In the blink of an eye, the 2022 MLB season has raced its way through six weeks of action, long enough to determine what is and isn’t a trend – be it encouraging or concerning.
Here are five early talking points of the 2022 season…
The Yankees Are Hot… No, They’re Fucking Scorching!
Make no mistake, the Yankees had a much quieter offseason than had been hoped for and the most vocal of MLB fanbases was certainly up in arms about it on Twitter. The hysteria would make anyone think Hal Steinbrenner was actually a cheap-ass bum (as many claimed) and a lot of Yankees fans proclaimed the AL East title was out of reach.
Fast forward six weeks and the Yankees are off to a truly incredible start at 28-9. They have, by far, the best record in baseball and have built a comfortable 5.5 game cushion in one of baseball’s most hotly contested divisions. The start has been so good that even the most critical Yankees fans is sure to be filled with hope that this year, finally, that elusive 28th title is a legitimate chance.
Leading the way for the Yankees are the usual suspects. Aaron Judge has belted 14 dingers and he is being well supported by Anthony Rizzo (10) and Giancarlo Stanton (10). As a team, they’ve slugged 54, right up there alongside the Astros (56) and Angels (55). Josh Donaldson (.807 OPS) is providing good support, proving me wrong for calling him washed just a month ago. On the pitching front, yet another Orioles bust has found success in greener pastures, with nasty Nestor Cortes posting a 1.35 ERA and 0.85 WHIP combo through his first seven starts (40.0 innings) of the season. He’s been so good he’s even overshadowed the ever-impressive Gerrit Cole (4-0, 2.89 ERA) who has silenced his spider tack doubters. The bullpen has also been phenomenal, lead by their occasionally chaotic but somehow effective closer, Aroldis Chapman, who is a perfect nine-from-nine in save opportunities. Did you know the Cuban Missile now has 315 career saves? Impressive.
The Aging Red Sox Are Massively Overrated
I’m happy to admit I also said this last year and was proven wrong, as the Red Sox just kept finding a way to win close games and sailed right on through to the ALCS to shut my pie hole. The 2021 roster, at least on paper, didn’t fill me with hope however Alex Cora’s brilliant management, minus the cheating this time, lead the team to 92 wins and ultimately just two games short of a World Series berth. Kudos to them.
Anyway, a lackluster offseason coupled with another turn of the body clock for the older brigade ensured my opinion on the team hadn’t changed all that much, and through six weeks of the new season, I can finally say I was right – I think. The rotation can be described in three words – overrated, mediocre and stale. Also, didn’t I tell you in 2019 that Chris Sale was washed? Another dub for Dan. The lineup isn’t much better either to be honest. Trevor Story (.205 AVG, .613 OPS) is proving his doubters right, in that he can’t hit away from Coors Field, and guys like Jackie Bradley Jr. (.189 AVG, .516 OPS), Bobby Dalbec (.161 AVG, .495 OPS) and Franchy Cordero (.214 AVG, .616 OPS) have never consistently put up offensive numbers to fill me with hope. This team, I’m afraid to say, is the definition of mediocre and will continue to battle with the lowly Orioles for last place. Reality check complete.
Mike Trout Remains The Best Hitter On The Planet
Don’t be fooled by his unfortunate run of injuries in recent years, when healthy, Mike Trout is undoubtedly still the best hitter in all of baseball. Through 35 games, Trout owns the second best OPS in the major leagues (1.121) and the best (s0 far) of his 12-year career. He’s slugging a career high .689, aided by 11 dingers and 22 extra-base hits total. Interesting too, he’s been far more patient at the plate, seeing almost 4.3 pitches per plate appearance (his best since his MVP 2016 season) and drawing 24 walks, good enough for a place in the Top 5 in MLB.
There’s no doubt that the strength of the current Angels line-up is helping Trout, sandwiched by the red-hot Taylor Ward and Shohei Ohtani, with Anthony Rendon lurking further back. It’s proving to be a formidable quartet, with the Angels finally delivering on some long-awaited promise, surging to a 24-16 record and keeping the pressure on the division-leading Astros (24-14) in the AL West.
