Ranking the 4 Biggest Shocks of the Early 2015 MLB Season
One of the fun—or frustrating, depending on your point of view—things about the initial few weeks of the baseball season is that there are always unexpected, surprising, even shocking, happenings that stick out like, well, the New York Mets with the best record in baseball.
But we'll get to that.
While some of these doings are simply a hot or cold stretch at the outset of everything, some are bigger deals with potential long-term implications. Either way, they're shocking for one reason or another, and they're ranked based on pure overall shock factor.
No. 4: Mark Teixeira's Big April
Throughout his 13-year career, Mark Teixeira has treated April as if it was an extension of March, in that it didn't count, much like spring training.
The regular season's first month historically has been the 35-year-old New York Yankees first baseman's worst—by far. To wit, his career line for April is .239/.345/.446, with each of those three triple-slash statistics being the lowest of any month. By comparison, his second-worst month has been June: .255/.351/.510.
Oh, and Teixeira's 44 home runs and 135 RBI across all Aprils past are way below par for him. For context, his cumulative 61 homers and 207 RBI in September are the next-worst monthly numbers.
Yet, here we are on April 26, and Teixeira has hit eight long balls—including two off Jacob deGrom on Friday and one off Matt Harvey on Saturday—and driven in 18. To offer perspective yet again, those marks rank second and tied for second in the sport.
No. 3: The Seattle Mariners' Pitching Problems
For years, the Seattle Mariners have been all about that ace, as Felix Hernandez has headed a consistently strong pitching staff. Good arms have been as much of a symbol of Seattle as the Space Needle.
The Mariners bullpen, which last year had the best ERA in the business at 2.59, now sports a 3.97 mark—more than a full run worse—no thanks to Danny Farquhar and his 5.40 ERA and, especially, closer Fernando Rodney, whose ERA sits at 8.53 and WHIP at 2.05.
Expected to once again be a strength, the rotation has been just the opposite so far. In fact, the starters' aggregate 4.90 ERA is fifth worst in baseball and a run-and-a-half higher than last year's 3.48.
Although Hernandez took matters into his own hands with a complete-game shutout of the Minnesota Twins on Friday night, promising starters Taijuan Walker (10.66 ERA) and James Paxton (6.86) have been disappointing. Meanwhile, steady veteran Hisashi Iwakuma just landed on the disabled list with strained right lat, per Greg Johns of MLB.com, so he'll have to wait up to a month to try to lower what is a 6.61 ERA to this point.
So while new slugger Nelson Cruz has been bashing baseballs all over the place with an MLB-best nine homers already, Seattle's sluggish 7-10 start can be blamed, for once, on the team's hurlers.
No. 2: The San Diego Padres' No-Longer-Offensive Offense
Last year, the San Diego Padres offense was, well, almost nonexistent. The club finished dead last in runs scored, and at 3.30 per game, the Padres were nearly a quarter-run worse per than the Atlanta Braves, who placed 29th.
No wonder new general manager A.J. Preller was such a busy man over the offseason, making trades left and right to acquire Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers, Derek Norris, Will Middlebrooks—heck, just about anyone with a bat and a pulse.
There were legitimate concerns about the moves for those players, namely that all of the above are right-handed swingers, which could open up San Diego to problems against tough righties and late-game matchups.
So far, however, the offense has been something of a revelation. Not only is the lineup better, but it's actually the NL's highest-scoring unit in total runs. In per-game terms, the Padres' 4.89 mark is more than a run-and-a-half better than 2014's production.
Here's another cross-year comparison: Last April, San Diego finished with 77 runs and 15 home runs. This April? The club is at 93 runs and 19 homers—with four games still left to play. Wow.
The Padres might have lost four in a row, but they still are north of .500 at 10-9, and the offense looks legitimate enough to keep the team in contention all year long. Talk about a turnaround.
No. 1: The 1st-Place New York Mets
The New York Mets' franchise-record-tying 11-game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the New York Yankees in the first game of the annual Subway Series. But that stretch was impressive for a number of reasons.
For one, it marked the club's longest since 2008, the last winning season in Flushing.
For another, it pushed the Mets to the best record not only in an NL East that was supposed to be dominated by the on-paper-favorite Washington Nationals but also in all of baseball.
And for still another, they achieved the 11 consecutive wins without a number of key injured players, including third baseman David Wright, catcher Travis d'Arnaud and righty Zack Wheeler, as well as a bullpen that is sans Jenrry Mejia, Bobby Parnell, Vic Black, Josh Edgin and Jerry Blevins.
Oh, and then there's this, from Jayson Stark of ESPN on Twitter: "The #Mets win streak may be over [after Friday's loss to the Yankees]. But the only 3 other teams in the last 30 years to win 11+ in a row in April all made the postseason."
You know, the playoffs—the place where these Mets, now 14-4, haven't been since...2006.
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