The best part of Opening Day (and the full weekend in baseball) is the general population’s tendency to overreact. Some overreactions stick more than others (with all due respect to Yermin Mercedes). Others are the first steps toward a new superstar in baseball. Let’s take a look at five AL overreactions after Opening Day. Who can keep up their hot streaks? Who will rebound from a slow start?
All stats are accurate as of the morning of April 11, 2022.
Steven Kwan Will Win AL Rookie of the Year
Steven Kwan has stood in the batter’s box 14 times so far, and in those 14 plate appearances, Kwan has reached base 12 times for a .857 on-base percentage. Kwan has an MLB-leading eight hits, and AL-leading two doubles and three walks. While the rest of the Cleveland Guardians got rolling in Game 3 of their series against the Kansas City Royals, Kwan started hot. In Game 1, he nabbed a single and a pair of walks in four plate appearances. In Game 2, he went two-for-three with a double and another walk. This culminated in Game 3 in which Kwan went five-for-five with a double and a hit by pitch. In 2021, only two players had games with five hits, an extra time reaching base, and zero outs made.
Kwan leads the Majors with a .800 average and .857 on-base percentage. His 433 OPS+ also leads the Majors. The 24-year-old tore up Spring Training (.469/.500/.531), and he is well on his way to a strong rookie season.
Byron Buxton Will Hit 50 Home Runs
Byron Buxton is the first player in the Majors to hit three home runs, smoking three in three at-bats against the Seattle Mariners. While he is zero-for-nine with a hit by pitch in his other 10 plate appearances, the power surge has propelled Buxton to be the American League leader in total bases. His .250/.308/1.000 slash line is something to behold, and his 252 OPS+ is ridiculous. After posting consecutive seasons with an ISO over .320, Buxton has more than doubled it to .750. In his two-homer game against the Mariners, Buxton launched exit velocities of 100.1 miles per hour and 108.4 miles per hour. Even when he was not hitting home runs, Buxton had a pair of 90-plus mile per hour batted balls.
The most impressive batted ball of Buxton’s season so far is a 112.3 mile-per-hour shot in Game 2 against the Mariners. Considering the whole package, Buxton is well on his way to becoming the best player in baseball.
The Toronto Blue Jays are the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs
The Blue Jays have gotten off to a nice start, taking two-of-three from the Texas Rangers. They have even scored 20 runs, the second-most in the Majors (6.67 runs per game). The problem is that they allowed the Rangers to score a ludicrous 23 runs in the three-game series in Toronto. They won game one 10-8 and lost game three 12-6 in massive scoring outbursts. Six Blue Jays have an OPS+ above 135 (including Danny Jansen‘s OPS+ of 500). On the other hand, the Blue Jays’ three starters managed to allow 13 earned runs in 8.2 innings. Kevin Gausman was the only pitcher that was remotely competent, and he still allowed eight hits and three runs in five innings.
Hyun Jin Ryu allowed six runs and five hits in 3.1 innings. Jose Berrios‘ ERA is closer to 200 than zero as he survived to get one out while allowing six of seven batters to reach. His ERA+ is in the single digits.
Salvador Perez is Washed
Salvador Perez murdered baseballs for the last two seasons, securing two legs of the Triple Crown last year. However, it seems that he has forgotten how to play baseball. So far, Perez is 0-for-12 with a pair of strikeouts. His OPS+ of -100 is 204 points below his career average. He is already responsible for a trio of zero-for-four games and has left seven men on base. For context, 307 Major Leaguers have recorded a hit so far. Additionally, 333 players have found their way on base in some fashion via a walk or a hit by pitch.
Perez is one of four players who are 0-for-12 or worse. Tommy Pham is 0-for-13, but he has drawn four walks. Enrique Hernandez is 0-for-13, but he has walked twice. Alex Kiriloff is 0-for-12, but he reached via an error and eventually scored. Perez has nothing.
Jeremy Pena Has Effectively Replaced Carlos Correa
Through their respective opening series, Jeremy Pena has an OPS that is over 400 points higher than Carlos Correa‘s. Pena has an OPS+ of 208 while Correa is scuffling to an 80 OPS+. Both players have hit home runs, but Pena’s was ultimately much more impressive because it came as his parents were being interviewed. Pena has also laced two doubles — Correa only has two hits in 12 at-bats. All told, Pena is slashing .375/.412/.688. The only other players with a walk, a home run, two doubles, and six hits so far are Nolan Arenado and Matt Olson. Both players were All-Stars in 2021.
Pena did commit an error at shortstop, but he leads AL shortstops in both putouts and assists. He is second in double plays turned, and he has already posted +1 total zone runs. Correa has zero. Somehow, Pena has already replaced Correa’s Platinum Glove-caliber fielding and his MVP-candidate-caliber offense.
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