537 plate appearances; he’s second in MLB in 2016 with 12 walks in 53 plate appearances. Michael Taylor, take note.
  • Toronto’s Chris Colabello was beaned by Boston’s Stevn Wright on Sunday, and Wright apologized on Monday by having a bottle of liquor put in Colabello’s locker. Apology accepted. If that’s the going rate for hit batsmen, there might be a whole lot of batters wearing Hit Me Here signs on the backs of their jerseys.
  • Five Cardinals have hit six pinch-homers — Brandon Moss (2), Greg Garcia, Hazelbaker, Aledmys Diaz and Matt Adams. There are three teams — the Angels, Pirates and Braves — who haven’t hit that many  total.
  • Garcia, an infielder, batted 15 times in the first two weeks and reached base 11 times — four singles, a double, a home run, four walks and a hit by pitch. This Monday he was sent to the minors when Ruben Tejada was activated. Garcia must be wondering what he had to do to avoid being farmed for a shortstop with a career .653 OPS.
  • How do you define desperation? It’s the five-out save in April. Mets manager Terry Collins used closer Jeurys Familia for one Wednesday after the tabloids panicked with the Mets 2-5. You can hardly blame them since it’s been almost 365 days since the Mets started 2015 2-3, and we know how that turned out. New Dodgers  manager Dave Roberts used Kenley Jansen for one, which made more sense since Jansen had pitched in only two of the team’s first eight games. The setup men were too busy blowing games before Roberts could get to Jansen.
  • Mets starter Steven Matz gave up seven runs in the second inning of a 10-3 loss to the Marlins and a scout told the New York Post, anonymously, Matz should be demoted. “He looks like a young guy who needs a month in Triple-A to clean up some things.’’ It’s possible Matz might have appreciated all that time in Las Vegas, where the Mets’ AAA affiliate is, but six days later he tidied up against the Indians and made them look like a AAA team. Matz threw a three-hitter Sunday over seven innings and fanned nine. No word from the scout on whether Matz passed inspection.
  • Giants starter Madison Bumgarner has walked seven batters in his first 16 innings. That may not be a lot if you’re the Pirates’ Jeff Locke (nine walks in 10.2 innings), but Bumgarner walked just 39 last year in 218.1.
  • The Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez broke an 0-for-19 slump with a home run Sunday against the Mariners. Too bad. He was due — for another retirement announcement.
  • Remember when Ty Cobb’s lifetime batting average was .367? Somewhere he lost a point — too bad Cobb isn’t here to argue his case. He’s down to .366. According to author Charles Leerhsen, that’s not all about Cobb’s career that most of us have wrong. Leerhsen, who wrote 2015’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty, says the Cobb presented and remembered isn’t the Cobb who really was. Leehrsen makes his case here, and it’s well worth a read (link); so must the book be.


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5 Responses to Week 2: The story on April stats

  1. Will says:

    Tuffy Rhodes hit a lot of home runs. They just happened to occur in Japan. But he did hit a lot of them.

    And yes, I know that only because the Story-book start also made me think of Rhodes, which caused me to wonder, “Whatever happened to Tuffy?”

  2. Indeed he did. 464 of them, including 55- and 51-homer seasons. What’s Japanese for Coors? Only 13 in the States, though. I’m guessing someone hurried to reprotect him in our league shortly after Opening Day 1994 and quietly left him available at the draft, if not before.

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