They say you can’t predict baseball. Every year people try, including myself but at even just under a month into the 2017 season, there have already been a number of surprises.
The Jays Struggle and The Yankees Surprise
The AL East is usually a perennially tough division. Two seasons ago the Toronto Blue Jays rose to prominence winning the division. Last season, they returned to the postseason by virtue of the Wild Card. Despite losing Edwin Encarnacion to the Cleveland Indians via free agency the team held on to most of the core of its offense so it stood to reason that they would be competitive for the most part. That has not been the case in the first month of the season. The team is a dismal 4-13 and 8.5 games out in the division.
Slow starts are common and usually nothing to be concerned with but their offense is unusually stagnant. With the 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson on the DL, the team is hitting an unimpressive .220 with an OPS+ of 75. Russell Martin and Jose Bautista are both hitting below the Mendoza line and thought it’s early, I think there’s cause for concern. There’s still more than enough time to right the ship but if they can’t you may see some trades being made before the deadline.
Further up the standings, the New York Yankees are making some noises that many thought they wouldn’t. They’re without Didi Gregorius and they lost Gary Sanchez early to a bicep strain. Despite that the Yankees are batting .266 as a team, good for second in the AL and after a recent 8-game winning streak they’re currently 1.5 games out of first place in the AL East. Chase Headley and Starlin Castro are off to extremely hot starts batting .362 and .364 respectively.
Aaron Judge has been showing of his prodigious power with 6 HRs in the first month of the season. The Yankees have also received remarkable pitching performances from the top of their rotation and the bullpen has shut the door just as expected. It’s reasonable to think that they’ll cool down at some point but with reinforcements coming back from the DL soon, it’s possible that they could remain formidable in the division.
Buxton Seems Lost
There aren’t a ton of surprises in the AL Central. The AL champion Cleveland Indians are leading the division by a game. The biggest surprise here is the horrific start to the season by Twins outfielder Byron Buxton. The second pick of the 2012 draft was called up in 2015.
If he is thought to be part of the Twins’ future, the future is not looking so bright. Buxton is hitting an anemic .109 to start the season but what’s more alarming is his strikeout rate. Buxton has already struck out 27 times in only 58 plate appearances. He seems completey overwhelmed by major league pitching and I can only imagine continued struggling might result in a trip back to AAA.
Reds Impress, Cardinals Disappoint
After winning it all last year, the Cubs currently sit on top of the division. The rest of the division is either at or below .500 so, surprisingly, the Cincinnati Reds are now in second place. As it’s been stated before, it is still early and anything can happen but it’s encouraging to see them there after finishing last in the division for the last two seasons. What’s also surprising is the struggle that the St. Louis Cardinals have had. They seem to be in the playoff picture every season so it’s somewhat worrisome to see that they’re only hitting .230 as a team so far. They also have a team ERA of 4.10 and a WHIP of 1.41. Only Milwaukee has a higher WHIP in the NL. There’s still roughly 140 games left in the season and more that enough time for things to turn around but you’d have to imagine Mike Matheny may be on the hot seat if things don’t change soon.