50 Biggest Shockers of the Early MLB Season

Doug MeadCorrespondent IMay 7, 2013

50 Biggest Shockers of the Early MLB Season

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    With the 2013 MLB season just over five weeks old, quite a few shockers have already emerged.

    A small sample size absolutely skews numbers, but some of the performances seen thus far have indeed been both atrocious and surprising.

    Between horrific displays of pitching and offense combined with tremendous early season accomplishments, the MLB season has absolutely supplied its fans with a great number of unforeseen events.

    Here are 50 shocking developments that have fans truly scratching their heads, in both dismay and happiness, so far this season.

     

    Note: All statistics courtesy of MLB.com and are current as of Sunday, May 5.

Josh Hamilton's Early Season Slump

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    The Texas Rangers saw a key player sign with the rival Los Angeles Angels for the second consecutive year—but it's the Rangers who seem to be having the last laugh.

    After Josh Hamilton signed a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels in the offseason, many thought that the balance of power had shifted in the AL West. However, Hamilton is currently hitting just .208 with two home runs, 38 strikeouts and a paltry .551 OPS.

    It's clearly reminiscent of the slow start suffered by Albert Pujols last year after signing his 10-year deal. And much like Pujols, Hamilton's poor start has coincided with the Angels' rough start to the season as well.

    Hamilton was held out of Saturday's starting lineup for a "mental day" and returned to deliver one double in four at-bats on Sunday.

Los Angeles Angels Repeating Last Year's Slow Start

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    Josh Hamilton has certainly slumped to begin the 2013 season, and the Los Angeles Angels have scuffled right along with him. The Angels' loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday left them with an 11-20 record, matching their worst 31-game start in franchise history.

    It's safe to say that nothing is clicking for the Angels right now, and manager Mike Scioscia echoed those sentiments following Sunday's loss.

    Scioscia made his feelings known in comments to reporters in his post-game remarks when he said, "We've been terrible, we've been absolutely awful at controlling the defensive side of the game. Not the guys in the field as much as setting a tone on the mound."

    The pitching staff, particularly the starters, have indeed been woeful—only the Houston Astros have a higher team ERA.

    For a team with the seventh-highest payroll in baseball, according to USA Today, it's certainly a shocker.

New York Yankees Winning With Rag-Tag Team

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    Considering the amount of injuries suffered by the New York Yankees, it would have been excusable to see a losing record to start the season.

    But the Yankees weren't about to lay down, either.

    The Yankees ended their first five weeks with an 18-12 record, just 1.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.

    Missing stars Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira was certainly bad enough. They then lost Kevin Youkilis to back pain as well, yet they have still managed to accumulate a .600 winning percentage. Now that's impressive.

2012 Cy Young Winners Not Looking Cy Young-Like

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    The 2012 recipients of the Cy Young Award in both the American and National Leagues impressed with their ability to dominate opposing hitters last year.

    Thus far, dominance isn't even close to describing their performances in 2013.

    David Price—the AL winner—got lit up for nine runs at Coors Field on Saturday. The lackluster effort left him with a 1-3 record and 6.25 ERA on the season.

    R.A. Dickey, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, took a beating of his own on the same day. He allowed seven runs, including three home runs, to the Seattle Mariners, dropping his record to 2-5 with a 5.36 ERA.

    The two will attempt to bounce back with their next starts on Thursday, but with one small caveat—they'll be facing off against each other.

Matt Harvey Doing His Best Impression of Dwight Gooden

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    New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey will be back in action on Tuesday as he takes on Hector Santiago and the Chicago White Sox.

    As of right now, Harvey is putting up numbers in his second MLB season that are eerily similar to those of Dwight Gooden in his second year in 1985.

    A quick comparison of Harvey now and Gooden in 1985:

      W-L ERA WHIP H/9 K/9 ERA+
    Harvey: 2013 4-0 1.56 0.82 4.7 10.3 242
    Gooden: 1985 24-4 1.53 0.96 6.4 8.7 229

    Harvey won't come close to matching Gooden's 16 complete games, but he's certainly close or a touch better in many other statistical categories.

    This guy is definitely worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.

John Buck Bashing Like Babe Ruth

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    OK, it might not be quite like Babe Ruth, but I would challenge anyone who honestly thought that New York Mets catcher John Buck would be the team's leading producer.

    Buck's 10 home runs, 29 RBI and .592 slugging percentage are currently tops on the team. He has always had the ability to hit for power, but he has never come close to being a team leader.

