Over or Underachieved: How All 30 MLB Teams Fared in 2012

Ron JuckettContributor IIINovember 9, 2012

Over or Underachieved: How All 30 MLB Teams Fared in 2012

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    The 2012 Major League Baseball season has now become a part of history.

    After the San Francisco Giants claimed their second championship in three seasons, it is time to take one final look at all 30 MLB teams and their performances.

    Instead of power ranking teams, we are going to look and see whether they either overachieved, did as they were expected to or underachieved for the season.

    Every team starts the season with expectations—even if they are not World Series expectations—so it is important as teams move forward for them to evaluate whether they are making progress, treading water or slipping behind.

    We took a few things into consideration in coming up with how your favorite team actually did this year.

    Regular-season statistics were a part, as the numbers do not lie.

    We also looked at what was expected coming into 2012 and where they ended up.

    We also took a careful look at how they performed in the postseason.

    There were a fair share of surprises, both good and bad, for teams, and I’m sure that there will be some surprises for you as well.

    Each team will get a grade of "significantly underachieved," "underachieved," "did as expected," "overachieved" or "significantly overachieved."

    So, in alphabetical order, here is how each of the 30 teams performed based on their expectations in 2012.

    Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Considered by many to be the overwhelming favorite to repeat as champions of the National League West, they surprised many in 2011 by reaching the NLDS and were expected make it that far again in 2012.



    The 2012 Diamondbacks were an average team, right down to their 81-81 record.

    They did nothing really poorly this year, but they did not really excel anywhere either.

    Their defense was their weakest point, as they finished 23rd in defensive efficiency—percentage of plate appearances that were outs—at .685.

    The starting rotation was solid, but young, and they had three starters in the field who missed at least a third of the season.

    Their offense and pitching were a bit better than their record, but it must have seemed like a step back after last year’s playoff run.



Atlanta Braves

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    After the Braves collapsed in the last month of 2011, they were really hard to get a read on in 2012.

    They largely brought back the same team that was headed for a wild-card spot in 2011, and had Chipper Jones trying to make one last push for his second ring before retiring, but reading how they would react after blowing a 10-game lead for a playoff spot was a major x-factor.

    They figured to contend for one of the two wild-card spots.



    Atlanta had a really good year that fell short because they ended up in the NL Wild Card Game.

    They had the best defensive efficiency in the NL, leading the league in fielding percentage.

    Riding Kris Medlen and the other kids on their pitching staff, the Braves had the fourth-best ERA+—team earned run average averaged with the rest of baseball, then adjusted by ballpark—in baseball at 117.

    Despite not having the most efficient offense by having an OPS+ ranking of 24th with a 90, they did outscore their opponents by 100 runs this year, which was good enough for fifth in all of baseball.

    OPS-plus, by the way, is on-base percentages and slugging percentage added together, then divided by league average and adjusted for ballpark.

    After ending last year on such a sour note, the Braves really came through this year despite one bad playoff game.



Baltimore Orioles

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    Anyone who saw their last series of the 2011 season knew that Buck Showalter had this team ready to play and play hard.

    The O's were a very good candidate for fourth place in baseball’s toughest division, and could give Tampa a scare for third if everything went exactly right.



    Not even your eight-year-old neighbor who is a die-hard Orioles and Ravens fan saw this one coming.

    The Orioles went into the last week of the regular season with a chance to pass the New York Yankees and win the AL East outright.

    Whatever Buck Showalter was selling, that team was certainly buying.

    Without getting too bogged down in numbers, the O’s won 93 games this year despite outscoring their opponents by seven runs. They were 24 games over .500, and only outscored their opposition 712-705.

    The raw metrics had them as the 12th-best team in baseball, but numbers do not tell the story of how they advanced to the ALDS this year.

    Taking a team of kids and a starting rotation that featured no one over 31, Showalter built a team in the truest sense of the word and succeeded in taking them beyond their wildest dreams.



Boston Red Sox

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    Bringing back a team that played so well from May to August, the Red Sox were expected to be no worse than a wild card and finish no worse than third behind New York and Tampa.

    After hiring Bobby Valentine to be the manager, the “beer and chicken” days in the clubhouse were done and a return to the playoffs was expected.



    The Red Sox proceeded to have their first 90-loss season since 1966.

    The Bobby Valentine-era was as big of a flop as Jay Leno’s 10 p.m. nightly show a few years ago, and the season was highlighted by dumping Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford and their mammoth contracts to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects.

