With one month in the books, here’s a look at some of the noteworthy pitching performances for this April.
Before injury led to an abbreviated outing on the last day of the month, Noah Syndergaard had four starts with 6+ IP and nary a walk or home run allowed. That ties him with Adam Wainwright in 2013 for the longest such streak to begin a season.
James Paxton started and went 6 IP or more in his first three outings, allowing no runs and fewer than 5 hits in each. The last pitcher with that start to his season was more than 100 years ago, when Ray Caldwell began the 1914 campaign with three shutouts (one was rain-shortened), each with three hits allowed. Paxton hit a bump in his fourth start, but then added another 6 IP/0 R/4 H performance in his next outing to become the first searchable pitcher to begin a season with 4 out of 5 such starts.
Similar to Paxton, Ervin Santana had 5 April starts of 6+ IP, all with no more than one run and four hits allowed, to become the first searchable pitcher with that start to a season. Santana’s 0.657 WHIP is the lowest April mark since World War II, among pitchers with SO/BB under 3.0 in 30+ IP.
Jeremy Hellickson posted an .800 April WHIP, an achievement made more remarkable for having also posted 3.3 SO/9, less than half the 7.3 level he’s averaged over the last four seasons. Danny Darwin, with a .775 mark in 1985, is the last pitcher to post a lower April WHIP with SO/9 under 3.5 in 25+ IP.
In contrast to Hellickson, Jason Vargas of the Royals led AL starters with 14.0 April SO/BB after starting the year with 9.8 SO/9, almost four whiffs more per 9 innings than his 5.9 career mark heading into this campaign. Since some gutty performances in the 2014 post-season, Vargas hardly pitched the last two seasons, so his comeback this year has already bucked the odds. Indeed, of 59 starting pitchers with fewer than 60 IP aged 32-33, Vargas is just the eighth to pitch in an age 34 season. But, five of those posted a qualified campaign and three of the five (Chris Carpenter, Bret Saberhagen, Al Hollingsworth) had very creditable seasons, each beginning, like Vargas, with a hot start.
Chris Sale posted a losing record for April, despite a 1.19 ERA. That’s the lowest April ERA among live ball era AL pitchers with a losing record in 25+ IP; only Fernando Valenzuela, with a 2-3 record and 0.21 ERA in 1985, has a lower mark in the NL (Valenzuela`s two wins were both shutouts, while his three losses were by scores of 2-1, 2-1 and 1-0, with only one earned run among the 5 tallies he allowed).
Danny Salazar and Carlos Martinez both recorded 12+ SO/9 and 4+ BB/9 in 25+ April IP, the first time a pair of pitchers have posted those totals to start a season. Only seven other hurlers have recorded those Ryan-esque April totals, including Nolan Ryan himself, the only pitcher to do so in two Aprils (in 1978 and 1989).
Jered Weaver, the 2016 AL leader for most HR allowed, is also getting knocked around in his first tour of the NL, giving up 10 April blasts. But, aside from the long ball, Weaver has been pretty good, with a very respectable 1.081 April WHIP, giving him a 2.90 ratio between HR/9 and WHIP, the highest ever in 25+ April IP. Weaver’s 40% of hits allowed going for homers is an April mark exceeded only by fellow Padre Ed Whitson, in 1987.
Among other veteran hurlers who are off their form to start this season, Adam Wainwright and Felix Hernandez top this year’s list for highest April BABIP allowed, with marks of .456 and .393 respectively. Each has also recorded 50% more hits allowed than batters whiffed.
Among relievers with 6+ IP and zero starts, Tommy Kahnle of the White Sox led the majors with 19.0 SO/9 in April. Kahnle, who had a career 5.5 BB/9 before this season, posted a 1.0 mark for April while whiffing 57.6% of the batters he faced, the latter mark exceeded only by his teammate David Roberston, in April 2015.
Speaking of Robertson, he struck out two batters in each of his first 5 appearances, all of one inning or less. That’s the longest such April streak to start a season (though Tom Gordon posted those totals in 6 May games to start his 2001 season, and Billy Wagner matched Robertson with 5 such games in a belated August beginning to his 2009 campaign).
Despite Kahnle’s and Robertson’s efforts, the 10.8 SO/9 result posted by the White Sox relief corps is just the second best mark this season, trailing Houston at 11.2. Those two teams also rank 1-2 in SO/9 in any April of 20+ relief innings, with the White Sox recording an 11.6 mark in 2010, and the Astros posting 11.5 in 1999.
Chase Whitley, despite a modest 1.75 SO/BB ratio, averaged 2+ IP in 5 April relief appearances and yielded nary a run. You have to go back to Ron Klimkowski in 1971 to find another AL pitcher with those April totals and a lower SO/BB ratio.
Which pitchers have caught your eye this season?