How they rank: 4/19

T.S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” This April has been the coldest month, and the cruelest for those below off to the dullest starts.

Stats through Thursday afternoon’s games; last rankings in parentheses:

1. Boston (3): Hard to pick on anyone when the Red Sox are 15-2, but they’d be 16-1 if Carson Smith, limited by injuries the last two seasons, hadn’t thrown a bases-loaded triple to Denard Span on Opening Day. The Red Sox have improved since, but Smith hasn’t: his ERA is 6.35 and he’s allowed 11 base runners in 5.2 innings.

2. Houston (1): Marwin Gonzalez had a .907 OPS last year, 174 points above his .733 career average. If that seemed out of whack, Gonzalez’s start to 2018 is putting it in balance: he’s hitting. 186 with four extra-base hits in 59 at-bats and a .578 OPS.

3. Arizona (2):
Alex Avila batted .133 with a .502 OPS in spring training and said, “Results in spring training mean absolutely nothing.” He’s right. But his 4-for-32 start to the regular season means he’s losing playing time to John Ryan Murphy, whose .278 average is more than fellow catchers Avila’s .125 and Jeff Mathis’ .117 combined.

4. L.A. Angels (9): The Angels lowered the fences at their home park, which was supposed to increase home runs. Maybe Kole Calhoun is trying too hard to clear them. After averaging 20 homers a year over the previous four, Calhoun has just one so far in 2018 and two extra-base hits and a .205 average in 73 at-bats.

5. N.Y. Mets (10): Three weeks into the season, Jose Reyes, now a utility infielder, is still hitless. Reyes: “I still feel like I can do this. It’s only 17 at-bats. I have gone 0-for-17 before, even worse …” Reyes pinch-hit a day later, and made it 0-for-18. Even worse.

6. Toronto (14): Randal Grichuk homered in the Jays’ second game, singled and walked in the third, then went 0-for-26 before doubling. He reached a low of .071 before he homered and doubled on Tuesday to get his average over .100, but is 0-for-7 since and back at .094 with a .442 OPS. Forget about the Mendoza Line. Staying above half of it isn’t easy for Grichuk.

7. Cleveland (4): Take your pick. Indians are last in MLB with .208 team average and 28th in OPS (.627). On April 10, Indians beat Tigers, 2-1, and every Indian had a batting average of .200 (Rajai Davis) or less. Jose Ramirez, Yonder Alonso, Jason Kipnis and Edwin Encarnacion are still on the Mendoza side of .200.

8. L.A. Dodgers (8): Kenley Jansen threw another home run on Tuesday to Eric Hosmer, his third of the season. Jansen: “That’s not me.” It sure looked like him in 2018, especially after he then allowed a Chase Headley game-tying double (Headley was 1-for-26 before the double). The 2018 Jansen has an 8.10 ERA, two blown saves and has thrown three homers in 6.2 innings.

9. Chicago Cubs (5): Since that Opening Day home run on the first pitch of the season, Ian Happ is 9-for-48 with 25 strikeouts. Maybe he should have circled the bases, accepted congratulations and kept going into the clubhouse and called it a season, like an NFL player heading up the runway after a game-winning TD in overtime.

10. St. Louis (15): Matt Carpenter has already played first, second and third, but hasn’t hit much at any of them. He’s at .175 (though with 15 walks), but should settle temporarily at second, where Kolten Wong, coming off a .285/376/412 2017, is 6-for-41 without an extra-base hit.

11. N.Y. Yankees (6): Since a two-homer Opening Day, Giancarlo Stanton is 10-for-61 with one homer and 28 Ks, and was even booed this week in a 12-1 Yankees victory when he was 0-for-3 with a walk and hit by pitch. Barry Bonds’ record 73 homers in a season seems safe.

12. Washington (7):
Ryan Zimmerman abstained from spring training games and didn’t talk about his slow start. “Ask me on May 1 how I feel,” Zimmerman said at 3-for-22. He’s 7-for-40 since, now at 10-for-62, batting .161 with a .606 OPS. He hit two homers Wednesday; maybe he feels the May 1 conversation deadline looming.

13. Pittsburgh (16): Dovydas Neverauskas, the first Lithuanian in MLB, was probably comfortable with the weather conditions of the first three weeks. His pitching wasn’t. After giving up 11 hits, two homers and three walks in 6.2 innings, he was sent back to the minors.

14. Minnesota (11):
The Astros used four outfielders and three infielders shifted to the right side against Logan Morrison. “I know the bunt is there,” said Morrison, “but I kind of want to hit it over the four-man outfield.” Maybe he should build up to that. He’s 3-for-44, an .068 average, with one extra-base hit.

15. Atlanta (13): Ender Inciarte is tied for third in the NL with five stolen bases. How much higher would he rank if he had an on-base percentage higher than .280, which ranks 80th? It’s taken back-to-back multi-hit games to raise it that high. Inciarte still has a .232 average and .541 OPS.

16. Milwaukee (12): Nerd Power might be running low. Eric Sogard, who inspired the term with his glasses and his play, is hitting .167 and has two walks in 39 plate appearances after putting up a .393 on-base percentage last year.

