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MLB Underwhelming Teams from 2021 are Off to Strong Starts

MLB teams that disappointed last year are making the most of their offseason acquisitions, and it shows in the standings.

MLB teams with lackluster records last season are off to much better starts in 2022.  The Los Angeles Angels, the Minnesota Twins, and the New York Mets are each leading their divisions.  All three teams also made some headline moves during the offseason and into Spring Training to beef up their rosters.  Here are breakdowns for each team’s new difference makers.

Angels

For years people around MLB have said the Angels would be a contender if they got any pitching.  Well, they finally got some pitching.  The Angels signed SP Noah Syndergaard after he turned down a qualifying offer from the Mets.  After missing all of 2020 and only playing two games last year, Thor is rebounding with a 2.63 ERA in four starts, and his sinker looks as good as ever.  His average velocity is down three miles per hour, but the sinker has been unhittable so far.  Its batting average against is .097, when it hovered around .300 in past years.

A pleasant surprise for the Angels has been SP Michael Lorenzen.  After seven fine but unsatisfying years with the Cincinnati Reds, including a career-worst ERA in 2021, Lorenzen has found a new gear in Anaheim.  His ERA of 3.04 would be close to a career-best, even if he is due for some regression.  He has increased his sinker usage from 9% last year to 34%, resulting in a .158 BAA, but the hard contact will hurt him eventually.

With out of nowhere performances from SP Patrick Sandoval and RF Taylor Ward, the Angels are 15-10 entering Wednesday.  The Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners will have something to say about the AL West race.

Twins

After a series of under the radar moves, the Twins made the splashiest move of the MLB offseason.  Signing SS Carlos Correa came as a shock to everyone, but the superstar is still getting going in his new home.  Correa is hitting a decent .264 but he only has six extra-base hits so far.  With leaguewide offense plummeting this season, he is still a little above-average with an OPS+ of 106.

The same cannot be said of C/DH Gary Sanchez and 3B Gio Urshela, who are both a little below-average.  They came over from the New York Yankees in a baffling trade, but like Correa, they have not found their power in the cold Minnesota air.  Urshela is walking more and striking out much less, but his isolated slugging is a paltry .057.  Sanchez is the opposite, with a concerningly high strikeout rate and low walk rate.

The Twins also made a couple major trades to improve the pitching staff with mixed results.  They got SP Sonny Gray from the Reds for a small return, but he is currently hurt.  More encouraging are the performances of SP Chris Paddack and CP Emilio Pagan, acquired on Opening Day from the San Diego Padres.  Paddack’s ERA is down almost two full runs from last season because he is using his pitches more effectively.  He has introduced a slider, but more importantly he is keeping his fastball out of the middle of the plate.  Pagan has switched from a changeup to more of a splitter to keep hitters off balance.

This is a new-look Twins club, but they are leading the AL Central because CF Byron Buxton continues to mash baseballs.

Mets

The National League’s best record belongs to…the Mets?  Yes, the MLB franchise consistently with the worst luck has pushed against the bad mojo to this point.  With new manager Buck Showalter and MLB’s best rotation, the Mets are for real.

The team from Queens is weathering an injury to SP Jacob deGrom with the fine pitching of SP’s Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt.  They have near-identical lines with ERA’s of 2.61 in 31 innings.  The future Hall of Famer is doing the same thing as past years, and it still works.  Bassitt, part of the Oakland A’s selloff, is throwing his slider more and pounds the zone with all six of his pitches (yes, six).  His super command and movement are warranting elite levels of soft contact.

In a single day in November, GM Billy Eppler signed three talented position players to start at Citi Field.  OF Starling Marte is struggling across the board and leads the league in caught stealings, but he is known for making adjustments.  INF Eduardo Escobar, meanwhile, had a hot April buttressed by a 14% walk rate to this point.  OF Mark Canha has been the best of the bunch with a .338 average driving his profile.  When a player gets hits that often, they do not need to hit for power.

The Mets look like they will contend all season, but the Atlanta Braves are not going anywhere.  Watch out for the Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins, who are competing in their own right.

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