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The 2019 MLB regular season is barely a month old, but enough baseball has been played for us to be surprised by a few things.
Part of the fun with early-season statistics is the fact that almost nothing has stabilized just yet when we’re talking about the performances of a team or individual players. There’s still about five-and-a-half months for things to even out, and for the most part, they will across the board. That’s just how baseball works — the law of averages typically wins out.
But there will be at least a handful of occurrences where a surprisingly fast start will turn into a career year for a player, or a postseason push by a team initially not expected to be a contender. These are key players to watch when making an online sports bet as their hot streak can set the stage for a string of wins for their team. In fact, some of the best sports bets online you can make are wagering on the team of a hot hitter or pitcher, as they will often come up big to help you win your bet.
Let’s dig deeper into the following players who have all gotten off to varying degrees of surprisingly good starts in 2019 and are prime candidates for a good bet.
Pete Alonso, New York Mets
April 11th is a significant date for Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, even though it doesn’t actually mean anything. This date matters because if New York had decided to start him in Triple-A in 2019, this would’ve been their first opportunity to promote Alonso while also gaining an extra year of team control.
Instead of doing that, the right-handed slugger has been in the big leagues since Opening Day and has made an immediate impact. That’s not totally shocking — he was on many preseason radars when it came to the National League Rookie of the Year conversation.
However, it’s safe to assume not many expected the kind of production he’s put together thus far.
Per @EliasSports: Pete Alonso is the first Major Leaguer since 1900 to collect 11 extra-base hits in his first 10 career games. No other player has had more than nine.
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 10, 2019
All those extra-base hits have led to a .366/.435/.878 line with five home runs, 15 RBI, and nine runs scored through his first 46 MLB plate appearances. Entering Thursday’s games, Alonso’s 230 wRC+ is the sixth-best mark in all of baseball.
The rookie’s strikeout rate (30.4%) is a bit elevated, but the Mets can deal with that when he combines it with a 25.9% line-drive rate, 48.1% fly-ball rate, and 59.3% hard-hit rate.
Matthew Boyd, Detroit Tigers
We’re blessed to have some top-tier pitchers in today’s game. But still, two weeks into the regular season, there are just two starters with a strikeout rate above 40.0%. Can you guess who they are?
Mike Clevinger (52.4%) and Boyd (40.3%). Baseball, man.
Sure, the Tigers’ southpaw has tossed just 17.1 innings to this point in the season. But this jumps out because his current season-long career-high strikeout rate came last year when he made hitters whiff at a 22.4% clip.
Boyd’s swinging-strike rate (16.8%) has also ballooned with his strikeout rate, and there’s a clear shift in pitch mix going on here. The usage of his curveball and changeup has dropped approximately four and five percentage points, respectively, while he’s throwing his fastball and slider with more regularity.
That’s where a lot of his strikeouts are coming from, too. His four-seamer is generating strikeouts at a 31.6% rate (20.1% in ’18), and his slider is boasting a 62.5% strikeout rate (33.3% in ’18).
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
This past offseason for the White Sox revolved around trying to convince Manny Machado to play for them. And even though shortstop Tim Anderson is signed through at least 2022, Machado would’ve played shortstop had he landed in the Windy City.
When he finally made his decision to play for the San Diego Padres, Anderson could finally exhale and focus on the season ahead with much more certainty. That has led to one helluva start in 2019.
There are seven qualified hitters with a batting average of at least .400 right now. Anderson leads them all with a .514 mark through his first 38 plate appearances. His 255 wRC+ is second in the league, with some guy named Mike Trout (288 wRC+) the only one better than him. So many things jump out here when it comes to regression, but none more than his .607 BABIP. It jumps out even more when it’s paired with a 60.0% ground-ball rate and 26.7% hard-hit rate.
When looking at Anderson’s performance on ground balls so far this year, his 188 wRC+, .500 average, and 11.1% hard-hit rate all scream obvious regression. Especially since he’s never posted a wRC+ higher than 67 for this batted-ball event in any of his previous three MLB seasons.
Jose Berrios, Minnesota Twins
Getting off to a fast start isn’t necessarily a surprise for Berrios. For the second consecutive year, he’s one of our dark horse Cy Young candidates. The young right-hander appears poised to take another step forward when looking at his 2.18 ERA through 20.2 innings.
However, two specific statistics that are surprising — his infield-fly rate allowed and soft-hit rate allowed. Berrios has induced infield flies at a 22.7% rate (fifth-best mark in baseball) and has induced soft contact at a 33.3% clip (second-best mark in baseball).
Those are large departures from his current career norms. His infield-fly rate has never finished above 10.0%, while his soft-hit rate has never been higher than 20.4%. These numbers may look like this because Berrios’ curveball usage has skyrocketed. He tossed it at a 30.5% rate in 2018 (a single-season career high), and that number is currently at 42.9%, easily the highest in baseball.
It’s regularly been his best performing pitch, and this year has been no different. Opposing hitters are slashing .129/.156/.226 against it, which has led to a 34.4% strikeout rate, 16.7% swinging-strike rate, and a 12 wRC+.
Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Last week, it was Paul Goldschmidt’s ridiculous hard-hit rate that caught our eye. This week? It’s his very, very odd triple slash.
The Cardinals’ newest first baseman has made his mark at the plate by smashing six homers and driving in 10 runs while scoring 10 more of his own. His 112 wRC+ tells us his overall production at the plate has been solidly above average, but his batting line just doesn’t look right through 59 plate appearances: .180/.305/.540.
Goldschmidt’s performance against certain pitches shows a clear divide in what’s going on, too. He’s crushing four-seamers (189 wRC+) and sliders (264) from opposing pitchers, but has struggled against sinkers (29), changeups (-38), and curveballs (44).
So, is this technically a surprising start? Not quite because of how the advanced stats portray his production. His triple slash is just weird and worth pointing out because that’s part of the fun with early-season statistics.
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