    A fan on Twitter points out that Buck—included in the trade between the Miami Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays—has nearly out-produced his former team:

    @pgammo Through May 3, John Buck (23 full games + 2 pinch hit appearances) has 10 HR. The entire Marlins team has 14 in 30 games.

    — Tony Talls (@TonyTalls) May 4, 2013

    Buck is currently the NL leader in RBI as well. Take that, Marlins.

Justin Upton's Torrid Home Run Pace

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    Justin Upton experienced a drop-off in production last year with the Arizona Diamondbacks, with just 17 home runs and 67 RBI after a year in which he set career highs in both categories.

    As of Monday morning, Upton already has 12 home runs and 21 RBI, and he is easily on pace to shatter his personal bests of 31 homers and 88 RBI this season.

    Upton became the first player in MLB history to hit five home runs in his first five games with his new team. He also broke the franchise record for most home runs in the month of April and was named the NL Player of the Month.

B.J. Upton's Horrid Pace

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    As terrific as Justin Upton has been in his first five weeks with the Atlanta Braves, brother B.J. Upton has been the exact opposite.

    B.J. is hitting just .154 with only three home runs as of Monday. Only Josh Reddick, Adam Dunn and Aaron Hicks had lower averages among qualifying hitters.

    Upton will never be confused with a batting champion—he brought a career .255 average with him to Atlanta—but certainly no one expected that he'd be hitting 100 points below that mark.

The Stunning Boston Red Sox Turnaroud

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    The Boston Red Sox finished the 2012 season with a 69-93 record, their worst showing since 1965.

    Now, with a new manager and several new additions, the revitalized Red Sox are tied with the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in baseball.

    It has been their pitching that has made the biggest difference. The Sox have a 3.64 team ERA, good for fifth in the American League. Just to compare, they finished 12th in that same category last year.

    The starters have been particularly effective, posting a combined 3.47 ERA—last year's rotation finished with a 5.19 ERA.

    There is no question that first-year manager John Farrell has had a positive impact thus far.

Clay Buchholz and His Complete Dominance

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    Leading the way for the Boston Red Sox has been right-hander Clay Buchholz, who arguably put together the most impressive run in his first six starts in franchise history.

    Buchholz compares quite favorably to Roger Clemens, who won his first 14 games with the Red Sox in 1986. Here is a breakdown of each pitcher through their first six starts.

      W-L ERA WHIP H/9 K/9 BB/9
    Clemens: 1986 5-0 1.99 0.91 6.0 10.9 2.2
    Buchholz: 2013 6-0 1.01 0.96 5.4 9.5 3.2

    Buchholz has allowed just a .193 BAA and .506 OPS, and he has only surrendered one home run thus far as well.

Adam LaRoche's Slump

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    The Washington Nationals are off to a 17-15 start thus far in 2013. They endured a grueling early season schedule and a staggering slump by slugging first baseman Adam LaRoche in the process.

    Brought back on a two-year, $24 million deal with a mutual option for 2015, LaRoche is hitting just .168 thus far with three home runs.

    Fortunately for the Nationals, he has shown signs of breaking out of his funk recently, hitting .500 (5-for-10) in his last four games. Still, it certainly wasn't the start that LaRoche or the Nationals envisioned.

    At least one fan on Twitter saw a good sign this past weekend.

    Adam LaRoche is being intentionally walked in a big spot. Shows you (in part) how far LaRoche has come in the last 3-4 days.

    — Dan Kolko (@masnKolko) May 5, 2013

    That's a good sign for the Nationals offense as well.

Carlos Santana Briefly Leading the American League in Batting

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    Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana woke up on Thursday morning as the American League leader in several offensive categories.

    Even Hall of Fame writer Peter Gammons was impressed.

    Carlos Santana now leads AL in BA(.395), Slug(.711), OPS(1.194).A guy who had 14 more BB than Ks in the minors. For Casey Blake?

    — Peter Gammons (@pgammo) May 2, 2013

    Santana's previous career high in batting average was .260 during his abbreviated rookie year in 2010.

    As of Monday, Santana was leading the majors in OBP (.471), slugging (.690), OPS (1.160) and OPS+ (222).

Torii Hunter Showing the Youngsters How to Get it Done

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    At 37 years old, it's fair to call Detroit Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter a respected senior citizen in terms of baseball age.

    He's wearing the moniker quite well these days.

    Hunter continues tearing it up for the Tigers, hitting .361 with an .885 OPS. Hunter hit a career-high .313 last year with the Angels, and his previous career-best OPS of .859 came in 2002 with the Minnesota Twins.

    For Hunter, older is certainly wiser—and in his case, it's better as well.

