Scott Podsednik batting .457 and on pace to steal 94 bases? A fluke.
Livan Hernandez’s 16 scoreless innings and 2-0 record? A fluke.
The Pirates’ 7-5 record? Definitely a fluke.
However, there are some other early season trends around baseball that are more than just a stroke of good luck. Let’s take a look at five early MLB trends that are no fluke.
Okay, so he isn’t going to maintain his current .426 average, but there is a great chance that he posts a sterling average, and perhaps makes a run at the batting title. Prado won’t flash much power and has limited speed, but the 26-year-old can hit.
Batting in the two hole for the Braves, he has become an excellent table setter in front of Chipper Jones and Brian McCann.
Expect Prado to loom around the top of the batting average leaders for the entirety of the season. I predict Prado to finish around .320 with 80 runs, 12 home runs, 60 RBI, and two stolen bases.
Garza has gone eight innings in each of his three starts and given up a total of two runs. He is quickly becoming one of the game’s elite starting pitchers. He’s always been extremely talented and has been very good the past two seasons, but at 26 years old it looks like he is finally putting it all together.
Garza has nasty stuff. He collects a ton of strikeouts and doesn’t give up a lot of hits. With Roy Halladay in Philadelphia, he’s my early season favorite to win the AL Cy Young.
He’ll finish around 18-6 with a 3.10 ERA, 190 strikeouts, and 1.18 WHIP.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good team. In fact, they would win most of the divisions in baseball, but the fact is that they are the third best team in the AL East.
Offensively they’ve struggled. David Ortiz has started slow once again, and it’s only a matter of time before rumors that he is done start up again.
Furthermore, Victor Martinez is struggling offensively while trying to convert back to being an everyday catcher and J.D. Drew looks lost at the plate.
Meanwhile, staff ace Jon Lester has been ineffective in each of his first three starts and Josh Beckett has been ordinary. The Red Sox will win around 88 games and finish right behind the playoff-bound Yankees and Rays.
In 12 games Cruz has slugged seven home runs and collected 15 RBI, putting him on pace to hit 94 long balls and collect 202 RBI.
Clearly he won’t keep up that pace, but there is no reason to think that he can’t finish with 40 or so home runs and 115 RBI. The 29-year-old has always possessed huge power, and he looks ready to put it on display in his first full season as an everyday player.
What’s even more encouraging than his early power totals is his improved batting average. In 2009 Cruz hit just .260, but he is currently hitting .317 in 2010.
He likely won’t maintain an average over .300, but he appears to be in line to improve on his 2009 average. I think he finishes around .280, with 90 runs, 42 home runs, 115 RBI, and 15 stolen bases.
The Giants are for real. With baseball’s best pitcher Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain at the top, Barry Zito building off of the success he had in the second half of 2009, and Jonathan Sanchez emerging as one of baseball better young pitchers, the Giants’ rotation is arguably the best in baseball.
In addition, their bullpen, anchored by closer Brian Wilson and set-up men Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo, is among the best in baseball.
Despite the additions of Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, their offense still leaves a lot to be desired, but is tremendously improved over last year. Hot starts by Edgar Renteria and Aaron Rowand, both of whom have been a tremendous disappointment since signing with the Giants via free agency, have played an important role in reviving the offense.
While Rowand’s recent injury may hurt the team some, backup-turned-starter Eugenio Velez has proven that he is an asset to the team at the plate, on the base paths, and in the field.
The Giants offense is nothing more than pretty good, but with their tremendous pitching staff they are a team to be reckoned with. I expect them to collect around 95 wins, take home the NL West crown, and make some noise in the playoffs.