The first full month of the MLB regular season has passed, and there have been several eye-opening stats and numbers in the early going that may come as a surprise to some fan bases. We are going to look at several numbers that stood out in April, focusing on three teams.
Let’s start in Pittsburgh, as the Pirates have the best record in the National League and the one stat stands out.
MLB number that matters — 3.98 FIP
The Pirates hot start in April matches the third-fastest start in team history. The last time they hit 20 wins in April was back in 1992, when they won the NL East. So what have been one of their key components that have created this early season success?
Starting Pitching: The Pirates have been getting quality starts from a rotation that features three young arms, two of which were acquired by trade. Johan Oviedo, who Pittsburgh picked up in the Jose Quintana to St. Louis deal back in August, has been a better pitcher than his ERA suggests (4.85) with a FIP of 3.85.
The key to his early-season success has been increasing the usage of his slider and curve. Those pitches have helped set up his fastball better. As a result, his slider has generated 33.1% Whiff rate and his curve a 31.3% Whiff rate and an increase in his PutAway percentage from 18.8% to 29.6%.
He also is in the 91% percentile in extension, which fits the 6-foot-5 Cuban right-hander well. The late movement on his secondary pitches is a huge plus on that ranking.
The second arm is another Cuban pitcher in Roansy Contreras. Pittsburgh picked him up in the Jameson Taillon deal to the Yankees back in 2021. He has a four-pitch mix that includes a slider that has produced a -7 run value. While he has walked 12 in 27 innings of work so far, fans can hope he can be more consistent this season.
The last pitcher, Mitch Keller, their second-round draft pick from the 2014 draft, has seen a drop early on in his hard hit% as he has it around 24%, which puts him among the league leaders. What has been key for him is throwing a new pitch to his mix, a cutter. That cutter has generated just a hard hit rate of 18% so far and gives hitters another pitch to think about to the other five he already throws, per Baseball Savant.