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Monday, May 2, 2011
Some of last year's best get started quickly


With April in the books, let's take a look at the first month that was in the major leagues.

We called 2010 the Year of the Pitcher and 2011 is shaping up to be the same -- or better. Since the mound was lowered in 1969, no March/April has had a higher strikeout rate than in 2011. League-wide walk rate is also the second lowest it’s been during the last 43 years, and not surprisingly, strikeout-to-walk ratio is also the best it’s ever been.

And according to Inside Edge, only 20.2 percent of at-bats have ended with a “well hit” ball this season. That’s the lowest rate in March/April since 2007.

One thing to note, is that 29 pitchers (min 30 IP) last season had a fastball that averaged 95 MPH or higher, by far the most since velocity data is available going back to 2002. This season, only 16 pitchers are averaging 95 or higher.

PITCHERS OF THE MONTH
Jered Weaver, LAA

Opponents are missing on 26.3 percent of their swings against Weaver this season, (26.1 last season, 10th among qualified pitchers). From 2006 to 2009, Weaver’s miss percentage was just 21.4. Last season, Weaver took more hitters to two-strike counts than any pitcher in baseball and led baseball in strikeouts. This season he's first and second, respecitvely.

Josh Johnson, FLA
Before his start Saturday, Johnson had not allowed a hit in the first three innings in his previous five starts. In three of his six starts, he pitched at least 5 ⅔ innings of no-hit ball. Johnson alone has three of the eight total no-hit bids of at least 5 ⅔ innings this season. According to Elias, he was the first pitcher in the last 50 years with three starts of at least 5 ⅔ no-hit innings in April.

Weaver had the lowest opponents' batting average against his fastball and Johnson had the lowest against his slider.

HITTERS OF THE MONTH
Jose Bautista, TOR

Bautista has carried over his tremendous 2010 season. His nine homers lead the American League and are well ahead of his 2010 pace when he finished with an MLB-best 54 homers. He also leads the AL in OBP and slugging percentage.

Andre Ethier, LAD
Ethier’s 26-game hitting streak is the longest ever for a single season in April and the second-longest by a Dodgers player since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

There's nothing good to throw these guys; Bautista leads the majors in batting average against sliders and Ethier is second in batting average against changeups.

STOLEN BASE NOTES
Successful stolen base attempts resulted in a run 36 percent of the time in March and April, but potential for runs has collateral damage: the batters. Hitters who were at bat during a steal attempt have hit just four home runs in 523 at-bats and are well below league averages in batting average and strikeout rate. Johnny Damon has been the poster child for poor hitting after a steal, going 0-for-7 with five strikeouts … all on Sam Fuld attempts.

The Yankees have made the most of their 19 stolen base attempts, scoring eight runs, the highest percentage of runners to score following a steal attempt this season. The Braves have scored just once in 14 attempts, the worst percentage in the league.