    By any metric, the Red Sox were a below-average team that ended up being as dysfunctional as a family appearing on Dr. Phil.



Chicago Cubs

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    2012 was not going to be the year the Cubs returned to the World Series, but with Houston in the division, they were not going to be in the cellar.



    The Cubs have nowhere to go but up from here.

    Cubs pitching saw no one pitcher win 10 games and only one complete game. They had no offense, no pitching and not much defense.

    If it was not for Houston, they would have been the worst team in baseball.

    Still, 101 losses was actually worse than most expected. They should not have been THAT bad.



Chicago White Sox

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    Dead last in the AL Central.

    Improving clubs in Kansas City and Cleveland should leave the punchless White Sox in the cellar.



    One of the many amazing stories this year in baseball, the White Sox contended for the division right into the final week.

    They were above-average in all five rated categories: OPS+, ERA+, winning percentage, run differential and defensive efficiency.

    Robin Ventura brought a different style to the clubhouse than the emotional Ozzie Guillen, and it paid off.



Cincinnati Reds

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    Expected to either win the NL Central or contend for a wild-card spot, a 90-win season was going to be pretty good in a division with no clear-cut favorite. 



    Reds pitching had the best ERA+ in baseball this year at 127. Outside of closer Aroldis Chapman and his 1.51 ERA, the Reds used all of six starters this year and had five starters go 30 games or more.

    They needed that pitching to hold firm as big injuries to hitters such as Joey Votto kept players sidelined for a chunk of time.

    Cincy won 97 games with a young staff and almost went to the NLCS.

    Even blowing a 2-0 lead at home should not dampen the Reds' accomplishments too much.



Cleveland Indians

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    A good, young team with solid veteran players could surprise teams in the AL Central and hang in for a wild-card run or the division if the Tigers faltered.



    Cleveland pitchers were just awful by any statistic you want to look at.

    With a team ERA of 4.74, the Indians’ pitchers simply gave their hitters no chance to stay in games, and a potential .500 team ended up at 65-91.

    The poor performance cost Manny Acta his job before the season ended, but unless they can keep runners off-base next year, new manager Terry Francona will be similarly frustrated.

    A bad year for the Tribe.



Colorado Rockies

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    A .500 season looked to be a pretty reasonable bet for the Rockies. They could contend for a wild-card spot if they played their cards right.



    When your opponent outscores you by nearly a run per game, you are not finishing at .500. It the Rockies' case, they were outscored this season by 132 runs, which is the major reason they finished 64-98.

    They were also the worst defensive team in baseball, registering a defensive efficiency of .657. The Milwaukee Brewers were next at .672.

    The Rockies became the first, and probably the last pitching staff in Major League Baseball history to have only one pitcher pitch more than 100 innings. Jeff Francis led the staff with 113 innings in 24 starts.

    If you cannot field and trust your starters to go even five innings a start, you just are not going to win.



Detroit Tigers

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    With the offseason signing of slugger Prince Fielder and the continuing growth of 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Justin Verlander, this team was poised to win the pennant and win 100 games.

    The Tigers came into the season the best team on paper.


    The Tigers had the biggest expectations on their shoulders coming into the season, and barely achieved half of them

    Instead of storming out of the gate and having the division wrapped up by Memorial Day like most of expected, they fell behind the Chicago White Sox and only secured the division in the last week.

    In fact, with just 88 wins, they did not have the safety net of the two wild-card spots to fall back on if they did not win the AL Central.

    Verlander had a good year, winning 17 games, and Miguel Cabrera won the first hitting triple crown since Carl Yastremski did it for Boston in 1967.

    Then you have to factor in that they played poorly for decent lengths of time this spring and laid an absolute egg in the World Series, getting easily swept by the Giants.

    In the raw metrics, the Tigers were the 13th-best team in MLB in the regular season. They actually made the World Series despite having the seventh-best record in the AL and the 11th-best record in all of baseball.

    What really hurt them was their fielding. At .678, they had the 26th-best defensive efficiency in the MLB, just ahead of the  Houston Astros.

    Still, they made the World Series.



    *underachieved until postseason run.

Houston Astros

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    Their 51st and last NL season would be a very long one. They were going to be the worst team in baseball.



    Their 51st and last NL season was a very long one. They actually may have been one of the all-time worst teams in MLB history.

    At 55-107, the only categories they were not dead last in were ERA+ and defensive efficiency, where they finished 27th.

    Still, they were projected to be awful and they met that projection head on.