Whether Trout can continue to remain healthy remains to be seen, however if he does, he looks certain to add to his miserly three postseason appearances, all of which occurred way back in 2014 when the highly-fancied Angels got ambushed and swept by the upstart Royals. I’ve always said, baseball needs its biggest stars playing in the postseason and hopefully this year that can eventuate – can you imagine Trout and Ohtani under lights in October? Yes please!
Class Is Permanent – Verlander, Kershaw & Scherzer
The old adage, ‘Class is permanent’ couldn’t ring more true than it is this season, when discussing the incredible performances to date of some of the wise old heads on MLB’s pitching mounds. In fact, it’s quite stunning to see what this trio of veterans is achieving, defying their years and turning back the clocks with incredible performances.
Let’s start with 39-year-old Justin Verlander who, keep in mind, missed all of the 2021 season through injury and pitched just once in 2020. He’s essentially missed two full seasons of baseball in his late-30s, yet has rebounded in astonishing fashion this season. Through seven starts, the veteran right-hander is 5-1 with a 1.38 ERA, tracking on career highs for almost every metric you can think of. Not only has he produced some amazing numbers, he’s done it against some quality opposition too – the Angels, Mariners, Blue Jays, Rangers and Twins, to name a few – all of which were in the postseason conversation in early-April, many still. Seriously, just phenomenal.
Next up, Clayton Kershaw, the veteran in his 15th season with the Dodgers who owns a 4-0 record with a 1.80 ERA through five starts. Like Verlander, producing these types of numbers is simply phenomenal and deserving of more national media attention than he’s received to date. Sadly, he has been in the spotlight recently but not for his epic start to the season. For those unaware, Kershaw is still dealing with lingering soreness from an SI joint injury and a subsequent epidural. More promisingly, he has yet to be shut down from playing catch and continuing his rehab program, so if all goes well, he won’t need to be built-up again once eligible to return. Let’s hope he’s back out there continuing his dominance soon.
Finally, Max Scherzer – the iconic superstar and hero of the 2021/22 lockout – well, the face of anyway. After a busy winter negotiating with Manfred and his clowns in MLB HQ, the soon-to-be 38-year-old is having yet another strong season, this time in Queens with the surprisingly successful Mets. Through his first eight starts with Buck Showalter’s promising team, Scherzer is 5-1 with a 2.54 ERA. He’s nearing the magical 200 wins mark and is on track for a sub-3.00 ERA for the seventh time in eight seasons. Backed by a solid rotation and, finally, a reliable line-up, Scherzer looks set for yet another postseason appearance, the eighth of his career. Could a second ring be on the cards perhaps?
The Mets Are Legitimate Contenders… Finally
Ok, I said it – the Mets are legitimate contenders… and yes, I know it’s only 39 games into the season. All jokes aside, when did the Mets last fill their fans with this much hope in late May? Even in 2015, which ultimately resulted in a World Series berth, they finished the month at 28-23, which looks certain to be bettered comfortably this year, currently sitting pretty in first place (by six games!) at 25-14.
There’s been a lot to like about the 2022 Mets so far, including:
- Pitching – the team is working to a collective 3.32 ERA, which is good enough for fourth best in all of baseball. Leading the way are Chris Bassitt (4-2, 2.34 ERA) and Max Scherzer (5-1, 2.54 ERA), ably supported by a more consistent bullpen than usual (i.e. Edwin Diaz has nine saves and a 1.69 ERA – nice!)
- Hitting – while nobody is nudging the NL leaderboards, consistency is key for this line-up which has seen solid contributions from Brandon Nimmo, Mark Canha, Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, among others. Imagine if the overhyped Francisco Lindor ever got hot… Ok, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.
- Buck Showalter’s management – he’s taken things back to basics and his protective approach has been missing in Mets teams for far too long. There’s a big of grunt about this team, an unwillingness to role over. I like it.
Can the dubs keep coming for New York’s ugly sister? I think so. Can they find a way to upstage their better-looking sibling in November even? Perhaps… Ohhhh, imagine that!