Toronto Blue Jays' starting pitcher Dickey throws against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Toronto

Still too early to worry about faltering aces

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The ERA leaderboard, organized greatest to least, is a bit of a shocker. At the top you’ll find both of the defending Cy Young award winners (David Price and R.A. Dickey), as well as Cole Hamels, Matt Cain, and Stephen Strasburg, among others. You’ll hear this a lot but it bears repeating: it’s still very early, so you can’t really trust the stats yet.

I went back to starters’ first  three starts in 2012 and found some surprising ERA outliers as well, then I researched how they fared over the rest of the season. A small selection of elite hurlers:

(ERA-3 = ERA through three starts; ERA-RoS = rest-of-season ERA)

Player ERA-3 ERA-RoS
Adam Wainwright 9.88 3.50
Max Scherzer 7.98 3.38
Josh Johnson 5.94 3.61
R.A. Dickey 5.71 2.50
CC Sabathia 5.59 3.14
Zack Greinke 5.09 3.33
David Price 4.20 2.43

This exercise can be repeated for any group of players. Just to name a few on the hitting side: Matt Holliday had a .602 OPS after the first two weeks last year, but bounced back and posted a .908 OPS the rest of the way. Jay Bruce went from .679 in the first two weeks to .859 the rest of the way. Giancarlo Stanton went from .642 in the first two weeks to 1.010 through the end of the season.

Corey Dickerson has lost 25 pounds

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 25:  Corey Dickerson #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo during the Rays' photo day on February 25, 2016 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Corey Dickerson of the Tampa Bay Rays wasn’t a super huge guy or anything, but he’s going to be smaller this year: he told reporters today that he’s lost 25 pounds. He attributes it to a new diet and a workout regimen and says it’ll help him with his running, swing and throwing.

Dickerson had a down year in 2016, so if losing 25 pounds is something he thinks will work for him he’s got nothing to lose. Of course the best way for him to improve his numbers is to convince the Rays to trade him back to Colorado, but that’s not likely.

James McCann is in The Best Shape of His Life

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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As I note every spring, “Best Shape of His Life” stories aren’t really about players being in The Best Shape of Their Lives. They’re about players and agents seeking to create positive stories.

We know this because the vast majority of Best Shape of His Life claims are about guys who were either injured the season before, guys who had subpar years the season before or players whose conditioning was a point of controversy the season before. These folks, or their agents + reporters who have little if nothing to write about in the offseason = BSOHL.

James McCann hurt his ankle last season and had a subpar year at the plate. So not only is he a perfect BSOHL candidate, he went old school with the claim and hit it right on the money, verbatim:

Spring training is less than a month away, folks!