"It's still early" is the compulsory caveat that we place on both good and bad surprises throughout April of the Major League Baseball season.
After all, it's a marathon, not a sprint, right? And in marathon terms, we're only about 2.5 miles into that 26.2-mile grind.
At a certain point, though, early trends become the new normal as slow starts devolve into down years for players, position groups and teams alike.
So, yes, it's still early. But here are a few things we're legitimately concerned about with the end of April rapidly approaching.
Unless otherwise noted, statistics are current through the start of play on Sunday, April 24.
The White Sox Are Floundering
Heading into the regular season, the Chicago White Sox had the best "win their division" odds of any team in the big leagues. Per CBS Sports, their win total line was 91.5, which was a full 11 wins higher than the next-closest AL Central team (Minnesota Twins at 80.5). Even the mighty Dodgers were only projected for 10 more wins than their presumed closest challenger (San Diego).
Yet, as we approach the end of April, the ChiSox are two games below .500, have the second-worst run differential in the American League and have not won a game in over a week. (They're still very much in the race for the AL Central, though, where no one currently has a winning record.)
Injuries certainly aren't helping their cause. Neither Lance Lynn (knee), Yoan Moncada (oblique), Joe Kelly (biceps) or Yermin Mercedes (hand) has played this season. Lucas Giolito (abdomen) just returned to the mound Sunday after leaving his Opening Day start early. AJ Pollock missed nearly two weeks with a hamstring injury, and it's likely that Eloy Jimenez will be out for much longer than two weeks after straining his hamstring Saturday.
Those seven players are making a combined $69.3 million this season—basically an entire Cleveland Guardians payroll ($70.7 million) worth of injuries. That's a noteworthy amount of expected contribution on the sideline.
But even most of the healthy members of the White Sox are struggling.
Jose Abreu homered on Saturday, but it was just his second blast of the season, and he's still only hitting .208. Starting outfielders Luis Robert (.205) and Adam Engel (.208) are also hovering just above the Mendoza Line. Catcher/designated hitter Yasmani Grandal (.128) and second baseman Leury Garcia (.108) would need to get hot for a couple of days just to climb to .200. And the two highest-paid, healthy starters (Dallas Keuchel and Vince Velasquez) have allowed a combined 19 earned runs in 18 innings of work.
Pretty much every year, there's at least one preseason World Series candidate that crashes and burns, finishing at or around .500. Last year, it was the Padres. In 2019, both the Phillies and Red Sox under-delivered. The year before that, it was the Nationals. In 2017, the Mets really disappointed, going 70-92 after a preseason line of 89.5. I could go on, but you get the drift.
By no means are we writing off the White Sox, but it's an early race between them, the Braves and the Astros for which preseason contender will be least relevant by September.
Patrick Corbin Looks Washed Up
In December 2018, the Washington Nationals signed Patrick Corbin to a back-loaded, six-year, $140 million contract. And the first year of that deal was great. He had a 3.25 ERA during the regular season, pitched three critical scoreless innings in Game 7 of the World Series and did it all for $12.5 million.
It's been all downhill since.
The good news is he hasn't been injured. He hasn't missed a start since Washington acquired him. So, at least he's giving the Nationals something for all the money they invested in him. That's more than they can say for Stephen Strasburg over the past couple of years.
But since that 2019 campaign that earned him some down-ballot Cy Young Award votes, Corbin has ballooned to 4.66 in 2020, 5.82 in 2021 and now an eye-popping 11.20 through four starts this year.