Kansas City Royals

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    The signs of improvement were serious enough that this perpetual cellar-dweller could see .500. They hosted the All-Star Game and could carry some positive momentum going into 2013.



    Not quite yet, Royals fans.

    First the good news: they were considered average in both OPS+ and ERA+, finishing 16th and 18th in baseball, respectively.

    What hurt them was their defense. When you only retire 67.3 percent of opposing batters, that spells trouble. For Kansas City, that was good for only 28th in defensive efficiency, and that is the big reason they could not turn decent pitching and hitting into a good winning record.



Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    The Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson signings were supposed to land them a playoff spot, if not the AL West outright. With Pujols’ power, they should have made a good playoff run.



    Bad pitching outside of Jered Weaver doomed the Angels’ chance to make the postseason.

    While Albert Pujols did not come out of the gate launching bombs, he did end up with 30 home runs. Mike Trout’s rookie campaign was indeed one for the ages, but despite the most efficient offense in baseball, the pitching failed them and their 89 wins were only good enough for a third-place finish in the division.

    Still, the raw numbers had the Angels as the eighth-best team in baseball. Even with bad pitching, they recorded the best defensive efficiency mark in the game at .708.

    They were one of two teams that registered top-10 overall but failed to make the playoffs.



Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The finalized sale of the Dodgers just before the start of the season to the group fronted by Magic Johnson was going to make them instant playoff contenders, as there was renewed excitement for a team dragging under the bankruptcy and divorce settlement from old owner Frank McCourt.



    They certainly made that splash by sending James Loney and prospects to Boston to take Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. They also picked up Hanley Ramirez from that trainwreck in Miami, but could not get all the new pieces to fit together and did not make a run at the San Francisco Giants.

    Beckett joined the next generation of great Dodger hurlers, led by Clayton Kershaw, and the Dodgers posted the fifth-best ERA+ at 114. But even with 2011’s triple crown threat Matt Kemp in the lineup, the Dodgers struggled at the plate.

    Still, .500 would have been considered a good season in April, all things considered.



Miami Marlins

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    Bringing in Ozzie Guillen to run the team with new shortstop Jose Reyes, new closer Heath Bell and new innings-eater Mark Buehrle to go with established stars Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton to help open new Marlins Stadium should have made them favorites to win the NL East or, at worst, win a wild card.



    The Marlins' attempt to purchase their way into the postseason will go down as one of the most colossal blunders of all time. Absolutely, positively nothing clicked.

    Ramirez balked at moving to third from the time the ink dried on Reyes’ contract. Guillen was quoted in Time for loving Fidel Castro, and Bell could not close anything out.

    Instead of winning 95 games, they lost 93 and finished well down in every raw category.



Milwaukee Brewers

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    They dodged a bullet in Ryan Braun’s suspension for PEDs being overturned, but still need to figure out how to replace departed Prince Fielder’s power and bat in the lineup. With no clear-cut favorite in the NL Central, they had the chance to return to the NLCS, and maybe win.


    THE REALITY: They replaced Fielder’s bat just fine. Aramis Ramirez hit 27 home runs and drove in over 100 to go with another 40-homer effort from Braun.

    What they did not get this year was consistent pitching, especially from the bullpen closer. John Axford surrendered 10 homers in 69.1 innings and ended up with an ERA of 4.67.

    Still, they won 83 games, which is not far off what the expectation was. They fell victim to the Reds' amazing season and were not really in the fight for the second wild-card spot.



Minnesota Twins

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    After several years of serious contention in the AL Central, the Twins were a team on the way down in 2012. They did not have the talent of Kansas City or Cleveland, or seem to be as bad on paper as the White Sox. Still, 70-90 should have been a good season.



    The Twins had holes in pretty much any position not played by Joe Mauer, and they really struggled on the mound this year.

    Josh Willingham provided some good pop in the outfield, driving in 110, and Ben Revere stole 40 bases, but the Twins pitchers could not shut down other teams, posting the second-worst ERA+ on the year at 85.

    The raw numbers had them 25th in baseball this year, and they were kind of expecting a really bad year anyway.



New York Mets

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    After an offseason of financial troubles for the Wilpon family, the Mets may have hit bottom going into 2012. They lost Jose Reyes and have yet to find another bat to protect David Wright in the lineup.

    A long year awaits in Queens.



    Johan Santana’s no-hitter was the year’s biggest highlight from a season that saw the Mets beat expectations, if you consider a 74-win season better than expected.

