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Is it time to panic about Corbin Carroll’s offense, Oneil Cruz’s strikeouts or Craig Kimbrel’s inconsistency?

April has flipped to May, and a month of the MLB season is already behind us. It is the time of year when cement starts to set and settle. The small-sample-size theatrics are, ever so gradually, becoming trustworthy. And there’s a thin line between legitimate concern and frantic overreaction. The 2019 World Series champion Washington

Is it time to panic about Corbin Carroll’s offense, Oneil Cruz’s strikeouts or Craig Kimbrel’s inconsistency?

April has flipped to Could, and a month of the MLB season is already behind us.

It’s the time of 12 months when cement begins to set and settle. The small-sample-size theatrics are, ever so regularly, becoming trustworthy.

And there’s a skinny line between legit concern and frantic overreaction. The 2019 World Collection champion Washington Nationals, for example, began the season 19-31. A rocky spring doesn’t preclude a profitable summer time or an unforgettable autumn.

With that in thoughts, let’s parse by way of a number of early-season dips to attempt to separate truth from fiction.

Corbin Carroll, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks

Final season, Carroll was a principal character. As a 22-year-old rookie, the D-backs outfielder completed fifth in NL MVP voting behind 25 homers and 54 steals. Hitting atop Arizona’s lineup, the unanimous Rookie of the 12 months carried the underdog Snakes all the best way to the Fall Traditional. Alongside the best way, Carroll regarded like he was setting sail on a prolonged profession as a prototypical leadoff hitter, a catalytic pest set to hassle NL West golf equipment for years to come back.

As a substitute, the sophomore hunch has arrived — and it has not been variety. By means of 29 video games, the goateed outfielder has a .193 batting common and a .538 OPS with only one homer. His under-the-hood batted ball knowledge backs up that feeble output. Carroll’s protection and baserunning prowess give him a monumental ground, however his offensive efficiency has cratered to date this season and is a large purpose behind Arizona’s sluggish begin.

Carroll’s common exit velocity on pitches within the strike zone has plummeted from 92 mph in 2023 to 84.6 mph. That’s the fourth-weakest mark in MLB amongst gamers with a minimum of 200 pitches seen this season; Adam Frazier, who was nicknamed “Captain Slapdick” by Mariners followers throughout his 12 months in Seattle, is hitting the baseball more durable than Carroll.

That’s the kind of statistical shift that sometimes implies some kind of damage, however Carroll hasn’t mentioned any bodily discomfort, regardless that he had a few issues along with his proper shoulder in 2023. It’s additionally value noting that the Seattle-born outfielder hit solely 4 residence runs over the ultimate two months of final season and has by no means been an elite exit-velocity man.

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Maybe his two hard-hit balls Monday in opposition to the Dodgers, together with a deep fly that might’ve been a homer in 17 of 30 ballparks, is a harbinger of brighter days forward. But when Carroll actually is wholesome, this sudden drop involved high quality is value a minimum of a tinge of fear till issues change.

Oneil Cruz, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates

That is one other sobering reminder to not consider in spring coaching. Cruz was a March revelation, blasting seven homers in 46 journeys to the dish after lacking most of 2023 on account of an ACL tear. Sadly, that spring efficiency has not carried over into significant video games — fairly the other.

Cruz’s 45 punchouts are tied for the MLB lead. He has simply six extra-base hits. His shortstop protection is grading out poorly. Each his whiff charge (swing-and-misses) and chase charge (swings at pitches exterior the zone) are dreadful. Cruz is usually nonetheless pulverizing the ball when he does make contact, however energy means nothing when you possibly can’t use it. The graveyards of baseball historical past are suffering from gamers of this ilk.

Most regarding are Cruz’s numbers in opposition to same-sided pitching. The left-handed swinger is simply 3-for-32 with a stroll and 14 strikeouts in opposition to southpaws. That brings his profession left-on-left OPS to an unusably microscopic .480 mark.

