Looking Back at My Early Season Surprises and Disappointments

Sadly, Hill is still surprsing this year - in a bad way.


Back on May 11/12 I wrote two columns about baseball’s early season surprises – both good and bad.  One column was devoted to teams and one to players.

Today, in a great cop-out move that means I don’t have to do much thinking, I am having a look back on those early season suprises.  How many of them are still suprising and how many of them have reverted back to expectations?  Let’s have a look:

Early Season Surprise Teams

Blue Jays (Then 19-15, 3rd AL East, Now 63-56, 4th AL East)

Still a surprise.  Though they have fallen to 4th they are still light years ahead of the Orioles and look very much like they’ll finish above .500.  They still lead baseball in home runs, and the starting rotation is among the best in the game.

Angels (Then 15-19, 3rd AL West, Now 60-60, 2nd AL West)

Still a surprise.  Though they are playing much better now, injuries have taken a toll on the Angels.  Losing Kendry Morales for the year left them without a true slugger and the early season division favourites are miles behind Texas.

Mariners (Then 12-19, 4th AL West, Now 47-73, 4th AL West)

Still a surprise.  They were supposed to contend this year, but they have been horrendous.  The Bradley experiment didn’t work, Wakamatsu was fired, Griffey retired, Lee was traded, and Figgins can’t hit.  If not for Felix Hernandez, this would be the worst team in baseball.

Nationals (Then 18-14, 3rd NL East, Now 51-68, 5th NL East)

Back to expectations.  They got off to a quick start but not even the promotion of Strasburg could keep up the momentum.  Pudge and Willingham ended up hurt, and Livan Hernandez has been up and down.  But they still have Strasburg and with Bryce Harper signed the future looks bright.

Braves (Then 14-18, 5th NL East, Now 70-49, 1st NL East)

Back to expectations.  What a turnaround.  After a dismal start the Braves have gone 56-31 to take a 2.5 game lead over Philly.  Glaus, McCann, Hudson, Hanson, and Wagner have all taken turns carrying the team and Heyward continues to shine.  Playoffs are a possibility.

Padres (Then 19-12, 1st NL West, Now 71-47, 1st NL West)

Still a surprise.  The best record in the NL?  Incredible.  They haven’t slowed down at all and are now on the verge of reaching the postseason in a rebuilding year.  This year’s biggest surprise.

Early Season Surprise Players

Carlos Ruiz

Still surprising.  The Phillies catcher got off to a .354 start, over 100 points above his career average.   While he has fallen back to earth a little, he is still hitting at a .293 clip, including a .314 average in August to help the Phillies climb back in contention.

Alex Gonzalez

Regressing a bit.  His blazing early season start was a beautiful thing for the Jays, who leveraged that start to ship him to Atlanta for young SS Yunel Escobar.  His HR per AB has regressed considerably (1 in 13.7 at the time, 1 in 33.3 since), and his OPS has dropped by 74 points since the trade.  Still – better than expected.

Barry Zito

Back to expectations.  After making the early season surprise column with a record of 5-0 and a 1.49 ERA, the Giants lefty hasn’t been the same.  In 19 post-column starts he has gone 3-7 with a 4.29 ERA and 1.38 WHIP – numbers more on-line with his three previous “bust-like” years in San Francisco.

Tyler Clippard

Back to expectations.  Clippard’s number out of the Nationals bullpen now resemble those of a solid middle reliever: 9-6, 3.18 ERA, 1 save, 1.21 WHIP, 79 K.  They are also more in line with his career numbers and his season expectations, and nothing like the way he started the season – a Koufax-like 6-0, 0.76 ERA.

Aaron Hill

Still surprising.  I wish he was back to expectations, but sadly it has been a lost year for Hill.  When I wrote the original column he was scuffling at .190 with only 2 HR, but he was just coming off a hamstring injury.  Now, three months later, while the homers have come up (18), he is still hitting only .216 and has a career worst OPS of .682 (68th out of 77 qualifiers in the AL).  Not good.

Curtis Granderson

Still surprising.  Granderson has been brutal this year – .248 average and only 12 HR.  He has not been able to take advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium as expected, and now doesn’t even start every day for the Bombers.  Brutal.

Josh Beckett

Still surprising.  Or – still sucking.  He missed a lot of time due to injury, but still: 3-2 with a 6.51 ERA in August?  Come on.  After going 80-42 with a 3.92 ERA the previous five seasons, nobody could have seen this coming.  And he is actually getting worse, allowing 13 runs over 9.2 innings in his past two starts.  What an idiot.

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