IT’S hard to track everything that has gone on through the first quarter of the MLB season. There have been surprising runs, epic fails and plenty of injuries to shake the league up. Through all the carnage and flux there are some teams and players that have stood out more than others. For better or worse here are the eight biggest surprises two months into season 2018.
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Gerrit Cole, SP
IT is possible that the reigning champs got better in the offseason, especially their starting pitchers. With Justin Verlander balling out and Charlie Morton trending upwards, former Pirate Gerrit Cole is starting to live up to the hype. The former No. 1 overall pick has been plagued by injuries in the past and was coming off the worst season of his career in 2017. Houston swooped in quickly to secure Cole’s services though and he has hardly put a foot wrong, boasting more strikeouts (93) than anyone else in the American League. Don’t rule him out as a Cy Young chance.
WE all expected the Indians to be sitting at the top of the AL Central, that isn’t a surprise. What is though, is their record. At just 22-23, Cleveland ranks around the middle of the pack in all major stat categories and looks nothing like the contenders we thought they were. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez need help and their bullpen is struggling. They aren’t in danger of falling out of the postseason just yet, given just how bad their division rivals are. If they want to make their playoff trip worthwhile though they might need to make a few trade moves. Now.
Los Angeles Dodgers
THE Dodgers have gone from consensus NL Champions in the eyes of many to the exact opposite. They have struggled against poor teams and they languish at 20-26 near the bottom of the National League. That includes this week’s four-game winning streak as well. To be fair, injuries have played a factor, with Corey Seager suffering year ending Tommy John surgery and Clayton Kershaw still sidelined for another week or so. Things look like they are starting to click with LA on a current streak of W’s. They still have a long way to go to recapture their title as conference favourites.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF/DH
SIMILARLY to the Dodgers, Stanton may be starting to trend upwards again. He couldn’t go much further down with the reigning NL MVP starting his New York Yankees career off miserably. He homered in his first at-bat, but since then Stanton struggled to find the middle, striking out 40 times in 101 at-bats over the month of April. He has found his feet, batting a bit better in this month and Stanton is currently on a hot streak. Time will tell if he just started slow or if NY is in trouble.
Yu Darvish, SP
SPEAKING of in trouble the Chicago Cubs are probably digging through their trash chasing the receipt for Yu Darvish’s deal. Until yesterday, the ‘ace’ pitcher had pitched 34 innings in seven games and registered a 0-3 record. His 5.56 ERA was alarming, to say the least with Jed Hoyer’s decision to pay Darvish $126 million over six years coming under heavy scrutiny. Again, it is still early and you don’t want to rule anything out, especially after Darvish’s six-inning win yesterday. However, fans will be demanding more from their prized recruit.
Image from theathletic.com
Shohei Ohtani, SP/DH
THE Japanese excitement machine came over to America with the eyes of the world glued to him. And he has not disappointed. Dual-threat Shohei Ohtani started his career in the pros with a hit in his first at-bat and 12 strikeouts in his second career start. He is performing at a stunning pace since then and even though the hype has died recently, there’s no doubt he is a future All-Star. It seems like Ohtani is holding up his end of the bargain as a transcendent talent.
PERHAPS the biggest surprise so far in the season is how well the Atlanta Braves have performed. With one of the best offenses in all of baseball, they are pacing the National League with 28 wins and a whopping 243 runs scored. Freddie Freeman looks outstanding and young gun Ozzie Albies keeps clearing the wall, ranking as one of the best home run threats in the league. Along with outfielder Nick Markakis, Atlanta might have two top-5 MVP favourites and given their performance so far, they well and truly deserve it.
Image from atlallday.com
Mookie Betts, OF
IT’S not a surprise that Mookie Betts is playing great baseball. He finished 2nd in MVP voting back in 2016 and is regarded as one of the brightest stars in the majors. However, for someone like Betts to take another huge leap in his game is stunning. No one in baseball is hitting better than him right now as he leads almost every major batting statistic. His impressive average of .365 and tally of big home runs (15) have Boston fans dreaming of big things. With the Red Sox at 32-15, they are fast emerging as serious World Series threats.
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