This article is part of our MLB Barometer series.
Let's kick off this week's Barometer with another list of things to check on around the league to determine whether it's officially "Still Early":
1. The Tigers are winning the AL Central
2. The Mariners are winning the AL West
That's probably all we need for now.
That doesn't mean we need to abandon all stats-based analysis, however. A few categories of stats do stand out as particularly useful early on and will be the focus behind this week's set of players, and probably the next few weeks as well.
Increased velocity is the most obvious example – it only takes one pitch thrown at 100 mph to know that a pitcher can hit triple digits. It may take a few more pitches to see how repeatable that velocity is and where that pitcher regularly hits, but if we're simply talking about peak velocity, it's safe to say after just one pitch that he does in fact possess the ability to throw at that speed.
Decreased velocity is also fairly easy to pick up on early in the season, as it combines the two factors that make a stat become reliable quickly. First, it's easy to get a lot of reps in a short time. A pitcher could throw 50 or 60 fastballs in a game (or 84 if he's Freddy Peralta in his most recent start) but is unlikely to face much more than 30 batters. Second, it's entirely under the pitcher's control, as nothing a batter or fielder