Tag Archives: april

Justin Verlander Conquers April (with graphs!)

verlander

 

This particular pitcher, Justin Verlander, is widely considered to be one of the best in baseball. You may disagree with that statement, but he’s certainly one of the very best pitchers in the entire league. Yet he has become the game’s best without doing very well in the season’s first month over the course of his career. Even in his Cy Young/MVP season, his April ERA was 3.64. In 2009, it was 6.75!

It’s been a bit of a thing among Tigers fans that Verlander isn’t that good in April. But he’s getting better and that should probably terrify you if you are a major league hitter.

Let’s take a look at his ERA and FIP in April across his career:

era

 

There was a time in which Verlander allowed a lot of runs in April and pitched in a way that suggested he would allow runs. ERA tells you what happened, FIP tells you what generally happens to pitchers who pitch a certain way. But over the last few years, he’s conquered April. His 2013 April ERA was 1.83. Imagine what he can do this season now that he isn’t trying to play catch up.

This trend is evident in his K/9 and BB/9 numbers as well:

k bb

 

Verlander has made noticeable improvement in April walk rate over the last few seasons and the strikeout rate hasn’t suffered.

Now maybe Verlander won’t take this great April and turn it into a season better than 2009 or 2011 or 2012, but he very easily could. If he continues his pattern of pitching better in the summer months, then we may be in for a treat. Verlander, I would argue, is nowhere near the top of his game so far this year, but he’s getting good results. When he settles in, it could be awesome.

He’s the richest pitcher in history and his teammates are putting pressure on him to match their great start. Justin Verlander has usually stumbled through April, but he did not do so in 2013. Could this be Verlander’s career year? If April is any indication, clear your calendar for every fifth day and start thinking about a trip to Cooperstown in about 15 years.

The Nine Best Aprils of the Last 10 Years

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

With April 2013 winding down and players such as Adam Wainwright and Justin Upton producing at very high levels, I thought it might be fun to revisit some of the best Aprils in recent memory. A few notes to start. First, March numbers are included for the few years that included 1-2 games in March because it’s simply too difficult to separate out that data and let’s face it, it’s pretty much the same thing. Second, I’ve determined these ranks by Wins Above Replacement (WAR) because it’s the easiest way to boil players down to one number who play different positions during different seasons. One shouldn’t treat this as a precise measure, but it’s the best we can do without inundating ourselves with information. Third, I haven’t included 2013 because it isn’t over yet and this is meant for you to compare this year’s performers with those performances past. For the years 2003-2012, The Nine Best Aprils follow.

9. Ryan Braun, 2011 (2.0 WAR)

Braun opened his MVP campaign in style with 26 games in April 2011. He hit 10 HR and posted a .367/.457/.724 line, good for a .496 wOBA and 220 wRC+. He would wind up hitting 33 HR over the course of the season with a 173 wRC+ and 7.3 WAR.

8. Alex Rodriguez, 2007 (2.1 WAR)

A-Rod, too, won the MVP in 2007 after a great April. He hit 14 HR and hit .355/.415/.882 to go with his .521 wOBA and 226 wRC+ during the first month and ended the year with 54 HR, a wRC+ of 175 and 9.6 WAR.

7. Alex Rodriguez, 2003 (2.1 WAR)

No this isn’t a typo and yes, Alex Rodriguez posted two separate 2.1 WAR in April in two separate MVP seasons in the last ten seasons. In this particular season, he hit 9 HR and posted a .355/.444/.673 slash line which produced a .472 wOBA and 188 wRC+. His season totals for 2003 were also impressive, with 47 HR, a .298/.396/.600 line, a 151 wRC+, and 9.1 WAR.

6. Matt Kemp, 2012 (2.2 WAR)

Just last year, Matt Kemp turned in an elite opening month by hitting 12 HR and delivering a .417/.490/.893 slash line to go with his .566 wOBA and 270 wRC+. Unfortunately for Kemp, injuries would shorten his season to 106 games and while he hit 23 HR and posted a .303/.367/.538 line, it would only be good for 3.2 WAR due to limited playing time.

5. Brian Roberts, 2005 (2.3 WAR)

Once upon a time, Roberts played an entire month of baseball without getting hurt. In April 2005, he hit 8 HR and stole 10 bases while posting a .379/.459/.726 line and a .496 wOBA and 214 wRC+. Roberts played well the rest of the season, and hit 18 HR and stole 27 bases to go with 140 wRC+ and a 9.4 UZR, but his 6.6 WAR wouldn’t be good enough to get him the MVP award that others on this list had coming.

4. Jose Bautista, 2011 (2.3 WAR)

2011 wouldn’t be an MVP year for Joey Bats, but his 9 HR in April and .366/.532/.780 line, wOBA of .541, and wRC+ of 249 would be good enough to put him on the path to a third place finish behind Justin Verlander and Jacoby Ellsbury. Bautista would finish the year with 43 HR, 182 wRC+, and 7.8 WAR. Nothing at which to sneeze.

3. Albert Pujols, 2006 (2.4 WAR)

Pujols delivered a superb April in 2006 enroute to a World Series win and 2nd place MVP finish. He hit 14 HR and .346/.509/.914 with a .548 wOBA and 240 wRC+. He’d finish the year with 8.2 WAR, 49 HR and a wRC+ of 174, but the voters wouldn’t ignore Ryan Howard’s 58 bombs.

2. Chase Utley, 2008 (2.5 WAR)

Howard’s teammate comes next on the list as Chase Utley posted great April 2008. His 11 HR, .360/.430/.766 line look awesome night to his .491 wOBA and 202 wRC+. He’d finish with 33 HR, 134 wRC+, and a 19.5 UZR, good for 8.0 WAR, but Pujols (who had a nice April 2008) beat him out for MVP. That doesn’t bother me much, as Pujols had a slightly better season. What does bother me, however, is that Utley somehow finished 14th despite having the second highest WAR.

1. Barry Bonds, 2004 (2.8 WAR)

Well you knew this was coming. 2004 would be Bonds’ final MVP season and he (and maybe some chemicals) certainly earned it. In April he hit 10 HR and posted an insane .472/.696/1.132 line to go with an otherworldly .673 wOBA and 322 wRC+. No one else is even the same conversation. He would conclude that season with 43 HR and a 233 wRC+ and 11.6 WAR.

It’s probably worth noting that the only one on this list who didn’t have a fantastic season was Matt Kemp, who simply got hurt. So if you have a 2.0 WAR type April, you’re probably in line for an awesome season. You have a great shot at an MVP award, too. Mr. Upton and Mr. Wainwright, things look good.

%d bloggers like this: