MLB's Biggest Surprises and Disappointments After 2 Months of Play
From the surging San Francisco Giants to the brilliant Masahiro Tanaka, there have been an array of clubs and players who have enjoyed surprisingly strong starts to the MLB season.
Of course, there have also been plenty of teams and individuals who have been complete letdowns in the opening months of the campaign. What follows is a rundown of the five biggest surprises and the five biggest disappointments after the first two months of MLB action.
Now, let's take a look at who has exceeded expectations and who has fallen short.
Surprise: The Remarkable Start of the San Francisco Giants
Entering the season, the San Francisco Giants certainly had the talent to play a major part in the National League playoff race.
Still, it would have been difficult to predict that the club would not only be running away with the NL West, but also own the best record in all of baseball. That's exactly where the Giants stand after two months of games.
Senior vice president and general manager Brian Sabean pulled off a number of shrewd moves in the offseason, but none has been better than the decision to ink starter Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal.
Of course, to this point in the season things have worked out quite differently for the Giants' Southern California rival.
Disappointment: The Underwhelming Start of the Los Angeles Dodgers
With the most expensively assembled squad in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers should be substantially better than they've been through the opening two months of the season.
The team sits at 31-28 (.525), which leaves the club seven games off the pace in the NL West. The way the Dodgers are playing right now, GM Ned Colletti will need to either shore up the bullpen or add an extra bat in advance of the trade deadline.
To make matters even worse for Dodgers fans, the games "have been virtually invisible to much of Southern California" due to the SportsNet LA blackout, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times.
Surprise: The Success of the 'No -Name' Rotation of the Oakland Athletics
It wasn't looking good for the Oakland Athletics starting rotation when Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin were lost before the season even got underway.
Despite those injuries, though, after two months of games the unheralded staff has the lowest ERA in all of baseball.
The current starting five, which is composed of Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez, Tommy Milone and Drew Pomeranz, earns a combined $13.3 million in 2014. As Alex Espinoza of The Rickey Henderson points out, there are 23 starters and one closer who all make more individually than Oakland's entire rotation.
Disappointment: The Flood of Injuries That Have Hit the Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers have dealt with an unusually high number of injuries in the opening months of the 2014 season.
Currently, 12 players are on the disabled list. No injury has hurt worse than the loss of first baseman Prince Fielder, who underwent season-ending neck fusion surgery on May 27. After arriving in Texas following a blockbuster offseason trade, the slugger clubbed just three home runs before seeing his season cut short.
Surprise: The Strong Starts of the Miami Marlins and Milwaukee Brewers
After dropping 100 games a season ago, the Miami Marlins weren't exactly part of the playoff conversation entering the 2014 season. However, even after losing ace Jose Fernandez to Tommy John surgery, the club is sitting in second place in the extremely crowded NL East with a 29-28 (.509) record.
The Milwaukee Brewers have also come out of left field to lead the way in the NL Central. Last year, that division provided three playoff teams, but for now the Brewers are holding down the top spot and are tied for the second-most wins in baseball. The club is also tied for the second-best run differential in the NL, per ESPN.com.
Disappointment: The Underachieving St. Louis Cardinals
With a 30-28 (.517) record, the St. Louis Cardinals' season has been far from a disaster.
However, it also hasn't been encouraging, as the club is five games back in the NL Central race. Plus, the Cardinals were recently dismantled by the San Francisco Giants, dropping three of four to the NL West leaders.
The rotation has been just as dominant as expected with the third-best ERA in baseball. The offense, though, has been a different story. The Cardinals rank 23rd in MLB in OPS, and only Matt Adams has an OPS above .800.
Surprise: The Powerful Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays just won't stop hitting home runs.
The team leads all of baseball in that category with 82 on the season. Over the past month, third baseman Edwin Encarnacion has connected on 17 by himself. As High Heat Stats MLB notes via Twitter, that's more than the Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays have each hit over the past four weeks.
All that power has resulted in the Blue Jays opening up a four-game lead in the AL East.
Disappointment: The Unimpressive AL East
After two months, the AL East is one of the worst divisions in all of baseball.
Along with the AL Central, the East is one of just two divisions in MLB in which just one team has a positive run differential, per ESPN.com. The biggest disappointments so far have been the reigning World Series champions and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Boston Red Sox have already endured a 10-game losing streak and sit three games under .500. Meanwhile, the Rays rank second-to-last in run differential in the AL, per ESPN.com, and have the worst record.
Surprise: How Well Rookies Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu Have Played
The race for AL Rookie of the Year honors is going to be incredibly competitive thanks to the exceptional performances of New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka and Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu. It's not shocking that both players have excelled during their rookie seasons, but then again, they weren't supposed to be among the best players in all of baseball.
Tanaka has racked up eight wins for the Yankees and leads the entire AL with a 2.06 ERA. Plus, the Japanese right-hander has struck out 28.7 percent of the batters he's faced, according to the MLB Stat of the Day Twitter account.
Abreu has missed two weeks of the season due to a DL stint. Still, the Cuban has 16 home runs, which is tied for the third-most in MLB.
Disappointment: Offseason Acquisitions That Haven't Worked Out
Not all the big-money offseason acquisitions have enjoyed as much early success as Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu. Two players who jump out are New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson and Oakland Athletics reliever Jim Johnson.
Granderson has experienced a forgettable start to his tenure with the Mets. The outfielder is batting just .200 on the season and has punched out 62 times in 55 games.
Johnson has already lost his job as the club's closer twice in the opening months of the season. The right-hander has also been consistently booed off the field at the O.co Coliseum. While pitching at home, Johnson has posted a 14.04 ERA and has allowed opponents to hit at a .465 clip.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.
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