Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB's Opening Week

Doug MeadCorrespondent IApril 8, 2013

Biggest Winners and Losers of MLB's Opening Week

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    Opening week of the 2013 MLB season is now in the books, and there were plenty of winners and losers to go around.

    The eyes of many fans were focused on quite a few players who were making their debuts with new teams. Other fans were eyeballing their favorite teams that made wholesale changes to their rosters.

    Then there were those watching rookies to see how they would perform under the bright lights for the very first time.

    Here are 20 examples of either hot starts or cold beginnings in baseball's first week.

Winner: Colorado Rockies

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    Okay, break up those Colorado Rockies!

    After losing on Opening Day, the Rockies won their next five games, sweeping the San Diego Padres with a convincing 9-1 victory on Sunday.

    The Rockies are hitting—certainly not unexpected given that they finished third in the National League in runs scored last year.

    It's the pitching that's surprising just about everyone.

    Jhoulys Chacin worked 6.2 innings against the Padres, giving up just one run on six hits. He now has a 1.35 ERA in two starts after suffering through an injury-filled 2012 season.

    The same for Juan Nicasio, who also made only 11 starts last season. Nicasio looked solid in his first start. Jeff Francis and Jon Garland even got into the act, both picking up wins over the Padres as well.

    If the Rockies get consistent pitching throughout the season, it could change the entire outlook in the NL West. Granted, it's only one week, but it's certainly an encouraging sign.

Loser: New York Yankees

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    The New York Yankees picked up their second win of the season on Sunday, thanks in large part to a solid effort by ace CC Sabathia.

    However, the 2-4 start came with some ominous signs.

    The Yankees hit just .242 with 24 runs scored. While that's not even close to the bottom in the American League, it's clear that the offense lacks the explosiveness seen in recent years.

    Kevin Youkilis and Eduardo Nunez, replacing Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter respectively, both got off to hot starts. But Robinson Cano hit just .130 and Ichiro Suzuki just .111 in opening week play.

    It seems apparent that the Yankees will only go as far as their pitching will take them.

Winner: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

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    Chris Davis is now playing first base full time for the Baltimore Orioles. He's also now in the record books as well.

    Davis' grand slam on Friday against the Minnesota Twins gave him an eye-popping four home runs and 16 RBI in the first four games. He tied an MLB record by homering in each of the first four games, joining Willie Mays, Mark McGwire and Nelson Cruz.

    Adam Jones wasn't too shabby in the season's first week, either. Jones hit a scorching .538 with seven RBI.

Loser: Heath Bell, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    In being dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks during the offseason, reliever Heath Bell could wipe away the memories of an awful 2012 season with the Miami Marlins.

    He apparently didn't do a good enough job of erasing those remembrances.

    Bell did pick up a save against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, but not without allowing a run on three hits and the potential tying run on third base before he finally brought an end to things.

    Bell posted a 15.43 ERA in three appearances, wrapping one decent outing on Saturday against Milwaukee around two stinkers.

    It's early yet, but the Diamondbacks can't be too encouraged by what they've seen thus far.

Winner: Carl Crawford

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    After two miserable seasons with the Boston Red Sox, two things that Carl Crawford wanted to avoid were a cold start or to not even start the season at all for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    He safely avoided both fates.

    Crawford did in fact stay off the disabled list to start the season; his elbow sufficiently healed from his reconstructive surgery last August.

    And he made his Dodgers debut in grand style, hitting .450 with two stolen bases. Hitting at the top of the order, Crawford looks relaxed and comfortable.

    Not since his days with the Tampa Bay Rays has that been seen, and the Dodgers are hoping to see a lot more of that look throughout the season.

Loser: Aaron Hicks, Minnesota Twins

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    The Minnesota Twins center field prospect was attempting to make the jump from Double-A ball to the majors this spring. He hit .370 with four home runs and 18 RBI, beating out Darin Mastroianni for the job and earning the right to start.

    His first week was not quite what he or the Twins had hoped.

    Hicks was just 2-for-26 (.077) in the season's first six games, striking out 11 times. Manager Ron Gardenhire will likely give Hicks some time, but if that cold start extends into late April, he could be back in the minors working out his issues.

Winner: Zack Greinke, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    After signing a six-year, $147 million contract, there were high hopes for Zack Greinke as he embarked on his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Those hopes were momentarily dashed when Greinke suffered through elbow soreness during the spring and finished with a 5.54 ERA in four Cactus League starts.

    Greinke put those fears to rest with his start on Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    He was brilliant, scattering two hits over 6.1 innings while striking out six and not walking a batter. Combined with Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers appear to have a 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation that could be lethal indeed.

Loser: Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates have extended their streak of consecutive losing seasons over the past two years by fading in the second half.

    They decided to start early this year.

    The Pirates stumbled to a 1-5 start, and the culprit was what general manager Neal Huntington tried to fix this past offseason—the offense.

    In fact, Pittsburgh bats were downright offensive in the first week. They combined to hit just .119 for the week, scoring just eight runs in six games.

    Their biggest buy of the offseason, catcher Russell Martin, has yet to collect his first hit.

    Andrew McCutchen hit a home run on Sunday, the first for the entire team.

    Ouch.

Winner: Los Angeles Dodgers Bullpen

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    Much of the focus on the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason was the money spent by ownership, especially for starters Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu.

