Two weeks down about 400 to go in the 2014 baseball season. Yes, before you start splitting hairs, that’s a slight exaggeration. Most teams have played roughly seven percent of their season. It’s a small sample size, no doubt, but why not make a couple well-informed early-season observations?
Interestingly enough, nobody in the American League has more than eight wins or eight losses before play Monday night. Oakland and Detroit are the only two teams to start the year more than one game over .500. Over in the National League the Brewers have jumped out to a quick 10-2 start while the Diamondbacks are 4-11 and already six games behind the Dodgers in the NL West.
Milwaukee, if memory serves, was a team with almost anti-buzz in the Spring Training. The Cardinals were everybody’s lock to win the Central. The Pirates were worth watching to see if they could make it #Buctober in back-to-back seasons. The Reds had some intrigue with a new manager and some marquee players while the Cubs, are well … the Cubs. The Brew Crew didn’t receive much attention aside from the occasional half-hearted Ryan Braun apology story emanating from Arizona.
The Brewers haven’t lost since April 2, winning nine straight — including an impressive three-game sweep in Boston last week.
So far the key in Milwaukee is the pitching staff, which checks in with an NL-best 1.80 ERA. Starters Yovani Gallardo (0.86 ERA), Matt Garza (2.57), Wily Peralta (2.25) and Marco Estrada (2.31) each have an ERA under 3, while Kyle Lohse is at 3.05. New closer Francisco Rodriguez — he of the cactus injury in Spring Training — has allowed one hit in six innings.
Brewers fans should be happy about the start, but some cautious optimism might be the best route. If the pitching staff remains respectable the offense with Braun, Carlos Gomez and the evergreen Aramis Ramirez should keep them in Wild Card mix … granted everybody except the aforementioned Cubs and Diamondbacks can reasonably say that.
Tampa Bay’s status as a trendy World Series team (looking sadly at myself) doesn’t look so great on April 14 thanks to a slew of injuries to the pitching staff. Jeremy Hellickson began the year on the disabled list and was joined by Matt Moore, who has a torn UCL but is trying to avoid Tommy John surgery which would end his season. Sunday the Rays placed No. 2 starter Alex Cobb on the DL with a lat strain that could keep him out until the end of May. Remarkably Cobbs said he felt a twinge in after striking out Billy Hamilton’s for the first out and went on to throw seven scoreless innings.
In recent years the Rays’ success is fueled by its continued pipeline stable of young arms. Now Joe Maddon will have to cross his fingers hoping Chris Archer (fresh off a new contract) and Jake Odorizzi can live up to their billing and provide depth behind free agent to be David Price. Tampa will also try to milk some innings from journeyman Cesar Ramos and Erik Bedard. Yikes.
The Rays have started the season 12th in the American League in runs scored.
For years everyone in baseball has praised the forward-thinking approach by the Rays to compete as a small-market club in the American League East. No matter how smart or progressive an organization might be, its still dealing with human athletes. Until scientists are able to map out an indestructible elbow ligament genome, both “smart” and “dumb” teams are going to have to cope with lots of lost innings on the disabled list.
Jose Abreu is the 2014 version of Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Céspedes, Aroldis Chapman, etc. — a Cuban import making an immediate impact in the Major Leagues. The White Sox (quietly) paid the first baseman $68 million last fall and it’s paying immediate dividends, granted few people are paying attention at US Cellular Field so far.
The 27-year-old looks like a legit masher with four homers in his first 51 at bats, keeping the string of hard-hitting righty first baseman from Frank Thomas to Paul Konerko intact on the South Side.
Chicago GM Rick Hahn’s other crafty move was acquiring leadoff hitter Adam Eaton in a three-way deal with the Angels and Diamondbacks. The 5-foot-8 centerfield leads the American League with 14 runs scored along with a nice .327/.419/.481 line. As an added bonus, Eaton will probably finish the season as the MLB leader in most times referred to as “scrappy” and or “gritty” aka the David Eckstein Award.
The White Sox did take a hit last week, losing promising outfielder Avisail Garcia to a season-ending labrum injury. Even so, with Chris Sale at the top of the rotation Chicago won’t be a moribund as they were for most of 2013. Just don’t expect Alexi Ramirez to keep up his .420/.463/.680 start to the season. Oh, and White Sox fans have already invested in Pepto Bismol in advance thanks to the extremely shaky bullpen Robin Ventura has to work with.
Derek Jeter, The Captain, will retire come October (or November). Maybe you’ve heard about this? The YES Network may or may not have mentioned it one or “2” times already.
Hopefully Yankees manager Joe Girardi will be fined by the commissioner’s office for his deplorable antics over the weekend when he benched the 39-year-old Captain on back-to-back nationally televised games. It’s one thing to sit Jeter out for the Saturday afternoon game on Fox Sports 1, but to deprive the ESPN Sunday Night audience, too? You’re a monster, Joe. A binder-carrying monster.
Jeter already has three DNP’s to his name in 2014. God forbid he gets Wally Pipped by the immortal Dean Anna.
America demands its four-hour nationally Jeter televised lovefests — remember the flip throw to nail Jeremy Giambi! Life ain’t fair. #Season2Remember