17. Philadelphia (23): Aaron Altherr hasn’t been lucky or good. He’s fanned 15 times in 40 at-bats, and is hitting .087 when he does make contact. In total, he’s 4-for-40 with a .540 OPS and has been thrown out twice while trying to steal.

18. Colorado (17): Ryan McMahon hit .355 in the minors last year, but it’s not as easy in the majors. He’s 4-for-34, a .118 average, without an extra-base hit and 18 strikeouts. Even $70 million free agent Ian Desmond, hitting .162, isn’t threatened.

19. Oakland (25): Kendall Graveman, who has a 22-27 career record and 4.34 career ERA, says, “I’ve had success in this league before.” Perhaps compared to how he started 2018. He’s lost his last three starts, has a 9.87 ERA and leads the AL in earned runs allowed.

20. Seattle (18): The problem with the Mariners’ feel-good signing of Ichiro was once he’s a Mariner again, how do they get rid of him? Ichiro is 44, a .256 hitter over the last three seasons with 44 extra-base hits in 921 at-bats; this year he’s a .212 hitter without an extra-base hit or walk in 33 at-bats. Now what? How do you waive perhaps the most popular player in franchise history when your own credibility is diminished?

21. San Francisco (21): Hunter Pence celebrated his 35th birthday last week, and manager Bruce Bochy said, “He’s getting a little bit older, 35 now. You do pull for him to beat Father Time.” So far in 2018, Father Time is winning big. Pence is hitting .172 with a double, two walks, 22 strikeouts and a .386 OPS in 58 at-bats.

22. Detroit (24): Pitching coach Chris Bosio said in spring training, “… the No. 1 thing for (Jordan Zimmermann) is get him healthy, get him confident so he can go out there and perform how Jordan Zimmermann performs, how I know Jordan Zimmermann performs.” Unfortunately for Bosio and the Tigers, that’s what Zimmermann is doing. Zimmermann signed a $110 million free agent contract with the Tigers before the 2016 season, and he’s gotten worse every year. That will take some doing after his 6.08 ERA last year, but Zimmermann is up to it. He has a 7.71 ERA in his first four starts, despite 18 strikeouts and four walks in 16.1 innings.

23. Texas (19): Drew Robinson has a .391 average on balls in play, which means he’d be on his way to having a good year — if he was making contact. He’s not. He’s fanned 28 times in 59 plate appearances, is batting .192 and has reduced the three true outcomes at-bat — home run, strikeout or walk — to mostly one.

24. Chicago White Sox (22): Miguel Gonzalez got the first two batters out at Oakland on Tuesday, then gave up five runs before he got the third. In all he got nine outs and gave up eight runs, and in three starts he’s pitched 12.1 innings, allowed 24 hits and 17 runs and has a 12.41 ERA. “It was not a fun game,” Gonzalez said, speaking for himself. The A’s had a blast.

25. Baltimore (20): Chris Davis started the season 0-for-14 and 1-for-24, and hasn’t improved much. He’s hitting .145 and has 24 strikeouts in 62 at-bats; he hit just his second homer on Thursday. Orioles manager Buck Showalter: “It’s frustrating for him.” Yo Buck: try watching it.

26. San Diego (26): Luis Perdomo threw a pitch behind Colorado’s Nolan Arenado, who charged the mound. Perdomo then threw his glove at Arenado, and like most of his pitches, it was high and inside. For all that Perdomo earned a suspension. He should have kept that status. In his first start after the suspension, the Dodgers pummeled Perdomo for 10 hits and nine runs in three innings, raising his ERA to 8.36.

27. Tampa Bay (28): Alex Colome led the AL in saves last year, but he’s more likely to lead it in blown saves this year, even with the Rays. He’s already blown two, has a 9.00 ERA, 1.149 OPS against, 2.9 WHIP and has allowed 20 of the 39 batters he’s faced to reach. Rays manager Kevin Cash: “I think it’s fair to say Alex is not right as maybe we’ve seen him in the past …,” which is a polite way of saying he’s been awful.

28. Kansas City (27): Jason Grimm gives up six runs in a third of an inning, and manager Ned Yost, earning straight A’s for stating the obvious, says, “He just didn’t have a good outing.” Can’t wait to hear Yost’s critique of the aptly named Grimm’s season, in which he has an 18.90 ERA in 6.2 innings.

29. Cincinnati (29): Reds are 3-15, have been outscored by 46 runs, are 28th in runs scored and 29th in team ERA. So they fired manager Bryan Price, even though the team’s predicament has more to do with Joey Votto’s .588 OPS after 66 at-bats and Luis Castillo, who had a 3.12 ERA in 15 starts last year, having a 6.75 one after four starts this year.

30. Miami (30):
Of the many reasons the Marlins will lose 100 games, young outfielder Lewis Brinson didn’t figure to be one. But he’s 1-for-his-last 36 and 8-for-61 overall, which adds up to a .131 average with three walks and 20 strikeouts.

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