Baseball is a grind. A lot can happen over the course of a 162-game schedule, so trying to make definitive judgements based on small samples of games is foolish. Any team or player can go into a 10-game slump only to rebound and play well the rest of the way.
The difference is that those 10-game slumps tend to take on most significance at the start of the year. That’s because it’s the only data available. If a team starts 1-9, it’s easy to panic. Would you feel the same way if they went 1-9 in August, probably not to the same extent.
If you wouldn’t change your opinion about a team after a random 10-game sample in August, then why do it now? That’s precisely why The Stew crew is here today: To calm you down. To ease your pain. To make sure your hair doesn’t fall out because your team stinks right now.
It’s early, and things get better. With that out of the way, here are a few teams we think are in for a rebound following a tough start.
The Rangers are off to a miserable start this season, but if there’s a silver lining it’s that the primary source of their pain is easily diagnosed. Closer Sam Dyson has blown all three of his save opportunities in pretty epic fashion, with all three leading to losses. Now Dyson is headed to the disabled list, opening the door for either Matt Bush or Jeremy Jeffress to take over. Both are good enough options that this situation could stabilize in a matter of days. Assuming it does, the Rangers should start finishing games more efficiently and make us forget the first two weeks even happened. (Mark Townsend)
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Aaron Sanchez and Josh Donaldson are already hurt and Jose Bautista is playing like it, but the Blue Jays shouldn’t sweat just yet. Sure, they play in a tough division, and their early start hasn’t been encouraging. But there’s too much talent here to panic. No one is hitting. No one! There’s just no way that will keep up. Kendrys Morales and Bautista may be older, but you would like to think they can stave off a total collapse for at least another year.
The pitching has been compromised with the loss of Sanchez and JA Happ, but Marcus Stroman has looked fantastic thus far. There’s some adversity to overcome here, especially in the American League East, but I still think this club has playoff aspirations. (Chris Cwik)
Never mind how the standings look, the AL Central is still teed up for the Indians. The concern comes from the fact they’ve allowed the second-most runs in baseball (66) behind only the Padres (68), and lead the league with a 5.01 ERA. Yet Cleveland has scored the fifth-most runs in the American League (58) through 13 games, while earning the fourth-most walks (51) in baseball on just 100 strikeouts. As long as their offense stays efficient, and can get an already dominant Andrew Miller in the game with the lead, the Indians’ pitching staff will get plenty of time to turn things around. With the Twins primed to fall back down to Earth — and the White Sox planning to unload anyone who plays well for more prospects — the Indians should have no trouble grabbing hold of the Central. (Blake Schuster)
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
The St. Louis Cardinals are a mess these days, which is something that doesn’t happen in baseball too often. Even after winning Monday night, they have the worst record in the NL at 4-9. They’re off to the worst start since 1988, and it’s mainly because they have the worst batting average in baseball and the fifth-worst ERA. They’re making way more errors than you’d expect from a Cardinals team. The pitching hasn’t been great.
The list can go on, but there are two reasons not to panic: Hello, small sample size and, hello, these are the Cardinals. Their whole team isn’t going to hit around .200 the whole season. Carlos Martinez is going to look better. Adam Wainwright isn’t going to have an ERA over seven — well, we don’t think anyway. And Dexter Fowler isn’t going to hit .132. The Cardinals just all stumbled at the same time, in the most visible time. Don’t freak out yet, St. Louis. It’ll get better. (Mike Oz)
It’s April 18, and the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds are all alone in first place in the NL Central. Not exactly what anyone expected to see, even through a few weeks of games. But Reds fans who are eyeing those early picks in the 2018 MLB draft have no reason to panic. The 2017 Reds have been playing *way* above their ability. Tucker Barnhart, Zack Cozart, and Eugenio Suarez all have averages that are comically higher than their lifetime averages. (Zack Cozart isn’t actually a .450 hitter.) And the bullpen has brilliantly made up for a stumbling starting rotation, but there’s absolutely no way that can last. Don’t worry, Reds fans. They’ll come back down to earth soon, and you can pencil in that top five draft pick in 2018. (Liz Roscher)
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