Before the beginning of each regular season, supposed experts and gurus from around the sport make predictions, guessing on who they think will make the postseason in the coming year. Many of these predictions are made based on expectations of teams, primarily looking at the talent that resides on the roster.
Of course, baseball is mostly an unpredictable sport, so any predictions can be considered "bold". And every year there is at least one team that surpasses expectations, making these experts look uninformed sometimes.
In 2012, the Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles both unexpectedly made the playoffs. Neither club was supposed to be relevant in the standings, but nevertheless played baseball in October.
With about a quarter of the 2013 season in the books, let's take a look at some of the big surprise teams that have the chance to be this year's version of the A's and O's.
There has never been much doubt in the offensive capabilities of the Colorado Rockies. Playing half of their games at Coors Field automatically gives them a good chance at some lofty power numbers.
But the pundits are always wary of the Rockies' pitching staff (more or less for the same reason of their offensive prowess). Not to mention, the 2013 Rockies have first-year manager Walt Weiss at the helm. These factors led to the Rockies not being on many division-winning prediction lists heading into this season.
In fact, none of ESPN's or MLB,com's experts listed the Rockies on any prediction lists. Yet, through their first 42 games, the Rockies are two games over .500, and find themselves just two games out of the NL West lead. Even their pitching has been somewhat decent, posting a cumulative 3.99 ERA through Friday's games.
With a core of prolific hitters in place, including Carols Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies have a very good shot of staying in contention through the rest of the year (as long as everyone stays relatively healthy). It also helps that the rest of the division is not playing all that well right now.
Like the Rockies, the Pittsburgh Pirates did not make it on to ESPN or MLB.com's prediction list. It's somewhat surprising when you consider that the Pirates have had solid first-halves each of the past two seasons.
And so far, Clint Hurdle's club has a 25-17 record, sitting just 2.5 games out of first place in the NL Central. Entering Saturday's contests, they had the league's third-best ERA.
After falling to mid-season collapses the last few years, perhaps this is finally the year the Pirates are able to maintain their winning ways for the duration of the season. It will be interesting to see what moves they make (or don't make) before the July 31st trade deadline.
Only one member of ESPN's staff pegged the New York Yankees to win the American League East, and no one from MLB.com picked them. The overall perception of the Bronx Bombers is that they are an aging and oft-injured club with little depth to rely on.
Well, we should all have learned by now not to count the Yankees out. With a one-game lead over the Red Sox in the East, the Yankees have the second-best record in the American League. And keep in mind they've gotten just three games out of Curtis Granderson and none out of Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.
But the Yanks always find a way to win, and so far in 2013 they have done just that. As the team continues to get healthier, there's no reason not to expect the team to make the playoffs for the 18th time in the last 19 seasons.
In 2012, the Kansas City Royals spent a total of one game over the .500 mark, and that was on April 10. This year, on May 17, the Royals sit two games over .500, already a vast improvement from last year.
Furthermore, at this time last year, the Royals were seven games under .500, and 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. In 2013, the Royals sit just two games behind the Tigers and Indians for first place.
Pitching has been the Royals' strength so far, featuring the third-lowest ERA in the American League, entering Saturday (tied with the Yankees). Of course, they also have the fourth-best batting average in the league as well.
It may be a lot to expect the Royals to keep up this hot start. And with the ever-dangerous Tigers in the same division, finding their way to the top may be tough. But the Royals' early success can't be ignored, and there's a chance that they could earn one of the two Wild Card spots in October.
The Los Angeles Dodgers make this list because of their cold start. At 17-23, the Dodgers currently sit in the basement of the NL West, six games out of first place, despite having the highest salary in the National League.
The Dodgers' lineup is loaded with talent, including the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp. Yet, only the Marlins have scored fewer runs per game in the National League than the Dodgers. They've only managed to get four games out of Hanley Ramirez so far this year, and the overall struggles of the offense have been alarming.
But it's hard to count out the Dodgers, even with all of their current difficulties. When Ramirez comes back, their lineup gets a whole lot better. And the track records of Kemp, Gonzalez and Crawford tell us that there is still a chance for this team to turn things around. The pitching has been solid, lead by Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw.
Plus, there seems to be no limit to the amount of money the Dodgers can spend. They could use it to make any moves they feel necessary in order to contend.
So the Dodgers make this list because they have been surprisingly bad, but still have a chance to make the playoffs.