The Shocking Amount of Hamstring Injuries

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    Injuries occur every day in Major League Baseball—they're simply part of the game. But the amount of hamstring injuries seem to be accumulating at an usually high rate this season.

    Here's a brief accounting thus far.

    Player Date of Injury Diagnosis Est. Earliest Date of Return
    Hanley Ramirez May 3 Strain TBD
    Giancarlo Stanton Apr. 29 Grade 2 strain May 30
    Angel Pagan May 4 Mild strain Day-to-day, May 6
    Peter Bourjos Apr. 29 Strain May 16
    Coco Crisp Apr. 29 Strain May 16
    Hiroyuki Nakajima Mar. 26 Strain Suffered setback on May 3, TBD
    Franklin Gutierrez Apr. 22 Grade 1 strain Late May
    Casey Kotchman Apr. 3 Strain TBD, hasn't begun baseball activities
    Joseph Mahoney Apr. 27 Strain May 16
    Jayson Werth May 2 Mild strain Day-to-day, May 6
    Brian Roberts Apr. 4 Strain Mid-to-late May
    Chris Heisey Apr. 27 Strain TBD
    David Robertson May 2 Pull Day-to-day, May 7

    OK, so the list wasn't exactly brief.

Matt Cain's Winless April

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    San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain won 16 games last season, pitched a perfect game and helped his team win a World Series title yet again.

    His month of April, however, was completely forgettable. Cain posted an 0-2 record and 6.49 ERA, allowing nine home runs in the process.

    He continues to be a Dodgers killer, though, after beating them on Sunday night. In fact, Cain is 1-0 with a 0.68 ERA against the rival Dodgers, but 0-2 with a 7.85 ERA against the rest of the league this season.

Jeremy Guthrie's Unbeaten Streak

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    It's hard to imagine that in mid-July last year, Jeremy Guthrie was sitting with a 3-9 record and 6.52 ERA. The Colorado Rockies gave up on him, trading him to the Kansas City Royals for the equally disappointing Jonathan Sanchez.

    I'd say it's worked out pretty nicely for the Royals so far.

    Kansas City has not lost a game in which Guthrie has started since last Aug. 3, a span of 17 games. His last outing was a thing of beauty, as he tossed a four-hit shutout against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.

    Since Guthrie last lost, he is 9-0 with a 2.25 ERA. According to ESPN, he set the franchise record for most games started without a loss in his last start:

    Jeremy Guthrie: 9-0 in last 17 starts - longest streak of undefeated starts (17) in Royals history, 1 more than Paul Splittorff (1977-78)

    — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 5, 2013

    It's looking like the three-year, $25 million contract the Royals gave Guthrie over the offseason was a pretty sound investment.

The Houston Astros' Current Pace

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    As of Monday morning, the Houston Astros had a record of 8-24. At their current pace, they're dangerously close to setting a new modern-day record for futility. The New York Mets finished their debut season in 1962 with a 40-120 record, and the Astros would equal that mark on their current path.

    They're sticking to their plan of building from within and allowing their youngsters to grow at the major league level. Their $22 million payroll on Opening Day was the lowest in years and there's no indication that will change at any point this season.

    Their current state of affairs led to one tweeter to give a big shoutout to any current Astros fan:

    I'll say this about the Houston Astros: the fans that ride out this season & still claim them are TRUE fans because that squad is terrible.

    — Mike T (@taddmike) May 6, 2013

    Amen to that.

Roy Halladay Giving Up More Than 8 Runs in Consecutive Starts

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    Roy Halladay has two Cy Young awards to his credit along with a perfect game and the second ever postseason no-hitter.

    To see him giving up at least eight runs in his last two starts was absolutely painful to watch. Apparently, it was painful to Halladay as well—in more ways than one.

    He revealed on Sunday after his horrific start against the Miami Marlins that he's been pitching with discomfort in his right shoulder since April 24:

    It started the morning after I pitched against Pittsburgh [on April 24]. I woke up and didn't really think anything of it. It was just kind of regular soreness. This kind of progressed over the last two weeks or so. It's right shoulder discomfort.

    It might have been nice if Halladay had actually told his team about that before now.

    The news certainly seemed to take general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. by surprise. Via Paul Hagen of MLB.com:

    We're likely to have to put Doc on the DL. Up until now he hasn't really expressed any discomfort. He hasn't been on our injury report. But now it sounds like we'll have to DL him. Until we do some diagnostic work, we won't know exactly what's going on with him, but clearly, it doesn't seem like he's very healthy. It was pretty apparent with his performance, unfortunately.

    We have to figure out what we're going to be doing with our roster and who's going to be pitching [Friday at Arizona]. If the man's hurt, he's hurt. Now we'll have to try to get him well and move forward.

