Ranking the 4 Biggest Shocks of the Early 2015 MLB Season

Jason Catania@@JayCat11MLB Lead WriterApril 26, 2015

Ranking the 4 Biggest Shocks of the Early 2015 MLB Season

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    The worst offense in MLB a year ago, the Padres now have hitters like Justin Upton and Matt Kemp.
    The worst offense in MLB a year ago, the Padres now have hitters like Justin Upton and Matt Kemp.Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    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

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    Off to a great start, Mark Teixeira typically is terrible in April.
    Off to a great start, Mark Teixeira typically is terrible in April.Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    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

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    Now out with injury, Hisashi Iwakuma has been just one of several Mariners pitchers to start poorly this year.
    Now out with injury, Hisashi Iwakuma has been just one of several Mariners pitchers to start poorly this year.Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

    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.

    However, both the M's rotation and bullpen have been seriously struggling through the first three weeks of 2015. As a team, Seattle's ERA is 4.56, which places it fourth worst in MLB.

    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

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    Justin Upton and Matt Kemp are two big parts of the Padres' much-improved offense.
    Justin Upton and Matt Kemp are two big parts of the Padres' much-improved offense.Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    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

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    A regular occurrence so far this year: the Mets celebrating.
    A regular occurrence so far this year: the Mets celebrating.Associated Press

    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.

    Statistics are accurate through Saturday, April 25, and courtesy of MLB.comBaseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

    To talk baseball or fantasy baseball, check in with me on Twitter:@JayCat11.