The 2016 season is young but already loaded with hot topics, and we're going to touch on a few of them (and touch all the bases) here in The Cycle. Four items (single, double, triple and home run), each with a little more magnitude than the last. Let's start swinging.
Our first single of the season goes to a team that's due for a few of them ...
The Padres began the year with a 27-inning dry spell. It's the longest season-opening scoreless stretch in history, topping the old mark of 26 set by the 1943 St. Louis Browns (not to be confused with the Cleveland Browns, who, come to think of it, have also had long stretches where they struggle to score).
Fortunately, the scheduling gods have smiled upon the Padres. If you thought John Denver loved the Rocky Mountains, you ought to talk to rookie skipper Andy Green. His club's first roadie brings them to the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field this weekend, and hopefully that ballpark will help put a quick end to this deep Friar funk.
Because nobody's expecting the Padres' season run total to continue to resemble San Diego's annual snowfall total.
Our double goes to a guy coming off a double sports hernia…
Anyone who thought Robinson Cano, the Mariners' $240 million second baseman, was washed up is eating some Cano crow right about now. Poor Cano couldn't do much eating last summer, as he was dealing with a stomach ailment that sapped his strength and slugging percentage. Then he played through muscle issues on both sides of his abdomen, necessitating the dual surgery (and hopefully the Mariners had a 2-for-1 coupon for that one).
Here in 2016, with a return to health has arrived a return to prominence. Cano is now just one of 30 players since 1913 to homer in each of his team's first three games, and he went deep four times in all. He looks like a man on a mission. Just call it a Robinson Crus...ade.
Our triple goes to a pitcher who can hit triple digits with his sinker...
The mythological figure Thor wields his hammer and utilizes thunder and lightning for the good of mankind.
That's all well and good, but baseball's Thor has even nastier weapons that he utilizes for the good of the Mets. Noah Syndergaard averaged 97.7 mph with his sinkerball last year, making him one of just eight pitchers in the bigs to have an average velocity of 97 or more with that particular pitch. The only catch: Those other seven guys (Kelvin Herrera, Jumbo Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Jake Diekman, Zach Britton, Blake Treinen and Tommy Hunter) are all relievers. Our man Thor was doing it when he already had 70 or 80 pitches under his belt.
But that's not what's crazy. What's crazy is that Syndergaard is now offsetting his high-90s sinker with a mid-90s slider. It touched 95 mph in his win over the Royals this week, leading Ned Yost to proclaim that "no man alive" could hit the pitch. Not even the real Thor.
And our home run goes... to the home run...
The polar vortex might have done a number on temperatures, but it couldn't cool this week's exit velocities. It didn't matter if you were a young kid like Carlos Correa, an old geezer like David Ortiz or an imported pitcher like Kenta Maeda. The long ball was in-season -- even in places where Mother Nature didn't seem to know what season it was.
For several years, baseball's offensive outlook was like a backward birthday card -- 30 (homers) was the new 60. But thanks to a cavalcade of young sluggers, we saw a sudden upswing in big swings in the second half last season. And going deep was the flavor of Opening Week. Long balls were the story, especially if your name was Trevor Story. And though there's plenty of season left for pitching prominence to return, here's to this being a story that doesn't end.