It has been a pretty crazy baseball season so far – and that’s just talking about the Blue Jays. If a person had missed the first two months of the season and just recently glanced at Toronto’s team stats, many surprises would certainly stick out:
– The Jays are winning?
– Jose Bautista leads baseball in home runs?
– Toronto leads all of baseball as a team in home runs? They’re on pace to break the MLB single season record? What?
– Vernon Wells is alive?
– Aaron Hill is hitting .183? Adam Lind is hitting .212?
But try extrapolating that study to the rest of Major League Baseball and you’ll find that to this point 2010 has been a season full of surprises. The Cincinnati Reds, Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, and San Diego Padres are peforming nowhere near their projected levels. Likewise for Ubaldo Jimenez, Alex Rios, Ty Wigginton, Jake Peavy, and Prince Fielder. While true that a lot of baseball is left to be played, the performances by these players and teams can no longer be chalked up to small sample sizes. Their struggles and their dominance is for real.
Thankfully last night a feat happened in baseball that brought a bit of normalcy back to the game – Stephen Strasburg made his MLB debut for Washington. As top pick of the 2009 draft, Strasburg was possibly the most hyped prospect of all time. He completely dominated the minor leagues, and was expected by most to continue his success at the major league level. Well – he did not disappoint. 7 IP, 2 ER, 14 K, and 0 BB for his first victory. Though you can discount it a bit (it was against the Pirates) the bottom line is that he actually met expectations. In this backwards season, that seems to be easier said than done.
Here are six more players/teams that are meeting expectations thus far:
1. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays were expected to not only rebound from a disappointing ’09 and contend, but to be possibly the best team in baseball. With a record of 38-20, they are in first overall and on pace for 106 wins.
2. New York Yankees
New York finishing near the top of the league is something that is taken for granted these days. After winning another championship in ’09, and despite having an aging core, 2010 was expected to maintain the status-quo. Currently at 36-22, New York is well on the way to another winning season, a feat they have grown accustomed to. They haven’t finished below .500 since 1992.
3. Cleveland Indians / Kansas City Royals / Pittsburgh Pirates
Nothing screams normal more than a losing season by KC and Pittsburgh. With 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Pirates are historically bad. Take out the surprising 2003 season, and Kansas City has been below .500 every year since ’95. Neither of those stats are changing this year. Cleveland came within one game of the World Series in 2007, but since that time have lost CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez, Casey Blake, and Mark DeRosa. Seen as a rebuilding year, 2010 was supposed to be bad. At 21-36, it is.
Just as the Yankees and winning go hand-in-hand, so does Ichiro and .300. Year in, year out, the Mariners leadoff hitter continues hitting and getting on base. If his current average of .347 holds up (as it should) 2010 would mark the 10th consecutive season Ichiro has eclipsed the .300 level.
5. Miguel Cabrera
2009 couldn’t have ended worse for Miggy, with his Tigers blowing the AL Central crown at the end of year, and with him admitting that he has a drinking problem. But an offseason spent getting sober and in peak condition brought big expectations for the first baseman. And he has delivered. He is currently close to leading all of baseball in the triple crown categories: .344 average, 17 HR, 52 RBI.
6. Roy Halladay
Already considered the most dominant pitcher in the game, the offseason trade to the weaker NL blew expectations for Doc through the roof. So far he is making a mockery of the league: 8-3 record, 2.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 77 K’s vs. 13 BB. He also leads the league with 5 complete games, 3 shutouts, and 93 innings pitched. Oh – and he threw the 20th perfect game in MLB history. Not bad.