Now, Cruz’s damage historical past and cavernous ceiling imply the Pirates will prolong him persistence and style as he tries to capitalize on his expertise. However the same-sided struggles are an enormous crimson flag, one which, I consider, will preclude him from changing into a franchise cornerstone.

I’m not panicking, however my palms are getting sweaty.

The Pirates will be patient with Oneil Cruz, but can he deliver on his potential? (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

The Pirates will probably be affected person with Oneil Cruz, however can he ship on his potential? (Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports activities)

Alex Bregman, 3B, Houston Astros

A vital 12 months for the frisky Houston third baseman has gotten off to a putrid start. Set to hit free company for the primary time at season’s finish, Bregman has a .577 OPS by way of 26 video games. Extra importantly, he hadn’t hit a baseball over the fence till Tuesday. It’s laborious to safe an enormous deal on the open market with out some taters.

Bregman’s poor exhibiting within the residence run column is instructive of two bigger points: He’s hitting too many grounders and he’s not pulling the baseball. Bregman applied some swing adjustments over the offseason — most notably, altering the best way he masses his palms — and people might be negatively impacting his timing.

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However as an entire, I’m not panicking a lot. Bregman’s exit velocity numbers are in keeping with his observe document, implying that he isn’t affected by a bodily decline. And the elite swing selections which have helped him attain base at a 37% clip over his nine-year profession haven’t gone anyplace, both. The strikeout-to-walk ratio remains to be excellent.

As soon as Bregman will get extra snug along with his new mechanics — or ditches them and switches again to his previous methods — it’s cheap to anticipate his numbers to look extra Bregman-y.

Joe Musgrove, SP, San Diego Padres

The Padres reworked their rotation over the winter. Out had been Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Nick Martinez and NL Cy Younger winner Blake Snell. In got here Michael King and Randy Vásquez in alternate for Juan Soto, in addition to Dylan Cease, acquired late in spring coaching to be the ace. It was a workers with a plethora of questions, however returners Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove had been set to supply dependability and continuity. As a substitute, Darvish has frolicked on the injured listing, and Musgrove has carried out like one of many worst pitchers in baseball.

The Padres don’t want Musgrove to be dominant; they only want him to be competent. However to date, he hasn’t come shut. In seven begins, the San Diego child has a 6.94 ERA throughout 35 innings. His anticipated ERA based mostly on batted ball knowledge is even worse. The fastball velocity is down by about 1 mph, from 93 to 92, a small however essential distinction. The sweeper Musgrove added to his already crowded arsenal over the winter is making all his breaking pitches bleed collectively.

A robust and optimistic presence within the clubhouse, Musgrove is revered all through the group, however good vibes don’t go as far whenever you aren’t getting outs. San Diego’s workers is already undermanned with Darvish simply returned and Vásquez on the shelf, so Musgrove does not have the posh of taking time to get proper. One thing is clearly amiss with the veteran right-hander, and till the fastball velocity will get again up, it’s unlikely issues will enhance.

Craig Kimbrel and the Orioles bullpen

The Orioles are in a difficult spot, one which dates again to final 12 months. When all-world nearer Félix Bautista underwent Tommy John surgical procedure in late September, it created a gaping gap in Baltimore’s bullpen. Bautista is irreplaceable, however the Orioles signed legendary nearer Craig Kimbrel to fill among the void. The nine-time All-Star was magnificent within the ninth until this past weekend, when he blew two saves in opposition to the Athletics and was faraway from Sunday’s recreation on account of upper-back tightness.

Kimbrel has been working a high-wire act for a number of years now, oscillating between dominant and disastrous. However as his October implosion with the Phillies final 12 months confirmed, he can’t be relied upon as a major possibility within the postseason. Yennier Canó, who had a breakout marketing campaign in 2023, is the apparent candidate to select up ninth-inning duties in Baltimore as an alternative, however the Birds must make their bullpen a precedence on the commerce deadline. The rationale for panic comes not now however later, in October, if the O’s flip to this model of Kimbrel in an important spot.

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