Let me tell you about a baseball player named Chris Shelton. If you have never heard of Shelton, you are not alone. His career only spanned parts of 5 big league seasons, and he ended up playing in 299 games while amassing 3.3 fWAR. He is both forgettable and a good representation of why early season returns are just as important as mid or late season, but nothing to get too wrapped up in.
In 2005 Shelton put up a pretty solid season. He played in 107 games as a 25 year old and put up a slash line of .299/.360/.510 good for a 132 wRC+. It showed some promise, and the next year I was looking at him as a possibility for fantasy baseball going into 2006. In the end I decided it was a bit of a mirage, and I stayed away from him. The BABIP was pretty high, and nothing in his profile said he could maintain that slugging percentage.
Then 2006 began, and Chris Shelton hit two home runs on opening day. Two games later he hit two more, and then another one the day after that. By April 17th he had 9 home runs in 13 games and was on pace for 112. I was tempted to pick him up for my team, but the player I would have to drop was someone I had targeted in the draft, though if was probably just Shea Hillenbrand or someone else not that important. Trusting my preseason evaluations, I held off on adding Chris and his nine early season homers and watched someone else pick him up. Then he proceeded to hit seven more home runs over the next 102 games. His wRC+ was under 100 every month after April.
The first week of baseball is always an interesting one as teams and players want to get out to a fast start, but how fast the start is actually doesn’t matter very much. One of the things I love most about baseball is the consistency that it requires. You have to show up every day for six months. Sitting here on Monday morning, we are 1.85% of the way through the season. We know that Bobby Witt and MJ Melendez are not going to go hitless for the entire year, but so far, they have, and that can be frustrating. They are going to keep showing up and doing their thing, the numbers will get better. Some may continue to struggle even as things get better. With this many young players it is safe to assume that a couple of them are going to get sent back down to the minors at some point this season. It is okay.
Whatever you thought the Royals were this time last week, you should still assume that now. We have not seen enough to know much of anything at this point. I am encouraged by some of what we have seen. The bullpen, other than Garrett, is looking good, and for the most part the starters have too, though the wheels came off a bit at the end for Keller. I could go player by player and talk about good plate appearances that they had, even if the results were not what we wanted. Instead however, I will just say that the Phillies, only five months removed from a World Series appearance, are also oh and three. The Mariners have one win, but also three losses. Those are still good teams.
Hot starts can be fun, but if they are Chris Shelton style I want no part of it, I’m looking at you 2003 Royals. I want to see these guys put together complete seasons, not a good first week.
It’s a long season, pace yourself