The season is Spring. Pollen coats cars as plants, trees, and new life are in bloom. In the Christian faith, it is Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter. Everywhere and in everything, the themes of new life, rebirth and resurrection abound. Ergo, here are some of this season’s early baseball resurrection stories.
Baseball – Resurrection Stories
It is early days yet. Some performances will tail off while others will rise in their place. Anything is still possible. Some will pretend to have a crystal ball to predict the future, using numbers to turn remarkable into mundane. Others will see breakouts and optimism around every corner. This is neither, rather simply celebrating hope and new life where and as it is.
Long a personal favorite, Jason Heyward is seemingly back from the dead to begin the 2019 season. Reasons for both optimism and skepticism abound. Ever since he signed with the Cubs, Heyward’s baseball career has more resembled an audition for The Walking Dead than that of a $184 million man.
This year, Heyward has surged out of the gate with a .358/.471/.604 line, four home runs, 12 walks and a mere six strikeouts. Craig Edwards of Fangraphs wrote about Heyward’s ever-changing swing and sees some real potential for this version of Heyward.
Heyward’s four home runs are significant, as he managed only eight all of last season and a combined total of 26 in his first three years with the Cubs. Whether his success continues, time will tell. For now, it is enough to appreciate what could be an incredible resurrection story.
No article on baseball resurrections would be complete without mentioning Chris Davis. Pressure is a two-way street. Legend has it that Roger Maris began to lose his hair from stress during his quest for 61 home runs. If a prolonged streak of success can cause that kind of stress, what must a prolonged stretch of futility feel like?
Chris Davis knows. Across parts of two seasons, he went hitless in a stunning 54 consecutive at-bats. He must have felt like Sisyphus, always attempting to push a boulder up a hill. Ergo, imagine his relief to see something finally fall in for a hit.
Chris Davis may never be a productive major league hitter again. However, that doesn’t matter here, because, for one magical moment, he was back from the dead. After 54 trips of futility, Davis had broken the shackles of frustration with a hit.
On April 1, 2019, Adam Wainwright pitched his first game of the season. It was a four-inning dud of four hits, four walks, and four runs. The consensus seemed to be that a team with hopes of contending had no business letting Wainwright start every fifth day.
Since then, all Wainwright has done is post consecutive quality starts by throwing 12 innings of 13 strikeouts, two walks, two run baseball. April Fools anyone? For all the injuries Wainwright has endured over the last three seasons, it’s nice to see a glimpse of the ace he once was. Maybe it’s a mirage, but for now, a 37-year-old former ace is pitching like he’s young again.
The Miami Marlins
A funny thing happened on the way to making fun of the Marlins. The record, the bats, the bullpen are all just as awful as everyone thought. But don’t be fooled: these are not the same old Marlins. After years of mismanagement and awful trades, a resurrection story could be brewing in the sparsely populated confines of Marlins Park.
At 4-15, the results look like the same old Marlins. However, there are a few key differences. Jorge Alfaro, one of the centerpieces of the J.T. Realmuto trade, has started off hot with his new team. Ignore the flashy .326 batting average. He won’t sustain that – but he doesn’t need to. He’s already hit three home runs, putting him on pace for 18-20 for the season. A strong-armed catcher with power? That’s not a mistake — that’s a building block.
Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez look promising, too. Both have walk rates under 10 percent and strikeout rates over 25 percent on the young season. Projections such as xFIP say both deserve an ERA around 3.50. Unheralded they may be, but young strikeout arms with decent control aren’t mistakes — they are the middle and back end of a contending rotation.
Sure, the record is lousy, and the bullpen stinks. But everyone’s bullpen stinks. The Braves’ bullpen just blew three straight games. The Nationals and Cubs have received horrible relief work so far. The Mets went out and bought and traded for a new bullpen this offseason, and the early results have only Edwin Diaz and Robert Gsellman with an xFIP under 4.50. Bullpens are volatility personified.
Despite a slow start this year, Brian Anderson is talented. Nick Anderson, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcantara, and Austin Dean have flashed potential. Sixto Sanchez oozes talent down on the farm, and they signed the much-hyped Victor Victor Mesa. For all the flack they rightly received over the trades of Yelich and Stanton, there are signs that the leadership in Miami does know what they are doing. It’s a shame about Lewis Brinson though. Brinson aside, it’s a new year in Miami, and they might be on to something.
Major League Baseball
Baseball was never dead, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something special early this season. Home runs are flying out at prodigious rates. Young stars like Ronald Acuna Jr., Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Eloy Jimenez began the year in the Show. Mike Trout got paid like the best player in the game and somehow continues to improve at the plate. Last year’s champs are struggling, the Padres have started hot, and Bryce Harper has made a splash in Philadelphia. Fun abounds in the early going. It’s a new season, and there’s a lot of life in baseball yet.
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