    While the rotation has pitched very well in the first week, the bullpen was completely spotless.

    The relief corps has posted a 0.00 ERA. In fact, it hadn't even given up a hit until Ronald Belisario finally allowed a single to Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata in the seventh inning on Sunday.

    Just one hit in 13 innings is certainly getting the job done.

Loser: Jeff Keppinger, Chicago White Sox

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    The Chicago White Sox were looking forward to third baseman Jeff Keppinger making an impact at the top of their lineup.

    They're still waiting.

    Keppinger's first week in Chicago couldn't have gone much worse. He finished on Sunday with a .048 average (1-for-21).

    The White Sox wanted a solid on-base guy to follow Alejandro De Aza at the top of the order. Keppinger has been off-base thus far.

Winner: New York Mets Starting Rotation

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    The New York Mets traded R.A. Dickey, and they're without the services of Johan Santana for the entire season.

    But the rest of the group has stepped up thus far.

    The Mets starting rotation posted a stellar 1.98 ERA in the first two games, led by a completely dominating performance from Matt Harvey on Wednesday. Harvey allowed just one hit with 10 strikeouts in seven innings in a masterful performance against the San Diego Padres.

Loser: Dan Haren, Washington Nationals

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    Dan Haren had to endure concerns about his hip and back through much of the offseason. A proposed deal with the Chicago Cubs was nixed because of health concerns in late October.

    Those concerns led to just a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals. After his performance on Friday against the Cincinnati Reds, it's understandable if people question his health once again.

    Haren was pummeled by the Reds, giving up six runs on nine hits including four home runs.

    It didn't help that Haren was pitching at Great American Ball Park, clearly a hitter's haven. Haren has been prone to the gopher ball throughout his career as well.

    But Thursday's effort was definitely not a good start for a pitcher with whom many already have concerns.

Winner: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals

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    Bryce Harper is doing everything to make sure that the dreaded sophomore slump has no place in his world.

    Harper got off to an excellent start in doing just that, hitting .360 with three home runs and five RBI.

    With high expectations for the Nationals, Harper is doing his part thus far to make sure those expectations are met. And he'll gladly play the role of sophomore slump-buster.

Loser: Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels

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    It's likely that Josh Hamilton had a few conversations with new teammate Albert Pujols during the spring.

    Pujols got off to a very slow start for the Los Angeles Angels in his first year with the club last year. No doubt he and Hamilton had some healthy conversations about not putting pressure on each other to impress their new mates.

    It didn't help. Hamilton put up a 3-for-5 effort against his former team on Sunday night, but he still ended the week with a .160 average and just two RBI with 10 strikeouts.

    The Angels would love to do all they can to avoid last year's horrendous 6-14 start. They'll need the bat of Hamilton to help in avoiding that same fate.

Winner: Will Middlebrooks, Boston Red Sox

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    Will Middlebrooks was well on his way to an outstanding rookie campaign last year, hitting .288 with 15 home runs and 54 RBI. A wayward pitch last August broke his wrist, putting an end to a solid debut.

    Middlebrooks broke out on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays, hitting three towering home runs. He nearly hit a fourth as well, flying out to the warning track in the eighth inning.

    Middlebrooks hit .320 with four home runs and six RBI in the first week.

Loser: Houston Astros

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    The Houston Astros started the season on a bright note, beating the Texas Rangers on Opening Night last week in front of a national audience.

    Cries of "break up those Astros" seemed a bit premature.

    The Astros have since lost five straight, including a sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics. They hit just .199 as a team, and a 5.00 team ERA didn't help their cause, either.

    Well, at least they started the season on a high note.

Winner: Justin Upton, Atlanta Braves

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    Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton teamed with brother B.J. Upton on Saturday to provide fans with a taste of what could come in the next few years.

    After B.J. opened the ninth inning with a game-tying home run off Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol, brother Justin stepped to the plate two batters later and hit a walk-off solo home run.

    Upton finished the week hitting .318 with five home runs and seven RBI.

Loser: R.A. Dickey, Toronto Blue Jays

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    R.A. Dickey's debut with the Toronto Blue Jays didn't go exactly as planned last Tuesday, giving up three earned runs in five hits with four walks in six innings of work in a loss to the Cleveland Indians.

    Things didn't get any better for Dickey on Sunday against the Boston Red Sox.

    Dickey gave up five consecutive hits to the the first five hitters in the Red Sox lineup, capped by a two-run home run by Will Middlebrooks.

    In all, Dickey gave up seven earned runs on 10 hits in 4.2 innings, raising his ERA to 8.44. Not a great start for the new Toronto ace.

Winner: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Aside from maybe throwing back-to-back no-hitters, the week couldn't have gotten off to a much better start for Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

    Kershaw started the season with a brilliant four-hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants with seven strikeouts and no walks.

    He followed up that effort with another outstanding performance, giving up just two hits in seven innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, striking out another nine batters with one walk.

    Kershaw easily earns the star of the week for his incredible effort.

Loser: Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs

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    The week couldn't have gone much worse for Chicago Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.

    In fact, the word closer can't be attached to his name anymore.

    Marmol gave up tying and winning home runs to B.J. and Justin Upton on Saturday night, prompting the Cubs to announce that Kyuji Fujikawa is the team's new closer.

    Expect the Marmol trade rumors to come hot and heavy in the coming weeks.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.