With the MLB season now a third of the way through, trends are starting to emerge. This series will investigate which teams and players are beginning to figure it out and catch fire, while others turn an early season slide into the new norm.
Despite a rough start to the season, the San Francisco Giants have torched their opponents in the last two weeks.
On the morning of May 15, the Bay’s own were a mere 17-23, 8.5 games back from the division lead. Since then, after their resounding victory this Monday to open a home series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Giants are now 11-3, winning all four of their series. They are now 28-26 — just four and a half games back from the division lead.
One major reason for the Giants’ success compared to their lackluster start has been the bullpen. In April, the bullpen sported a 6.15 ERA and a 1.519 walks and hits per inning pitched, or WHIP. May was a completely different story, though, as the Giants’ ERA dropped to 2.67, while their WHIP decreased to 1.096, as of print time.
Being able to close out games in the latter innings has enabled the Giants to lock down tight contests, but they’ve been blowing teams out, too. Led by Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger, the Giants had a +36 run differential since mid-May.
While the Giants have been wreaking havoc on everyone in their path, the opposite is happening for the Cleveland Guardians. The Guardians find themselves with a 24-29 record, 3.5 games back from the lead of a relatively weak division.
The problem is simple for the Guardians: The offense hasn’t been producing. Their 0.635 OPS on the year is good for worst in the MLB, and there have been no signs of improvement; they were last in May and second to last in the past two weeks, only ahead of the Oakland Athletics.
The Guardians have a top-10 pitching staff, but a team has to score to win, and until the Guardians figure out how to consistently get runners across home plate, their record will be below average at best.
Many individual players are having explosive offensive seasons so far, but one player that has come out of the woodwork, especially in the last month, is New York Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez.
At just 21 years old, Alvarez was in the minor leagues nearly all of last year and had a rough start to his rookie campaign this year, hitting just .130 in the first three weeks of the season. However, in 23 games played since April 23, Alvarez has been on fire, hitting .309 with 14 extra-base hits and 18 RBIs.
He’s been excellent behind the plate, as well, something fans had concerns about when he got called up to begin the year. Alvarez has the fifth-best OPS in the league in May — the Mets may have found an absolute gem to be their catcher of the future.
It’s a different story in Manhattan, though, as New York Yankees fans watch their 2022 All-Star pitcher Nestor Cortes struggle mightily on the mound.
Cortes had a 2.44 ERA and a 0.922 WHIP in 2022. However, his numbers have gotten dramatically worse this season: A 5.30 ERA and 1.270 WHIP leave Cortes as just the Yankees’ third-best starter this season.
One of the biggest reasons for Cortes’ fall off has been his inability to pitch well when facing batters the second or third time around. Cortes has given up 23 of his 31 earned runs after completing four innings, and opposing batters’ OPS goes from below .700 in the first four innings to above 1.100 in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
The MLB season is a long trek, and things can still very well change for all of these teams and players. Nonetheless, the Guardians and Cortes need to figure things out sooner rather than later, while the Giants and Alvarez will hope to continue their fiery play for the rest of the season.