    Halladay was, in fact, placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Phillies on Monday. He'll travel to Los Angeles to consult with Dr. Lewis Yocum.

    For a Phillies team already under .500, this was not a piece of news that they wanted delivered to them.

    At least one tweeter had a different outlook on why Halladay is now on the DL:

    REPORT: #Phillies placed P Roy Halladay on the 15 day DL with third degree burns from getting lit up all year

    — NOT SportsCenter (@NOTSportsCenter) May 6, 2013

    Philadelphia fans will have to wait a few more days to hear Halladay's prognosis, but it certainly doesn't look good at this point.

Jordan Zimmerman Pitching Like Washington Nationals Ace

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    The two pitchers at the top of the Washington Nationals rotation—Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez—haven't been terrible, but they haven't been terrific either.

    They are being out-pitched by the starter directly behind them in the rotation, though—Jordan Zimmermann.

    His last two outings in particular have been stupendous—a one-hit shutout of the Cincinnati Reds followed by a two-hit effort over eight innings in a win over the Atlanta Braves. We're not talking the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros here—Zimmermann manhandled two teams with some fairly decent bats in their lineups.

    Zimmermann's 5-1 record and 1.64 ERA aren't altogether shocking in and of themselves, but outperforming the two big guns in the Nationals rotation is indeed an impressive accomplishment.

Patrick Corbin Looking Like This Year's Wade Miley

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    Last year, Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Wade Miley was a finalist for the NL Rookie of the Year Award. He ended up with a second-place finish with his 16-11 record and 3.33 ERA.

    This year, Patrick Corbin is threatening to do Miley one better.

    Corbin can't win the Rookie of the Year award because of the 107 innings that he pitched last year, but he is absolutely continuing the dominance displayed by young Arizona left-handers in recent years.

    He is currently 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA, and the Diamondbacks have won all six games that Corbin has started thus far. This has been quite a change from the 6-8 record and 4.54 ERA he posted last year.

The Fact that Philip Humber is Still on the Houston Astros Roster

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    It's been over a year since Philip Humber threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history, and it's amazing that he's even on an MLB roster right now.

    Humber has been simply awful since that perfect Saturday afternoon, posting a 4-12 record along with a 7.79 ERA—that includes an 0-7 record and 8.82 ERA to start the 2013 season for the Houston Astros.

    Apparently, I'm not the only one wondering why Humber is still on the Astros roster:

    How. The. Hell. Did Philip Humber ever throw a perfect game?

    — Jake Dungan (@MajorLeagueJake) May 5, 2013

    Another Twitter "fan" likened Humber to another dismal performer:

    Philip Humber is 2003 Mike Maroth bad.

    — Joey Nowak (@joeynowak) May 5, 2013

    Maroth started his 2003 season with seven consecutive losses for the Detroit Tigers. He ended up losing 21 games on the season, something Humber likely won't get the chance to replicate.

Edwin Jackson's Awful Start

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    Edwin Jackson was brought in by the Chicago Cubs during the offseason to help add stability and durability to the starting rotation.

    He's offered anything but that thus far.

    Jackson has delivered an 0-5 record and 6.39 ERA in his first seven starts, none of which have gone seven innings. In fact, Jackson is averaging just over 5.1 innings per start, taxing a bullpen that has been one of the worst in the majors.

    At least one Cubs fan was kind enough to thank Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein for his efforts this offseason:

    @sportsfeedia $56 million for 4 yrs for five, horrendous losses.Thank you Theo (Esptein).#Cubs #EdwinJackson

    — marcus james brooks (@ido4me_period) May 6, 2013

    OK, so maybe he didn't really mean it.

Ryan Vogelsong Getting Shelled in the Early Going

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    For the past two seasons, San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was a terrific feel-good story in baseball.

    Out of the majors for four seasons and winless in five others, Vogelsong came back with a vengeance, winning 13 games with a 2.71 ERA in 2011 and another 14 games last year, including a 3-0 record and 1.09 ERA in the postseason.

    This year, however, Vogelsong is looking like the pitcher who regularly got shelled before leaving the majors in 2006. He has thus far produced a 1-2 record and 7.20 ERA in his first six starts.

    Along with the struggling Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, Vogelsong has one Giants fan on Twitter quite worried:

    Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Ryan Vogelsong so far have a combined ERA of 6.03, thats gotta change #sfgiants

    — Isaac Rodriguez (@isaacfromCT) May 5, 2013

    Despite the struggles of the above trio, the Giants are still in first place in the NL West. Imagine where they could be without the trio scuffling.

