The Top Ten
With each team playing at least 20 games (except for the Yankees who are stuck at 18 due to rainouts) it’s time TSHQ gave you a look at the top dogs in the league up to this point. Sure, it’s early, but these games are just as important as the ones in September on the books. Some teams use the early goings of the season to find their identity and some individual players make names or even careers during this time. Meanwhile, other teams are ready coming out of the gate and get off to hot starts, distancing themselves from the get. So far in the 2011 season the Top 10 in the MLB looks something like this:
1) Philadelphia Phillies (15-6) – well, anyone surprised? Get a whole bunch of aces, surround them with an already proven lineup, and let them go out and play. Even without Chase Utley, this team doesn’t seem to be capable of slowing down any time soon. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, and Blanton have already impressed and it is tough to imagine them slowing down, at least this season.
2) Colorado Rockies (14-7) – After a blazing hot September, Troy Tulowitzki has started off his season in a similar fashion with 7 home runs, 15 rbi, and a .338 batting average. Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin have carried the pitching staff while Ubaldo Jiminez sat out with an injury, only making two starts up to this point. Even without the 19 game winner from last season, the Rockies have decided not to dig themselves their annual hole and have seized first place, let’s see if they can sustain this pace.
3) New York Yankees (12-6) – Even though they dropped 2 of 3 to a struggling Red Sox team, they’ve handled every other series without many problems. CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have carried this staff while Phil Hughes remembers how to throw a fastball. Robinson Cano and Mark Teixiera have been tearing the cover off the ball as usual, but the lineup isn’t a concern for this club. Let’s see how Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia hold up during months two and three of the season.
4) Texas Rangers (14-7) – Losing Josh Hamilton has yet to sink in for this club, but it certainly will. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler started off the season carrying this team, and with the help of Adrian Beltre the three of them will have to carry this offense while they wait for the reigning MVP to recover. Matt Harrison has been a pleasant surprise, and CJ Wilson continues to prove himself as a legitimate top of the rotation pitcher, but the loss of closer Neftali Feliz will certainly hurt this team in close games during his time on the DL.
5) Cleveland Indians (13-8) – All the trades they’ve made over the years seem to be settling into place…finally. Grady Sizemore came back with a bang to a team already rolling. Justin Masterson looks like a bona fide ace at this point of the season, and Josh Tomlin looks like a reliable starter as well. Asdrubal Cabrera was lost for a large majority of last season, and the resurgence of the shortstop seems to have aided the Indians, at least the first 1/8th of the season.
6) Florida Marlins (13-7) – Josh Johnson is finally getting some notoriety for being one of the top pitchers in baseball this season. He’s posting an absurd 1.00 ERA and has flirted with two no-hitters thus far. Hanley Ramirez is a step behind Tulowitzki but continues to put up big numbers for the Marlins. Mike Stanton hasn’t been himself because of a messed up hammy but he belted his first homer of the season today and his production would be welcome to a lineup capable of putting up big numbers when everyone is on.
7)Bud Selig’s Dodgers (12-11) – Clayton Kershaw is only 23 and already has two years of experience under his belt. So far this season, he has looked untouchable at moments, and alone with Chad Billingsley, the Dodgers may finally have some players ready to compete, regardless of their financial status. Offensively, Matt Kemp looks like a potential MVP and Andre Ethier has a 21 game hit streak going. This team looks promising even though they’re just a game over .500.
8) St. Louis Cardinals (11-10) – Even though they’re all tied with Milwaukee and Cincinnati, the Cards have stood out more this season for one glaring reason – Albert Pujols had the worst start of his illustrious career. Colby Rasmus, Matt Holliday, and Lance Berkman are all hitting above .335 and have been carrying the offense while Pujols was finding himself. And even with a terribly slow start, and without Adam Wainwight, and without Ryan Franklin being able to close out a game, the Cardinals still find themselves tied for first (and Pujols still finds himself with 7 homers, 17 rbi, and 17 runs).
