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David Ortiz has surprised many by hitting .325 with 11 homers in 2013 thus far.
Boston Red Sox
Spit-take factor: 6. As in, David Ortiz is 37, kind of blind, batting cleanup, and doing what?
The Red Sox are leading the American League East—arguably the toughest division in baseball—by two games. They are tied with the Atlanta Braves for the third-best record in the MLB.
Experts weren’t expecting Boston to finish more than a few games over .500 at most. SI.com predicted that the BoSox would finish last in the American League East with a 77-85 record, the average finish predicted by the six experts at CBSSports.com was fourth (3.5, rounded up), and ESPN predicted that they would finish third with an 84-78 record.
Last year, Boston finished with a 69-93 record—its worst since 1965. Part of this was due to its housecleaning, which for the purposes of this article I’m going to include under the umbrella of “offseason.” The franchise was already crumbling prior to what was deemed the megadeal, but sending Adrian Gonzalez (four-time All-Star), Carl Crawford (four-time All-Star), Josh Beckett (three-time All-Star) and Nick Punto to the Los Angeles Dodgers sealed the team’s fate.
Boston’s winter was underwhelming enough to warrant the low picks seen above—the only players of note they acquired (who they retained) were Joel Hanrahan (bust), Mike Napoli (past peak but still productive, lifetime .260/.365/.505 hitter), and Ryan Dempster (4.39 ERA to date, impressions will always be more impressive than his pitching skills).
Boston doesn’t make the final countdown because All-Star caliber guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Bucholtz, Jon Lester and Andrew Bailey didn’t disappear, no one really predicted them to be abysmal, and their current lead is fragile.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Spit-take factor: 6. As in, am I hallucinating or are Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton combined really averaging .230?
The Los Angels of Anaheim are in fourth place, and one year ago that would’ve been good enough for last. The Angels can thank Houston for somewhat ameliorating the humiliation.
Experts had a bit more faith in the Angels than they should have, but there were still doubts. Both ESPN and SI picked the Angels to take the AL West in their season previews. However, out of the SI experts, only one actually picked them to do so. CBSSports.com experts were a bit more skeptical, as their average predicted finish for LAA was second.
LAA’s offseason was questionable, but it still appeared to put the team in a favorable position. The biggest signing for the Angels last winter was Josh Hamilton, who we’ve already covered in as much detail as is necessary.
The odd part was that pitching should’ve been the team’s priority, and its net activity in that department was average at best. The Angels bid adieu to Dan Haren and Zack Greinke and acquired Joe Blanton (who without fail pulls a Joe Blanton each time he takes the mound), Tommy Hanson (4.19 ERA thus far in 2013, has been on a downhill slide since his rookie year), Jason Vargas (3.71 ERA, average) and Ryan Madson (basically a bust).
The Angels are just honorable mentions because they never had much pitching to begin with, experts didn’t expect them to dominate, and this whole situation is eerily familiar (see 2012).
Read on to find out which six teams made the cut.