Los Angeles Dodgers Sitting Under .500 with a $216.6 Million Payroll

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    After their weekend sweep at the hands of the rival San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers sit with a 13-18 record. With all of the changes made over the past seven months and with the current $216.6 million payroll, the Dodgers are tanking.

    Injuries to Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez, Chad Billingsley, Chris Capuano and Adrian Gonzalez haven't helped, but other factors have contributed to their lack of success on the field as well.

    Los Angeles is hitting just .216 with runners in scoring position. Only five teams are worse, and all of them have a team payroll that is quite a bit lower.

    Dodgers relievers have a 4.67 ERA with five blown saves. Only four teams are worse, and and all of them have a team payroll that is quite a bit lower.

    The Dodgers have a Defensive Efficiency Ratio of .692. Only four teams are worse, and all of them have a team payroll that is quite a bit lower.

    Oh wait, did I mention that already?

    Money doesn't buy success, and the Dodgers are quickly learning that pitching, defense and timely hitting are the keys to winning, regardless of how much payroll they added.

Toronto Blue Jays With Third-Worst Record in Majors Despite Massive Overhaul

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    After the trades and free-agent signings made by the Toronto Blue Jays during the offseason, they were immediately named as one the top teams favored to win the World Series in 2013.

    So far, though, this season has shown that the game of baseball was never meant to be played on paper.

    Heading into action on Monday, the Blue Jays had a record of 11-21. Only the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins have fared worse through the first 32 games of the season.

    The revamped starting rotation that includes newcomers R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle have the third-worst ERA in the majors (5.56).

    Dickey acknowledged after his poor showing on Saturday that things absolutely have to change, both for himself and for the team:

    "We’re somewhat of a dysfunctional team right now," Dickey said. We’re kind of searching for a way to score runs, a way to pitch well. We’re doing a lot of things poorly, myself included.

    Is anyone else expecting a fire sale north of the border if this continues?

Tom Ricketts Threatening to Move Chicago Cubs Out of Wrigley Field

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    After speaking with prominent Chicago business leaders about plans to renovate Wrigley Field, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts decided to stir the pot just a wee bit.

    In comments made to reporters, Ricketts played the "we'll move out" card.

    "The fact is that if we don't have the ability to generate revenue in our own outfield, we'll have to take a look at moving -- no question," Ricketts said.

    Ricketts was referring to the addition of a 6,000-square foot scoreboard that has the potential to add up to $20 million of revenue. But private clubs who own rooftop boxes outside of Wrigley have balked at having their views blocked, creating a stalemate of sorts.

    Wrigley is the second-oldest park in baseball, opened in 1914, just two years after Fenway Park in Boston.

    Here's how one fan on Twitter determined the odds of Ricketts actually moving the Cubs:

    I believe in Tom Ricketts remarks about moving Wrigley Field out of Wriggleyville as much as I believe in Marmol closing out a 9th inning.

    — Josh (@perk_nowitzki) May 3, 2013

    Considering how Marmol has pitched this year, those are pretty long odds.

Ervin Santana's Comeback Season

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    The Kansas City Royals revamped their starting rotation this offseason and have already seen stellar performances from James Shields and Jeremy Guthrie, but Ervin Santana has absolutely done himself proud as well.

    Santana posted an ugly 5.16 ERA and gave up a major league-leading 39 home runs last year with the Angles. Yet after he was traded to the Royals over the offseason, he has delivered thus far in 2013, posting a 3-1 record and 2.00 ERA in five starts.

    He's also kept the ball in the park, giving up just four homers. The trio of Shields, Guthrie and Santana have been a major factor in the Royals competing with the Detroit Tigers at the top of the AL Central thus far.

Jason Grilli's Dominance as Closer

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    When the Pittsburgh Pirates traded closer Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox over the offseason, it signaled the move of reliever Jason Grilli to the ninth-inning role. Prior to this year, Grilli had exactly five saves over 10 seasons.

    It's fair to say the Pirates knew what they were doing.

    The above video shows the new excitement in the Steel City whenever "Grilled Cheese" is introduced at home.

    His 12 saves, 0.69 ERA and 14.5 K/9 rate are another reason why Pirates fans are so juiced right now.

Texas Rangers Pitching Staff Leading the Majors

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    Heading into play, the Texas Rangers (3.02) held a slight lead over the St. Louis Cardinals (3.09) for the best team ERA in all of baseball.

    Yes, you heard that right.

    For many years, the Rangers had plenty of offense, but oftentimes brought up the rear in terms of pitching. Despite injuries to Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, the rotation has been stellar with a 3.32 ERA. The bullpen hasn't been too shabby either, with a 2.91 ERA and no blown saves.

