Albert Pujols, Matt Kemp and the Best of the Rest: Top Stories in MLB
Baseball fans, we are officially one-tenth of the way through the season.
Admittedly, this an irrelevant sports statistic if there ever was one. It’s like a kid telling you his age is five-and-three-quarters. But as we are already this far along and somehow have no crazy headline about an MLB player elbowing an opponent in the face – the closest we’ve come in the last decade was the time Pedro power-bombed Don Zimmer—the best we can do is take a look around the league and bask in the glow of the top surprises of this early season.
By the by, if you're reading this - heck, if you're in the U.S. at all - odds are you live near a coast or in Chicago. Statistical distribution, folks. So we’ll be spending most of our time here covering the non-flyover states. And if you're an Astros fan, well, I’m sorry.
Really, really sorry.
I know Albert Pujols has become a slow spring starter over the last few years, but come on. The Angels are in the cellar of the AL as far as run creation is concerned, and Pujols’ lackluster .229 BA with no homers over 70 AB isn’t helping things. Their top offensive threat is erstwhile gloveman Torii Hunter.
Meanwhile, the Rangers look like the Texas teams of the 90s, but with pitching. No. 1 in runs, No. 1 in slugging percentage…hey, are A-Rod and Dean Palmer still in this lineup? The difference, of course, is the rotation—Texas’ starters are a combined 13-2 with an ERA of 2.79.
Dodgers, Dodgers, Dodgers! Matt Kemp’s playing as though he wakes up every morning, puts his pants on one leg at a time, and then powers himself with rage over being slighted for last year’s MVP award, and he's taking that aggression out on the ball.
With a .455 BA, 9 HR and 22 RBI, he’s leading the majors in all categories. (Ethier’s tied for RBI.)
The Giants are holding onto second place on the strength of their rotation, but they’re also second to last in their division in runs scored. Buster Posey is producing, and Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, and Nate Schierholtz (who?!) are all getting good wood on the ball.
But the team can’t seem to string it together. At least, not yet. If they start getting some hits out of one or two more guys and get a lineup together, though, watch out.
With the Boston Red Sox in the cellar, there’s already talk of Bobby Valentine’s imminent dismissal.
Though the team may turn around, Bobby V’s fortunes don’t seem to be likely to do the same, at least not among fans. To wit: remember how when he was managing the Mets in 2000, he pulled all-time lefty saves leader John Franco for Armando Benitez in Game 1 of the World Series? My grandma still talks about that.
For now, the rest of the East stands in an impressive four-way tie for first. But while the Rays and Yanks are for real (even without Michael Pineda), the birds—both the Orioles and the Blue Jays—are not.
In the greatest surprise of the season, the Washington Nationals find themselves on top of the senior circuit standings. Their starters have combined for a ridiculous 1.71 ERA to date—and that’s even with journeyman Edwin Jackson on board. (Did you know this is his 7th MLB team, and he’s only 28?)
If they can keep it up, they might at last be able to bury the legacy of the lackluster Senators teams of yesteryear.
Just up I-95, the middling Mets continue to
overproduce underproduce produce. David Wright is back to playing like he’s making a case to stay in town, but maybe he’s just enhancing his trade value—for some reason, stars seem to play that much better once they ride the 7 train out of Flushing.
And as for Philadelphia, they’re quiet for now, but watch out. Aging though their stars may be, these guys have spent the last six years finding ways to win.