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.
The news of the day from Nashville comes in many parts, but these are the three that caught my eye.
Red Sox sign C/1B/DH Mike Napoli, 3 years, $39 million
The Sox needed someone to play first base and hit for power after they traded away most of their team to the Dodgers in August and Napoli qualifies. I think a lot of this deal comes from his awesome but lucky 2011 rather than his pretty good 2012. Napoli can certainly be a useful hitter in 2013 and beyond but there’s no way he can provide a lot of value on defense.
He’s a DH who won’t embarrass himself at 1B and can catch on occasion. The Sox already have David Ortiz at DH and have a lot of options at catcher, so Napoli figures to be the starting first baseman. They probably should have gone with LaRoche here, but the deal isn’t too big to turn me off. Grade: B-
Anibal Sanchez is asking for 6 years and $90 million
A couple of things to note here. First, a rumor went around that the Tigers offered 4/48 and Sanchez was insulted. Jason Beck of MLB.com says that the rumor is inaccurate, so maybe this isn’t a thing.
The other thing to note here is that a former The Guy Show personality and I had this exchange over the Sanchez news (edited for emphasis):
Him: No way I’m paying Sanchez $90m and no way I give anyone six years!
Me: If you don’t want to sign six year deals, you will never sign big time free agents.
Him: For that money I would want Greinke.
Me: Greinke will sign for many millions more than that.
Him: I would do 6/110.
Me: Then he will sign with the Dodgers and not you.
What we can learn from this exchange is twofold. One, the Tigers won’t sign Sanchez because he wants #2 starter money. The Tigers have two #2 starters already and don’t need a third. Other teams need #2 starters a lot more, and will in turn, pay more for them. Two, Sanchez is not asking for too much. Six years is always risky, but $15 million a season is a fair price if you’re confident in his ability to stay healthy relative to other pitchers.
Salaries are bigger now than they used to be. Teams are paying $5 million per WAR right now and the new TV money is going to bump that up to closer to $7 million per WAR in the near future. Sanchez is worth 3.0 WAR, so this is not an overpay.
R.A. Dickey Trade Talk
Lots of buzz around the Mets dealing Dickey and the Royals and Rangers seem interested. Hard to tell how much of this is media driven speculation and how much is actually happening.
I’m undecided about this move because I think the Mets aren’t that far away and could contend by 2014 if they play things right. Dickey seems willing to sign and extension if it’s a fair deal and knuckleballers age well. If they buy his ability to actually replicate the last two seasons, they should keep him. If they think he’s a flash in the pan, they should move him.
Also! Big news! A-Rod needs surgery and will be out until May or June. I’m sure you are very surprised because none of the national media is covering this story!