One fifth into the 2012 Major League Baseball season, it’s time to highlight the biggest surprises and disappoints so far.
The young guys came to play- Bryce Harper and Mike Trout (the top two rated minor league players to start the season) are showing exactly why they were so highly regarded. Everything Harper does is on Sporscenter, and he just has that special look to him. Some guys just seem that much better than everyone else on the field, and Harper is one of those guys. It’s still going to take him a little bit of time to adjust at the plate, but he’s the real deal. Trout was actually rated slightly higher than Harper, and everything he has done so far this season shows he’s no slouch either. In essentially the same number of plate appearances, he has more hits, homeruns, RBIs, steals, a higher average, and higher OPS than Harper. If the Angels ever start winning he’ll get the pub he deserves.
Don’t forget the old guys- Everyone left Derek Jeter for dead, and he responded with an amazing start to the season. The 37 year old already has just one home run less than he had all last season, he’s batting .372, and he’s sporting his highest OPS since 1999. 35 year old Carlos Beltran found the fountain of youth, and is looking like the five tool player he was for so many years in his younger days. He’s tied for the NL lead in home runs, 2nd in RBI, 3rd in OPS, and he already has more steals than he did in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Best in the world- Just as there is no doubt that Lebron James is the best player in the NBA, I think it’s time to recognize the same goes for Josh Hamilton and MLB. The guys is so far ahead of the next guy that I can’t even find room to talk about the amazing beginning being had by Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, or David Wright. If the guy doesn’t hit for the Triple Crown it will be an upset. Really and truly the only things that can stand in his way are injuries (he’s only played a full season once, back in 2008) and possible relapsing on alcohol.
All I do is win- The Washington Nationals have been stockpiling talent for many years, so eventually they had to get much better … no one expected them to lead their division and have the 2nd best record in the NL. Their hitting has been pretty anemic, so they’ve carried by strong starting pitching. The only way for their winning ways to sustain for the long haul is for the batters to do their part, and/or trade for a big bat. But right now, it’s great to just enjoy their new found success. In the same vein, the Baltimore Orioles are currently leading the AL East. Just writing that looks funny. Literally no one, probably including themselves, believes that they can keep this going, but at least there’s something to cheer about in that beautiful stadium for the first time in many years.
Prince Albert has lost his crown (and his swing)- There is something (or maybe many things) wrong with Albert Pujols. Is it just a slump, or is it something more? Many have pointed to him trying to justify the big, new contract, adjusting to the tougher American League, and/or that he’s a few years older than he’s ever acknowledged. I’m not sure if it’s any or all of these, but he did have a sensational end to the 2011 season and playoffs. Pujols hit the cover off the ball during spring training, and with interleague play, it’s not like he’s never seen any of these pitchers or ballparks before. Whatever is wrong with the guy, the Angels need him to fix it because they’re 4 games below .500, and already 7 games behind Texas in the division. As of today, Pujols is hitting under .200, he has one more homerun than I do, only 11 RBIs (or 5 less RBIs than Josh Hamilton has this past week), and an OPS of 514, which happens to be exactly half of his career OPS. Things are starting to get really ugly in SoCal for Pujols, and something’s gotta change quickly if this team is going to make it to the postseason.
The Freaks may come out at night, but not this season- “The Freak” Tim Lincecum has looked anything but freaky so far this year, but the results have been scary. His ERA is 5.89, he’s allowed more hits than he has innings pitched, and he’s only gone more than 6 innings one time. There has been much talk about his loss of velocity and the lack of speed difference between his fastball and changeup. Most of this information is objective, and apparently his fastball speed averages only 89.8 mph now, compared to 93 mph when he broke into the league. Either Lincecum needs to rediscover his velocity, be satisfied being a rather mediocre pitcher, or readjust his game-plan to be more of a finesse pitcher instead of a power pitcher.
The Freak has unfortunately lost a lot of his freak-i-ness
How the mighty have fallen- The Yankees will be perfectly fine because their roster is stocked with all-stars, but right now they’re treading water. They’re third in the AL East, but only 2.5 games out of first place. All the sluggers on the squad may not have career years, but they’ll hit more than all but the best hitting teams in the league. Making the playoffs is a near certainty for this team. The big loss for them is losing all-world closer Mariano River for the entire season. This won’t matter much in the regular season, but should be a big deal in the playoffs. The Phillies are a shell of their former selves, but most of this is due to not having their usual star power in the lineup. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley haven’t played a single game, Cliff Lee has made exactly one start, and Jimmy Rollins isn’t good anymore. Once the big hitters and Lee get in their grooves, this team will look formidable again.
Fenway fiasco- The Boston Red Sox are in last place in the AL East, have the 3rd worst record in the AL, and have a payroll exceeding $140 million (only behind the Yankees, Phillies, and LA Angels). They’re being held together by duct tape, as Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Daisuke Matsuzaka are currently injured. Not only that, they’re fighting with manager Bobby Valentine, and ace starting pitcher Josh Beckett is in a battle with the media and team’s fans. I have a feeling this is going to get worse before it gets better.