9) Kansas City Royals (12-10) – Really? Alex Gordon has finally turned up his offensive production and the Royals have welcomed it by winning ballgames. Billy Butler’s transition to DH has allowed Kila Ka’alhue to play first and add another bat to the lineup. Jeff Francoeur always starts off strong so let’s see if he can keep this up, and Melky Cabrera has always been able to come up with clutch hits, so let’s see if the Royals can stay competitive enough to be in position to win games. Their pitching, outside of Bruce Chen, has been somewhat rocky, which was expected, but their getting wins and that’s all that matters.
10) Boston Red Sox (10-11) – Yes, there are teams with better records – currently. They have had their problems up to this point, both offensively and in the rotation, but they currently are the hottest team in the majors, winning five in a row and posting an 8-2 record over their last 10 games. Josh Beckett seems to have found his command and has been lights out so far. Jon Lester remains one of the top left handers in the game, and during their latest series with the Angels we saw dominant pitching performances from their two biggest question marks: John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Jed Lowrie may be winning over the starting shortstop job with each game he plays because he has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past week. Don’t look now, but Carl Crawford hit his first homer of the season today.
A Look Ahead
This week showcases a lot of strange series with no dominant matchup, so the best three game stint appears to be:
Philadelphia at Arizona!!
Smells like October, doesn’t it? Okay, this series isn’t glamorous, but if you want to see some serious dominant pitching, this is the series for you. Cliff Lee faces off against former Yankee Ian Kennedy, so maybe he’ll pitch like he does in the Bronx Zoo.
Game two features Roy Oswalt and up-and-coming fireballer Daniel Hudson. Oswalt-Hudson may prove to be the most exciting of the three game series, with the Diamondbacks having their best pitching prospect on the hill against his best opponent of the young season.
Game three has former Angel Joe Saunders hosting lefty Cole Hamels. Arizona always seems to be a launchpad and maybe this is the chance for the Phillies to really get the bats going against young and impressionable pitching. Justin Upton has gotten off to a strong start for the Diamondbacks and is going to need to continue to come through in the clutch to get the DBacks a win or two.
Topics That Trend
Is Sam Fuld the real deal?
In 2006, Chris Shelton hit 9 home runs in the first 13 games of the season, and was thought to be the next big power hitter for the Tigers. Instead, he finished the season with just 16 home runs and was out of Detroit by season’s end. Fuld is far from young, but at age 29, with Manny Ramirez out of the equation, he is going to get plenty of opportunities to continue to prove himself. At the moment, Fuld is hitting at a .365 clip with 8 rbi, 13 runs, and 10 stolen bases. When Even Longoria comes back, he should be scoring more runs, as long as he remains at the top of the lineup. Will Fuld be in the starting lineup come September? Who knows, but at the moment he’s having the month of his career, let’s see how long he can stretch this.
Was the Matt Capps – Wilson Ramos trade a horrible trade for the Twins in the long run?
When closer Joe Nathan went down before last season, the Twins decided to move Ramos in order to sure up their bullpen. With Joe Mauer having one MVP under his belt, the Twins decided to move one of their top prospects, mainly because they assumed they had their catcher for the foreseeable future. Mauer finds himself on the DL yet again and the Twins are now doubting his reliability behind the dish. Meanwhile, the Nationals have been grooming Ramos behind Pudge Rodriguez and he may be ready sooner than later. Ramos will be growing with Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and veteran Jayson Werth, instead of catching in Minnesota while Mauer moves to DH and Justin Morneau continues to slug away at first. Not only would it improve the Twins defensively, it would allow Mauer to play in more games, hit at a greater rate of production, and make the Twins a deeper overall team. Instead, they have just another good arm at the back of the bullpen.
what are the Dodgers and Mets to do?
The Mets got shafted by Bernie Madoff and the Dodgers are getting the raw end of a breakup via Frank McCourt. Both teams are financially handcuffed through different vices but both could find themselves out of luck come the trade deadline. With the Dodgers under control of the commissioners office it is unlikely that they will be doing anything other than selling at the deadline in order to stay afloat. The Mets also may have to part ways with shortstop Jose Reyes at seasons end if they cannot make any financial gain, because they have handicapped themselves with the contracts of Johan Santana, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jason Bay. It’ll be interesting to see how these team’s play out if they are in playoff contention ’round July.