    The offseason was filled with concern, as the Rangers lost the services of Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Mike Napoli.

    It's safe to say that their pitching staff was largely unaffected.

The St. Louis Cardinals Huge Starter/Bullpen Split

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    With a 3.09 team ERA entering play on Monday, the St. Louis Cardinals have the top pitching staff in the National Leagueand that's in spite of their bullpen.

    The split between their starters and the bullpen is striking. Starters have posted a 2.21 ERA, over a run better than the next best team in the NL (Reds, 3.31).

    But the bullpen ERA (5.45) is the worst in the majors. It's even a half-run worse than the historically bad Houston Astros.

    Shakeups galore have already taken place, with both Marc Rzepczynski and Mitchell Boggs being demoted to the minors and with Jason Motte out for the year with elbow ligament replacement surgery. There's even talk of injured starter Chris Carpenter returning in a bullpen role.

    The Cardinals were tied with the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox for the best record in baseball, so panic hasn't set in quite yet. But it will if the beleaguered bullpen continues giving big leads and blowing saves. At some point, the odds will catch up.

Jake Westrbrook's Strong Start

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    The St. Louis Cardinals elected to sign starting pitcher Jake Westbrook for one more year last August, leaving Kyle Lohse out in the cold.

    At the time, it was thought that Lohse would simply be too expensive in free agency, giving Westbrook the chance for one more season in St. Louis.

    He's made the most of that opportunity so far. Westbrook has posted a 2-1 record and 1.07 ERA in his first five starts as part of a top-ranked Cardinals rotation.

    The numbers for Westbrook aren't exactly spectacular—he's allowed a .250 BAA with a 1.40 WHIP—but he hasn't given up a home run all year and has been efficient with his pitches.

    It seems like the Cardinals made the right decision so far.

The Colorado Rockies Pitching Staff Actually Doesn't Stink

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    The Colorado Rockies brought up the rear in the majors last year with a 5.22 team ERA. This year, they're in 14th place with a 3.87 ERA.

    They actually don't stink.

    Starters turned in a 5.81 ERA last year, yet this year, it's well over a run better at 4.52. The bullpen registered a 4.52 ERA last year, but they have started with a stellar 2.89 ERA.

    It's obviously showed in their performance, as they have posted an 18-13 record and are just one game behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.

The Entire Toronto Blue Jays Starting Rotation

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    We already discussed R.A. Dickey in an earlier slide, but the entire starting rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays has been abysmal.

    Entering play on Monday, Jays starters had posted a 6-13 record and 5.39 ERA.

    Their best starter has been their No. 5 starter, J.A. Happ, who has a 2-2 record and 3.98 ERA. Happ wasn't going to be in the plans for the Jays rotation until Ricky Romero's struggles continued during spring training and he started the season in extended spring training.

    Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow have all struggled along with Dickey, adding to the Blue Jays' woes. Buehrle gave up another seven runs in the first three innings of Monday's game against the Tampa Bay Rays, raising his ERA to 7.02.

Kevin Slowey's Great Pitching and Lousy Luck

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    Miami Marlins starting pitcher Kevin Slowey has been absolutely terrific in the early going, posting a sterling 1.81 ERA in his first seven startsyet he has just a 1-2 record to show for it.

    Courtesy of the Marlins' pitiful offense, Slowey has been snakebitten for the most part. He has been the victim of both poor run support (3.14) and a bullpen that has failed him on at least two other occasions.

    Slowey was 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA back in 2011 for the Minnesota Twins.

James Loney Hitting Nearly .400

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    First baseman James Loney took a contract for one year and $2 million with the Tampa Bay Rays during the offseason, a far cry from the $6.375 million that he earned last year.

    At the time of his signing, Rays manager Joe Maddon thought it was the perfect time to grab a guy who has underachieved for much of his career:

    I know there's probably some chicken left on the bone there yet. He's also at that optimal age, like 28 years of age, right in that sweet spot, where we like to get guys, and maybe possibly what you would consider have underachieved to a point. And all of a sudden, they come to us, and this is like the perfect time to get them.

    It turns out that Maddon may have been right.

    Loney entered Monday night's game with the Toronto Blue Jays with a .398 average, and he would be leading the majors in this category if he had enough qualifying plate appearances. Also, although Loney has only one home run this year, he has nonetheless posted a .976 OPS, which would easily be the highest of his career over a full season.