    While Santana pitched the franchise’s first ever no-hitter in 51 seasons, R.A. Dickey had a Cy Young-worthy season, winning 20 games and striking out 230 with his knuckler.

    Ike Davis hit 32 homers and actually did protect Wright in the lineup.

    The Mets did struggle a bunch, especially in the pen, but they truly were not completely dreadful this year either.



New York Yankees

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    They were better than the Red Sox, and they should have been better than Tampa, and that was supposed to get them the AL East crown at worst. Was this the year they'd finally show their age?



    For five-and-a-half months, the Yankees were as good as anybody in baseball.

    They survived a devastating injury to closer Mariano Rivera in Kansas City, and did just fine. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano hit over .300 and Curtis Granderson slugged 43 home runs.

    They finally got a good year out of Phil Hughes and signing Hiroki Kuroda worked like a charm. Even getting Ichiro from Seattle was a boost to both him and the Yankees.

    By our count, they were the fourth-best team in baseball in the regular season. They stumbled at the finish, but held off the Orioles to win the division, then held them off in five tough games to go to the ALCS behind two great starts from CC Sabathia.

    They came absolutely undone at the hands of the Tigers and, when Alex Rodriguez was benched for the last game of the ALDS and the last two games of the ALCS, the Yankees never recovered from losing Jeter to a broken ankle and were swept out of the pennant.

    Still, they won the East and made the ALCS. May not have met the late George Steinbrenner’s standards, but they met ours.



Oakland Athletics

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    It was supposed to be a long year on the East Bay. A young team full of cast-offs, they were going to struggle to win games and draw fans.



    If you saw this team winning the AL West in April, then buy yourself a long weekend in Las Vegas.

    How did the A‘s pull off a 94-win season when most of us thought 60 was going to be a good number? They excelled in each area of the field.

    In the raw stats used to compare teams, Oakland had the second-best team in baseball. Second!

    The A's struggled to hit, but scored runs. Their 97 for OPS+ was good for 12th this season. Where they shined was on the mound, and their very young starting rotation showed no fear, posting the fifth-best ERA+ at 114.

    They also had the third-best defensive efficiency, fourth-best winning percentage and sixth-best run differential.

    While only hitting .238 as a team, they stole bases and scored runs. In surging past the Texas Rangers to win the division, we could not have been more wrong about a team forecast if we tried.



Philadelphia Phillies

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    Even with Ryan Howard sidelined to start the year after his Achilles injury the season prior, they still had the pitching to shut teams down until he came back and mashed home runs. The NL East was the Phillies' to lose.



    The Phillies looked like an old and tired team this year.

    By the end of the year, none of the everyday starters for the Phils was under 30. Cliff Lee had an ERA of 3.17 in 30 starts and ended up with a record of 6-9.

    The offense could not support the pitchers, and they finished the year at .500.



Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Pittsburgh teased its fans in 2011 by leading the NL Central in July. We know the Pirates are close to being able to break through and contend. Was this the year they'd register their first winning season since 1992?



    So close!

    There are indeed signs of life at PNC Park with the Pirates. Andrew McCutchen had a career year, hitting .321/31/96 and stealing 20 bases on top of that. A.J. Burnett won 16 games and the Pirates rescued Wandy Rodriguez from the Houston Astros.

    They were very consistently average across the board and fell three wins short of a .500 season.

    It’s coming Pirate fans. It’s coming.



San Diego Padres

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    They frankly were going to struggle in the NL West. A bit further back in rebuilding mode than the fans would like, they were just going to struggle this year in a division that is tightly bunched.



    The Padres actually held their own quite well this year after losing closer Heath Bell to Miami and Mat Latos to the Reds.

    They came very close to breaking even on the win sheet and can play small ball really well.

    If Huston Street can stay healthy, they have a proven closer and a solid starting rotation to build on.

    The team was finally sold towards the end of the year and things are looking up again for the Padres, who played just-below average ball this year.



Seattle Mariners

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    Coming off a 67-win effort in 2011, the Mariners came into 2012 a raw, young and hungry team.

    They also had to play in the same division as the Angels and Rangers, so a third-place finish looks to have been their best bet.



    Despite finishing last, the Mariners won eight games more this season than in 2011.

    While no one really could have predicted the surge Oakland put on, the Mariners pitching and defense were above league average, and their hitting and run differential were more in line for a team that had the 20th-best winning percentage in MLB.

    They traded the face of the franchise away in Ichiro and immediately had another after Felix Hernandez hurled a perfect game.

    Things are headed in the right direction.



