MLB's 10 Most Surprising Performances Through the Season's First Quarter
Rick Yeatts/Getty Images
The 2012 Major League Baseball season started with many expectations and predictions. Many of these expectations have been met and/or exceeded, while many have not. Many predictions are still waiting to be fulfilled, while many are not even close.
The first quarter of the season has brought us some interesting storylines.
Josh Hamilton's amazing start did not make this list of "most surprising performances," but would most definitely make the list of "most amazing performances."
But for every storyline that I had that I had to eliminate, I was able to find a spectacular one to replace it.
This list is about the most "surprising" performances—the ones that were not expected, or for that matter even imagined.
I could have imagined Josh Hamilton's "Roy Hobbs"-type abilities, but I could not imagine that someone named A.J. Ellis would be contributing to the Dodgers' charge toward the N.L. West title.
It will be interesting to re-visit this list at the All-Star break. It is almost certain that some of the names could be removed from here by that point.
Until then let's take a look at some unexpectedly great and not-so-great starts through the first quarter of the 2012 season.
Al Bello/Getty Images
The Yankees' captain seems to have found new life in his bat. At 37 years old he has his average back up above .300 and has already nearly matched his home run total from last season.
Derek Jeter has had a great career and seems poised to continue his success at the plate for at least one more season. Jeter saw his average dip below .300 the past two years and seemed to be on the decline, but he's definitely back.
Expect him to continue his climb up the all-time hits list.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Chipper Jones announced his retirement at the beginning of the season and promptly got injured. Luckily for him and Atlanta Braves fans he made a quick comeback.
Jones is off to one of the most surprising starts of all MLB players. The man who plans on retiring at the end of the season is on pace to hit over .300 with 20-plus home runs and nearly 100 RBI.
Not too bad for your final season. Here's to Larry Wayne Jones and the hope that he continues his success this year by going out with a bang.
Jose Bautista has struggled at the start while Edwin Encarnacion has flourished.
Brad White/Getty Images
Edwin Encarnacion is looking a little like Jose Bautista did a few years back.
Edwin came up with the Reds and spent a few years teetering on mediocre. He would show signs of brilliance just to let the law of averages catch up to him.
When he arrived in Toronto he continued on the same path until this season. Edwin seems to have broken through at the age of 29.
There is no telling if the success will continue, but to this point in the 2012 season Encarnacion finds himself second in the A.L. with 13 home runs and second with 34 RBI.
With Jose Bautista seemingly finding his swing, the Blue Jays find themselves with a pretty potent duo.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Lance Lynn has seemingly fallen out of thin air.
The Cardinals somehow find a way every year to produce a new pitcher that jumps to the top of the league stat boards—often a pitcher who had potential but never panned out until he landed in St. Louis.
They have also had a pretty steady stream of young players step into the role. Lance Lynn is just the next in that remarkable string of talent.
He sports a 6-1 record to start his rookie campaign and maintains a 1.81 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Not too shabby for the 25-year-old right-handed starter.
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
A.J. Ellis is a 31-year-old catcher who has seen snippets of the big leagues in parts of three seasons before this year.
He has maintained a respectable batting average just above .270 and relatively good plate discipline through just more than 200 big-league at-bats.
Injuries forced Ellis into a starting role to begin the season—and boy did he take advantage of it.
Ellis sports a hefty .330 average to date, but it is the .462 OBP that stands out the most. Ellis ranks No. 3 in the league with that mark.
A.J. Ellis has shown great plate discipline and without any doubt has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers. He has become a key component on a team that's started the season as one of the top three teams in all of Major League Baseball.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The White Sox's Adam Dunn had what could arguably be considered the worst season ever by a baseball regular.
He ended last season with a .159 BA and only 11 home runs through 415 at-bats.
Dunn has already surpassed his 2011 home run total with 12 so far this season and is well on his way to surpassing last year's RBI mark of 42.
Dunn's turnaround is so dramatic that it can't help but be surprising.
You have to pull for "The Big Donkey." Dunn has been a solid producer his entire career and the guy took it like a man last year. He never complained or hid away from the scrutiny of his performance.
Now he is letting his play speak for itself on his way to Comeback Player of the Year.
David Welker/Getty Images
Is Rickie Weeks this year's version of Adam Dunn?
Weeks is batting a paltry .159 through the first quarter of the season and is on pace to clear the 200-strikeout mark.
After showing progress in his career and putting together back-to-back solid seasons, Weeks seems to be regressing back to his former self, only worse.
The Brewers have had multiple sore spots on their team this year and Weeks' poor performance is just another notch on the list. Weeks and Co. need to get things right soon if they intend to repeat as N.L. Central champs.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Tim "The Freak" Lincecum has been far from his former self this season. The two-time Cy Young winner has had some mighty struggles.
"The Freak" has allowed four or more earned runs or more in five of his eight starts this season as well as failing to get through six innings in five of eight.
At just 27 years old, could Lincecum be on the verge of a career meltdown like his current teammate Barry Zito once faced?
The Giants sure hope that isn't the case.
What has happened to Yovani Gallardo?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The one-time ace of the defending National League Central champion Brewers has struggled mightily this season.
After three great seasons where he posted respectable WHIPs of 1.31, 1.37 and 1.22, he has seen his 2012 WHIP shoot up to 1.52.
Gallardo has been issuing more walks this year, and they are coming back to haunt him. His current 5.04 ERA and 2-4 record are far from ace-like stats. Gallardo must turn things around if the Brewers intend to be in contention come September.
The Brewers will have to continue to look to Zack Greinke for leadership in the rotation.
Can King Albert turn things around in time to save the Angels' season?
Jason Miller/Getty Images
Albert Pujols signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the L.A. Angels this past offseason. The Angels had high expectations for the team and for Pujols to start the season.
Neither has lived up to the hype.
Albert Pujols has without any doubt been the King of Baseball for the past decade, tearing up the opposing teams' pitchers and leading the Cardinals to two World Series championships.
He began to show his first signs of struggle last season before figuring things out halfway through. Then along with David Freese he carried the St. Louis Cardinals through the playoffs.
King Albert's start to the 2012 season, however, pales in comparison to last year's slow start. Just look at what his 2012 stats would be, projected over a full season:
AVG R RBI HR OBP SLG
.213 49 73 12 .247 .323
These aren't worthy of the Albert Pujols who earned himself a $240 million contract. For his sake, for that of the Angels and for that of all baseball fans, let's hope that Albert figures it out soon.
He is such an amazing talent to watch and great for the sport.