Minnesota Twins Sticking with the Clearly Struggling Aaron Hicks

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    When the Minnesota Twins named Aaron Hicks as their Opening Day center fielder, he was coming off a spring in which he hit .370 with four home runs and 18 RBI.

    However, through the Twins' first 27 games, Hicks was hitting just .118 and the Twins were sticking with him as their everyday center fielder.

    There are reasons why he is still playing in Minnesota and not in Rochester.

    His main competition in spring training, Darin Mastroianni, went down with a stress fracture in his left ankle in mid-April. The only other viable replacement candidate, Joe Benson, is hitting just .211 at Rochester.

    So the Twins will wait patiently for Hicks to turn things aroundif that in fact happens at all.

The New York Yankees Power Surge

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    The New York Yankees lost a total of 98 home runs from last year's team with players who left via free agency.

    They also lost even more power with injuries to Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson. Together, that quartet totaled another 100 home runs in 2012.

    So, where would the power come from this season?

    It has come from a collection of players who were literally claimed from the scrapheap during the offseason.

    Lyle Overbay, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Kevin Youkilis, Brennan Boesch and Ben Francisco have combined to hit 22 of the 40 home runs hit thus far by the Yankees, who currently lead the American League in that category.

Los Angeles Angels Not Playing Small Ball

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    If there is one thing that's always been a characteristic of Los Angeles Angels teams under manager Mike Scioscia, it has been the fact that they're aggressive on the basepaths.

    That's hardly been the case this season.

    The Angels have 12 stolen bases thus far, ranking second-to-last in the American League. And that's with two of the fastest players in baseball—Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos.

    Poor baserunning has also hurt the Angels numerous times—they had run into 19 outs on the basepaths since Saturday.

    There could certainly be a shift in the way Scioscia manages with sluggers like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo on board, but it's clearly a shift in thinking that isn't working right now.

Both LA Managers Are Fighting for Their Jobs

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    On Monday, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com broached an interesting subject. He questioned whether or not Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia even wants to stick around in Anaheim.

    Rosenthal also considered another possibility:

    Scioscia could take a year off like Francona, but that would require him to renounce his contract. Better Scioscia should sit down with Moreno with the two agreeing to part amicably through a John Farrell-type trade – only with a bigger return.

    The Dodgers, Scioscia’s former team, would be the most obvious possibility. Moreno would recoil at the idea, but if he could parlay Scioscia’s reputation into a significant player or two, why not? The Angels could hire a new manager with new energy. And they would be better for it.

    Now that would be an intriguing thought.

    Bleacher Report Lead Writer Zachary Rymer dove deep into the thought behind that idea as well.

    This is all assuming that both L.A.-based managers will survive the full 2013 season, and that is certainly not a given at this point.

    Entering Monday, the Angels and Dodgers had a combined record of 24-37 with a total payroll of roughly $344 million. With the expectations of each team being so high due to soaring payrolls, both Scioscia and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly are absolutely on the hot seat.

Nate McLouth's Emergence as a Leadoff Hitter and Sparkplug

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    It was almost a year ago that outfielder Nate McLouth was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was hitting just .140 after he was cut, and that followed three very disappointing seasons with the Atlanta Braves.

    McLouth signed a minor league deal with the Baltimore Orioles in early June, spent some time in the minors and was recalled to the big leagues in early August. McLouth was instrumental in helping the Orioles down the stretch after an injury to Nick Markakis, hitting .268 with seven home runs and 18 RBI.

    Signed again for this season, McLouth has been a pleasant surprise at the top of the batting order, hitting .313 with three home runs and 10 RBI from the leadoff spot. Also, his nine stolen bases rank him second in the American League behind Jacoby Ellsbury.

    Left for dead by both the Pirates and Braves, McLouth has found new life in Baltimore.

Jeff Keppinger Hitting Only Slightly Better than Adam Dunn

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    Considering the fact that Adam Dunn hit .159 in 2011 and .204 last year, no one is totally shocked that he's hitting just .151 to start the 2013 season.

    But the Chicago White Sox certainly didn't count on infielder Jeff Keppinger hitting only slightly better.

    Keppinger entered play on Monday with a .196 average. He also hasn't drawn a walk all season, leading to an OBP even lower than his average.

    The White Sox signed Keppinger to a three-year deal largely based on his production last year with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he hit .325 with nine home runs and 40 RBI.

    They weren't expecting a Dunn-like performance.

Brandon Phillips with Twice as Many RBI as Joey Votto

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    Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto has produced a .320 batting average and .462 OBP thus far, yet he only has four home runs and 13 RBI.

    Second baseman Brandon Phillips has driven in 28 runners, over twice the amount of Votto thus far.