San Francisco Giants

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    Somehow, they were going to hang in there and contend. They followed up their 2010 World Series with an 86-win season in 2011. They had the pitching and they had Buster Posey.

    They may not have had the strength to beat out Arizona, but they were going to contend for a wild-card spot.



    The Giants' second championship in three years did not come out of nowhere, but the route they took to get there certainly did.

    Let’s be honest, Giants pitching struggled in the regular season, but their offense carried the day. When Melky Cabrera’s season ended early after getting busted for PED usage and the Dodgers bought all the Red Sox's bad contracts, it looked like the Giants were going to fade.

    Wrong answer. They easily won the division, then made two of the most amazing comebacks in the playoffs to reach the World Series and then played four of the best team games you will ever see, sweeping the Tigers to win it all.

    We can come up with all sorts of statistics to say whether a team is good or not. The Giants are a classic example of why putting too much into those statistics is wrong.

    The raw numbers had them as the 11th-best team in baseball in the regular season. They were much better than those numbers suggest, and they posted the fourth-best winning percentage this year before they went into the playoffs.

    They played as a team, and those 25 players did everything they were asked to do at the times they needed to do it most. Most fans will forget they lost the first two games at home to the Reds in the NLDS and had to win three straight on the road just to make the NLCS!



St. Louis Cardinals

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    After winning the World Series, the Cards lost Albert Pujols to free agency and Tony LaRussa to retirement. Their season was going to depend on replacing Pujols’ numbers in the lineup and how well Mike Matheny could fill some of the greatest managerial shoes of all time.

    They were going to flirt with winning the NL Central, but should have been a lock to be a wild card.



    They did just fine without both Pujols and LaRussa, becoming the first fifth seed to make the NLDS.

    Along with the Giants, they also had some layoff magic, coming from six runs down in Game 5 in Washington and down to their last strike before beating the Nationals. That momentum led to the Cardinals taking a 3-1 lead against San Francisco before losing the series.

    The Cards did come close to replacing Pujols’ numbers with Allen Craig, and their pitching and back end of their bullpen were above-average.

    They were indeed a wild card, and did return to the NLCS with a new skipper.



Tampa Bay Rays

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    Though they never seem to have enough talent on paper, the second wild-card spot seemed tailor-made for them.

    It should have been a three-horse race between the Yankees, Red Sox and Tampa. Any slip by the other two would have been a boon for the Rays.



    If it were not for those pesky Orioles…

    Not having Evan Longoria for half a season did hurt the offense, but having David Price lead the starting rotation can take a lot of that hurt away.

    Tampa overperformed their winning percentage by a good margin. They ended up ninth in win percentage, but all the other metrics used pushed them to the three-spot of best regular-season teams.

    They were very good, they just could not compete with the great stories out of Baltimore and Oakland. Despite missing the playoffs…



Texas Rangers

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    It becomes harder and harder to continue to overlook a team that has gone to the World Series two straight years.

    Yes, C.J. Wilson is gone, and yes, Ron Washington can be a frustrating manager to watch, but they should have been no worse than the Angels' equal, and should have won the AL West.



    By the time they reached the Wild Card Game, they had mentally checked out of the season.

    Number-wise, they remained part of baseball’s elite. They just did not have that second gear to hold off Oakland and were a dead team walking against the never-say-die Orioles in the ALWC.

    They put up great stats in all facets of the game, but got nothing to show for it in the end.



Toronto Blue Jays

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    They were going to compete with Baltimore for fourth in the AL East. Still raw and young, they didn't have much of a chance to break through and catch the big three.



    They earned fourth place, even if the Red Sox forgot to set their alarm clocks and snoozed through the 2012 season.

    The team seemed to fall apart at the end, and the stats have them as a below-average team. Brandon Morrow missed a third of the season, but the rotation is pretty young and, after watching Baltimore and Oakland, they can make the next step next season.



Washington Nationals

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    Another team that was going to really benefit from having an additional playoff spot to play for, the Nats seemed to be a year away from doing great things.

    That did not mean they were not going to make noise this year.



    They made a lot of noise.

    Davey Johnson turned a good team into a nearly great one.

    You can second-guess what impact shutting down of Stephen Strasburg might have had going into the playoffs, but he was not going to pitch the last inning of Game 5 against the Cardinals no matter what.

    The raw metrics support the Nationals having the best winning percentage in baseball, and Bryce Harper surprised everybody, playing well beyond his 19 years.

    Their talent was not a surprise, but hitting it this year was, no matter how badly their postseason ended.