Yu Darvish, Giancarlo Stanton top list of slow starts for new faces in new places

Yes, the 2018 season is only a few weeks old. Yes, slow starts to a long baseball season are commonplace, especially when the April weather is cold and crummy. And, yes, small-sample-size-based projections are irrational.

Yu Darvish, Giancarlo Stanton top list of slow starts for new faces in new places

Yu Darvish, Giancarlo Stanton top list of slow starts for new faces in new places

That’s why we’re not making any big proclamations today, only observations. Fans want to see their favorite team’s shiny new pieces perform to expectations immediately.

MORE: Yankees' bullpen, Dodgers' hats highlight contenders' early struggles

That doesn’t always happen, though, so today we’re going to look at some new faces who have struggled in their new places.


Yu Darvish, Cubs


Numbers of note: Three starts, 15 innings, 6.00 ERA, 5.19 FIP, -0.1 rWAR
Thoughts: Darvish has had two crummy starts and one outstanding start. That’s not the ratio he wants, obviously. In that outstanding start, Darvish struck out nine and allowed only two hits on the road against the division-rival Brewers, a game the Cubs won 5-2. His debut with the Cubs was forgettable; he failed to make it out of the fifth inning in Miami, allowing five hits and five runs with four strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings against the Marlins. In his most recent start, his Wrigley Field debut, the first-pitch temp was 42 degrees. Darvish again failed to make it out of the fifth, giving up nine hits, four walks and four earned runs to the Braves.

Cubs fans shouldn’t panic, though. Darvish’s velocity is consistent with (or even above) his career averages, and the percentage of balls hit hard against him this year (27.9 percent) is actually lower than his career average (30.2 percent). His current strikeouts per nine innings (10.2) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.43) are just a bit below his career K/9 and K/BB ratio in March/April (10.5 and 2.84, respectively), and those two numbers are the “worst” for any month in his career. Give him a chance to warm up.


Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees


Numbers of note: .220 average, .761 OPS, 37.9 strikeout percentage
Thoughts: That two-homer debut in Toronto seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it? Stanton has 30 plate appearances at Yankee Stadium this year; he’s struck out 16 times, has just three hits, a .103 average, .167 on-base percentage and .381 OPS. He has more five-strikeout games at home (two) than home runs at home (one). That’s not how the powers-that-be hoped he would introduce himself to the fans in the Bronx.

The reality is this, though: Stanton has been a streaky hitter in his career. In 2016, he hit .118 with only two homers in a 23-game stretch, then hit .338 with seven homers in his next 18 games. In 2017, Stanton hit .217 in a 22-game stretch, then batted .328 with 10 homers over the next 36 games. And, sure, those numbers are chosen with arbitrary endpoints. But the point is that Stanton is streaky good and streaky bad. April panic is very unnecessary.


Andrew McCutchen/Evan Longoria, Giants


Numbers of note: McCutchen: .203 average, two homers, .627 OPS. Longoria: .204 average, two homers, .627 OPS
Thoughts: After a horribly disappointing 2017 season, the Giants traded for a couple of veteran hitters in the offseason to bolster their lineup. While both McCutchen and Longoria have had their moments, overall they have yet to make the kind of impact the front office hoped. McCutchen had one huge game — he was 6-for-7 with a walk-off three-run homer in the 14th inning against the Dodgers — but aside from that, he’s batting .115. Remember, though, he started slowly for the Pirates last year (.223 average, .705 OPS through the end of May) but returned to his All-Star caliber play the rest of the season (.308 average, .922 OPS, 20 homers the last four months).

Longoria has been fine since starting the season in an 0-for-15 hole in the Giants’ first four games. Since then, he’s hitting .282 with a couple of homers and an .864 OPS. He’s not the MVP candidate he was early in his career with the Rays, but he’s been at least a 3.3 rWAR player over the past four seasons, and there’s no reason to expect he won’t approach that level again in 2018, his Age 32 season.

MORE: Stanton says he has no bad blood with Derek Jeter


Randal Grichuk/Stephen Piscotty


Numbers of note: -0.5 fWAR (for both guys)
Thoughts: Yes, these two play for different teams, on opposite sides of the continent, but they’re grouped together because of their background. Once upon a time, both were highly regarded youngsters expected to roam the Cardinals outfield for the better part of the next decade. Grichuk was the guy chosen one pick before Mike Trout, the one with the powerful bat and Gold Glove defensive potential. Piscotty didn’t have the same ceiling, but he was considered more of a sure thing, to the point that St. Louis gave him a six-year deal in April 2017, the start of his third season in the bigs, even though his numbers dropped in the second half of 2016.

The Cardinals, facing an outfield logjam this offseason, traded both away. Piscotty was dealt to Oakland, a move that allowed him to be closer to his family and ailing mother. Grichuk was sent to Toronto. As you saw above, neither has been great in his new home (the -0.5 fWAR is tied for worst among qualified players). Grichuk has just a .071 average (3-for-42) and a 34.0 strikeout percentage. Piscotty, though, is one of only four players to have a hit off Shohei Ohtani.


Logan Morrison, Twins


Numbers of note: .088 average, .205 on-base percentage, -5 OPS+
Thoughts: Morrison, coming off a 38-homer season with Tampa Bay in 2017, couldn’t find the big-money free-agent deal he wanted this offseason, so he settled for a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Twins (with an $8 million club option for 2019). The actual season hasn’t been any kinder to Morrison than the offseason — his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .115 ranks 266th of 272 players with at least 39 plate appearances, thanks largely to the copious amounts of soft contact he’s made through his first 10 games (34.6 percent, as opposed to his career average of 18.8 percent). His walk percentage (10.3 percent) and strikeout percentage (20.5 percent) are both in line with his career marks (10.5 and 19.2, respectively).

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