National League Report Card: April

It’s hard to believe we’ve already had over a month of baseball. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year, at least, for some teams.

Here’s how the NL is doing, one month into the season, from worst to first:

NL East

5. Miami Marlins (10-18)

In Derek Jeter’s first year as part-owner and face of the franchise, his new team is doing about as poorly as his former team is doing well.

Without Giancarlo Stanton, there’s really no reason to watch the Marlins, and if you don’t believe me, the proof is in notable fan ‘Marlins Man’ saying that after 25 years as a season ticket-holder, he was going to look for a new team to support.

They do finish the month with a 3-game win streak, though, and they beat up on the Yankees in mid-April, so I guess anything is possible.

4. Washington Nationals (13-16)

Despite having Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper, the Nats are off to a slow start. Scherzer leads the league with 5 wins, while Harper has 8 HR and 19 RBIs. Once Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton, and a few others come back from their respective injuries, this team might have a chance.

Harper will be a free agent at the end of this season, and he’s definitely going to greener pastures; every team wants him.

3. Atlanta Braves (16-12)

The Braves lead the NL in batting average (.268), OPB (.342), and slugging (.440). They have been jockeying with the Phillies for second place in their division, and have beaten them in each of their three series, winning 6/9 of the games, and outscoring them 54-30.

With a few teams with potential, this division will likely be up in the air for a good chunk of the season.

2. Philadelphia Phillies (16-11)

The Phillies are an interesting specimen this season. With off-season acquisitions Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta under the helm of new manager Gabe Kapler, this team is one to watch.

Despite getting off to a start so rocky it had fans speculating that Kapler might not last the first week, Philly is closing in on the first-place Mets.

1. New York Mets (17-9)

Under new manager Mickey Callaway, the Mets are having early-season success not unlike that of the Red Sox. With the additions of Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez and the re-signing of Jay Bruce, the clubhouse is invigorated.

But they’re already at risk of losing their footing in the division, and they’re likely to lose one of their top hitters, Yoenis Cespedes for at least a few days after he hurt his hand in Sunday’s 14-2 victory over the Padres. Off-season acquisition Jason Vargas made his first start on Saturday night, and gave up 9 earned runs over just 3.2 innings. It’s going to take more arms than just DeGrom and Syndergaard to keep this team afloat.

In short: the Mets will need to step up their game if they want to contend with the big boys.

NL Central

5. Cincinnati Reds (7-22)

The Reds have made April headlines in the worst ways: they have the worst record in MLB, are averaging 5.3 runs allowed per game, and their manager Bryan Price got the ax after a disastrous 3-15 start to the season. They’re 10.5 games out of first, and can’t even pull off a win at home, where they’re 3-10.

They can say they’re rebuilding all they want, but this team will be lucky to win 75 games this season.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (15-12)

The Cardinals are off to a so-so start, thanks in no part to star Dexter Fowler, who is batting .170 with 25 strikeouts. They just got swept by the Pirates, including blowing a 5-run lead in one game, and nearly being no-hit by Pitt’s rookie pitcher.

Their defense continues to be weak, especially in the infield corners. I wouldn’t expect much from them this season.

3. Milwaukee Brewers (17-13)

Former Red Sock Travis Shaw has been a star on this team, hitting .252 with 5 HR and 14 RBIs.

But if this team wants to fight they’re way out of the division, they’re going to have to figure out how to beat the Cubs. They’ve lost 7/8 match-ups against them so far, and the Cubs just swept them in their most recent 3-game series.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates (17-12)

The Pirates have been an unexpected success so far this season, most recently completing a series sweep against St. Louis. Rookie Nick Kingham made a startling debut, almost no-hitting the Cardinals. He retired the first 20 batters he faced, the longest streak for a rookie pitcher since 1961.

The Pirates haven’t been worth talking about for most of the past three decades, having posted 20 consecutive losing seasons between 1993-2012. They’ve made the postseason three times since then, but never past the NLDS. They’re in second place now, right behind the Cubs, so the question is, will it last?

1. Chicago Cubs (16-10)

Despite losing to the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS, the Cubs are still as hot ever. They swept the Brewers and are currently on a 5-game win streak.

Star Javier Baez is batting .292 with 7 HR and 26 RBIs, the best in the NL. The offense has scored the second-most runs per game in the league, 5.28. Their bullpen is ranked 3rd in the NL thanks to the arms of closer Brandon Morrow and Brian Duensing, who has yet to give up a run. Despite Anthony Rizzo, Yu Darvish, and Kris Bryant struggling in various ways, the team is winning.

This is the Cubs’ third straight season entering May in 1st place, and unless something drastically changes, it will likely be their third year heading to the postseason, too.

NL West

5. San Diego Padres (10-20)

Despite signing Eric Hosmer to an 8-year contract valued at $144 million, the rebuilding team is at a dismal 10-20, 11 games out of first. They’re being beaten by everyone from the Giants to the Mets, and their only real bright spot is outfield Franchy Cordero, who keeps hitting home runs to ridiculous distances. His 489-foot dinger is the longest-hit in MLB so far this season.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (12-16)

This is not the same Dodgers team that came within one game of winning the World Series last year. Under .500, 8 games out of first, winning and losing ridiculously-lopsided games against their rival Giants. They’ve lost 6 of their last 7. The LA Times says the Dodgers are “sliding into mediocrity.”

And it’s about to get worse, as the club announced today that shortstop Corey Seager needs Tommy John, and will, therefore, miss the remainder of the season. He’ll join Rich Hill, Logan Forsythe, Yasiel Puig, and Julio Urias on the DL.

It’s likely they’ll at least try to grab Manny Machado from the Orioles by the summer trade deadline. They have to do something, right?

3. Colorado Rockies (15-15)

In the first full month of the season, the Rockies have set a new franchise record: their offense’s .222 batting average going into yesterday’s game was not only their worst April BA ever, but the worst month in Rockies history.

They’ve lost to everyone from the NL Central first-place Cubs to the NL East last-place Miami Marlins. Hopefully, the return of Carlos Gonzalez off the DL, combined with their superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado, will right the ship for the Rockies. They remain one of the only teams in MLB to have never won a World Series.

2. San Francisco Giants (15-14)

The Giants are a confusing team, beating the Dodgers 3/4 this weekend, but losing 3/4 to the last-place Padres in mid-April.

April is their first full winning month since June 2016. Between July 2016 and today, their record was a dismal 108-154, making them literally the worst team in baseball since the middle of 2016. They finished 2017 tied with Detroit for the worst record in baseball, so it’s hard to know what to expect from them.

One thing’s for sure: they’re good for a laugh. Entertainment value peaked this weekend when manager Bochy sent Pablo Sandoval out to pitch rather than waste his bullpen on an already-lost blowout game. The 3rd baseman delivered a perfect inning.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks 

The D-Backs made history this weekend when they clinched their ninth straight series at the start of the season. The last National League team to do so was the Cubs in 1907.

Of course, no team is without their struggles. The team is now without two starters: righty Taijuan Walker is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John, and now lefty Robbie Ray will join him on the DL for 10 days. Ray has 48 strikeouts in just 4 starts this season.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Sunday that he believes his team will again top the division at the end of the year, to which D-Back’s manager Torey Lovullo responded, “I believe in my guys wholeheartedly.” Doesn’t hurt that they’re 8 games ahead of them.

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