Major League Baseball's regular season is now more than a month old. Every team has played at least 25 games, or 15 percent of its schedule. In other words, it's that time of the year when people start wondering, is their team's seemingly overperforming player for real? After all, the most satisfying breakouts are those that come from unexpected sources.
For an example, take New York Yankees lefty Nestor Cortes, who nearly threw a no-hitter on Monday afternoon against the Texas Rangers. Entering last season, he had failed to establish a foothold on a big-league job. Rather, in his career he had been selected in the Rule 5 Draft and then later returned. He'd also had his services obtained by another team for financial considerations. When Cortes rejoined the Yankees in January 2021, it's fair to write that no one expected him to go on a run that has seen him post an ERA+ north of 157 in his last 28 appearances.
Today, we'll examine three pitchers -- we dug in on three hitters on Monday -- who are off to surprisingly good starts this season. In each instance, we've attempted to answer the question: are they for real?
1. Tylor Megill, Mets
Remember when Megill had to start for the Mets on Opening Day by default? His performance in that game, and in his five subsequent outings, has done well to head off that tidbit turning into a punchline or a piece of trivia. Indeed, Megill has pitched well to begin his sophomore season. In six starts, he's managed a 2.43 ERA (157 ERA+) and a 4.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. To take it a step further, he's thrown at least five shutout innings in three of his six appearances.
Megill hasn't made any sweeping changes to his pitch selection, but he has gained velocity. His fastball is averaging 95.5 mph this season, as opposed to 94.6 mph last year. That velocity increase would be beneficial to anyone, but keep in mind that Megill is one of the best in the majors at generating "extension," or releasing the ball closer to the plate than the average bear. The distance from the pitching rubber to his release point is more than seven feet, and eating up that additional space allows his pitches to play faster than they appear on the radar gun. In Megill's case, his fastball now has an "effective velocity" over 97 mph, putting him in rare air among starters.