MLB Early Season Surprises
Well long time no see. I'm back and so is baseball! It's the time of year where Dodger Dogs and Fourth of July barbecues are put on the spotlight in holy matrimony with America's Pastime. And let me tell you, as we are a month and a half into this sucker, there have been some interesting surprises throughout. From always changing divisions to classic rivalries being renewed, 2018 might possibly be the best year in baseball yet. These surprise teams may find themselves in October glory five months down the road and some of them may also find themselves on unusual downslopes. No matter what the case though, these teams are sure to make the battle for the Fall Classic a fun one this year. Implications of this year's Postseason include the following.
The ever-changing NL East (with a smidge of "Central" inconsistency):
These words have never come out of mouth before and they probably won't until the next decade. The Atlanta Braves are in first place in the NL East. Say What!? Well it was not always this way at the first few games of the season. The New York Mets reigned supreme in this division with a franchise best 8-2 record; the best 10 game start in franchise history. Then after a slump, it has so far become a battle for the NL East crown between the Phillies and the Braves. In terms of Wild Card status, Milwaukee would get home field advantage with Philadelphia heading to Miller Park. But let's not forget who's behind them. The Pirates and Cubs are not only a half game behind Milwaukee for the Wild Card, but along with Milwaukee, they are a half game behind for the NL Central. This is all thanks to Pittsburgh and St Louis who both took sole control of the division, but now has the Cubs and Brewers right on their ass. Now despite this division being the weakest out of all six, this might be the most intriguing to watch this season in terms of the shift in sole power of the division. If I were to pick a winner in this NL Central madness, it would have to be the Pirates. They have the most consistency and depth in terms of offensive scoring and defense and despite the loss of Andrew McCutchen, Josh Bell and Sterling Marte are the engine of this team that might sail the Jolly Roger into the Postseason. Just one problem. They would face Atlanta in the NLDS, and they aren't going anywhere.
AL East and NL West Races:
A classic rivalry that goes back 89 years has consisted of three AL pennant championships (Yankees 2, Red sox 1 in three meetings), and a combined 32 World Series titles, the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry has not changed and might possibly be the rivalry that will determine the race for the AL East crown and AL pennant race. Currently, Boston and the Bronx Bombers are tied for first place in the division with the season series tied at 3-3. And with 2 months to go until the All-Star break in Washington D.C., the race for the East is far from over as the teams have 13 more meetings together, including the season finale in Boston at the end of September. David Price versus the New York Big 3 in Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge? New York 1, Boston 0.
But let's not forget the race out West in the National League. So far this year, the defending NL Champions Los Angeles Dodgers have been banged up with Corey Seager out for the season due to Tommy John surgery as well as star pitcher Clayton Kershaw who was placed on the DL for a wide range of injuries including biceps tears and a sore arm. And it has shown in the Dodgers' gameplay as they have posted a 17-26 record, 7.5 games behind the first place Diamondbacks. Speaking of which, the D-Backs as of recently have been in a slump losing 8 of their last 9 games. And it shouldn't be a surprise that the only other team on their tail is the surging Colorado Rockies who have won three of their last 4 and are just a half game behind the Diamondbacks for first place in the division. The closest team to them is the Giants who are 4 games out of first place but the NL West rivalry should continue throughout the season and will possibly decide an NLDS berth for either team. And who wouldn't want tp see a battle between Colordo's Big 3 in Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and Trevor story against power home run hitter Pauly G (Goldschmidt). Shut up and take my money! It is going to be a wild October for both the National League and American League for the ultimate trip to the Fall Classic. Let's just hope the AL Central does not send two teams in the Indians and Twins like they did last year, especially when Minnesota was this close to an ALDS berth with the Indians, Which reminds me...
Weak AL Central Race:
Ahhh yes, the AL Central, the weakest division in baseball where the last team to win the World Series was the Royals in 2015. Since then, hmmm let's see. Choke fest by the Indians in extra innings to give the Cubs their first World Series title in 108 years and another choke fest in Game 5 of the ALDS where the pre-Giancarlo era in New York was one win away from the World Series last year, sounds about right. 2018 has been mediocre for Cleveland so far as they are the only division leader that is below .500 with a 21-22 record. This shouldn't be surprising however as every other team in the AL Central has a losing record. But don't let the teams not named the Indians fool you.
Both the Tigers and Twins are 1.5 games back of first place in the division and the Tigers just won their last series 2 out of 3 against the Indians and they will face the Twins in Minnesota after a date with the Mariners. As far as the AL Central is concerned, this next series might decide who would be on the Indians' trail if the case being is that they still have a losing record and get murdered badly by the world champion Astros in their next series. Did I also mention that one's in Houston? No matter who wins the AL Central, it is possible that they might not get past either the Yankees, Red Sox, or Astros in the ALDS.
Over the course of the season, teams get hot when the time is right while team's get cold at desperate times in the season. Despite a possible appearance by four of the five AL Postseason teams from last year, these surprise teams who have made unusual early season success this year might just carry that success over to the Postseason if they are able to compete with some of Major League Baseball's best teams. To those teams who have had recent success in the Postseason, it may not be their year this year.
To those teams who have not and who want to surprise the Major Leagues this season,
Enjoy the ride, have success against the elite, and if you're lucky, you just might get a taste of October glory.