    That's not to say that Votto is having a bad year, but he just hasn't put forth the type of run-producing numbers that were expected of him. For Phillips to have double the run production is indeed shocking.

Arizona Diamondbacks Undefeated in Extra Innings

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    It appears as if the Arizona Diamondbacks might be this year's version of the Baltimore Orioles.

    The Orioles ended the 2012 season with a remarkable 16-2 record in extra-inning games. In 2013, the Diamondbacks have won their first six extra-inning affairs.

    Bonus baseball has been a boon thus far for Arizona.

Houston Astros Run Differential

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    We talked earlier about the futility of the Houston Astros.

    A tidbit of information from ESPN writer Buster Olney (Insider subscription required) further details that complete ineptitude:

    Astros: On pace for a run differential of minus-344.

    The good thing is that the Astros have no chance of matching the worst run differential in baseball history, established by the aforementioned 1899 Cleveland Spiders, who were outscored by 724 runs in that season. But the Astros are on a trajectory to challenge for the worst run differential since 1900. 

    Now that's historic.

Oakland Athletics Winning Record Despite Lackluster Starting Pitching

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    The Oakland Athletics entered play on Monday with a record of 18-14. They're doing it without an ace and with a pitching staff that has registered a 5.00 ERA, the third-worst in the American League.

    That speaks volumes about the offense, which has scored a league-high 174 runs.

    However, no rotation with an ERA that high has ever qualified for the postseason, and it likely won't happen this year, either. The A's will need a better performance from their starting rotation to keep the pressure off their bullpen and the stress levels down on their offense.

Pittsburgh Pirates Strong Start Despite Sputtering Offense

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a 18-14 start, and their offense has yet to fully find its way.

    Their .241 average has them ranked 10th in the National League, and their .216 average with runners in scoring position is fourth-to-last.

    Andrew McCutchen has yet to fully get untracked, hitting .250 with four home runs and 17 RBI. Newcomer Russell Martin is finally starting to break out after a horrific start, as he is now hitting .272 with six home runs.

    Pedro Alvarez is also hitting only .178, and shortstop Clint Barmes is hitting just .192.

    It's actually a good sign, though. In the past two seasons, the Pirates got off to hot starts with solid hitting, only to fade in the second half. Maybe this year they can heat up and keep winning, finally ending their 20-year losing season streak.

Emilio Bonifacio Has Just Three Stolen Bases

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    In the last two years with the Miami Marlins, Emilio Bonifacio stole 70 bases.

    He finally stole his first three bases for the Blue Jays in the past two days.

    Hitting just .162 hasn't helped either, as Bonifacio hasn't exactly given himself many opportunities. But his speed can be a huge threat, and taking that away essentially turns him into a banjo hitter.

Stephen Strasburg's Early Struggles

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    The kid gloves were taken off Washington Nationals starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg this year. Limited to just 160 innings last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery, Strasburg entered 2013 with no limitations and high expectations.

    However, he hasn't lived up to those expectations yet.

    Strasburg is now 1-4 with a 3.45 ERA and 8.9 K/9 rate. He hasn't pitched badly, but it certainly isn't close to the dominance that many expected to see.

Minnesota Twins' Starter/Bullpen Splits

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    The Minnesota Twins sought to remake their starting rotation this offseason. They acquired Vance Worley, Kevin Correia, Mike Pelfrey and Rich Harden in order to fix a struggling rotation that posted a 5.40 ERA in 2012.

    The rotation has been better, but only marginally—Twins starters have posted a 4.89 ERA thus far.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Twins bullpen has been positively outstanding, tied with the Cleveland Indians for the best bullpen in the American League with a 2.69 ERA.

    That current ERA will be taxed, however, if Twins starters can't work deeper into games and give the bullpen a break every once in a while.

Kansas City Royals Poor Home Attendance Despite Strong Start

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    The Kansas City Royals are 17-10 as of Monday, and they are in the midst of a tight race with the Detroit Tigers at the top of the AL Central standings.

    Excitement is in the air with a revamped starting rotation featuring James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana.

    Kauffman Stadium recently underwent a $250 million renovation, and the whole world got to see the stadium on display at the 2012 All-Star Game.

    Despite all of the above, the Royals can't manage to draw over 20,000 fans per game.

    According to ESPN, only the Cleveland Indians are drawing fewer fans than the Royals.

    Maybe it's just apathy. Royals fans have been used to seeing losing teams since 1986. Whatever the case, those kind of attendance figures won't help in keeping the Royals financially viable enough to attract big-name free-agent talent in the future.

     

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

    Feel free to talk baseball with Doug anytime on Twitter.