For all the projections and predictions before a baseball season begins, there are always a few surprises. A player who was supposed to have a breakout year maybe hasn’t delivered, for example, or a player who was hardly given much thought is suddenly going crazy at the plate or on the mound.
Teams also can do a little shocking to the baseball world. Some are picked to lead the division and instead flounder near the cellar. Others that weren’t expected to make the playoffs suddenly are leading their division.
This year is no exception and even though the season is only three weeks old, there are several surprises. Below we feature some of the good, and the bad, in major league baseball.
Early Season Overachievers
How does a team rid itself of two superstars and find itself atop the NL Central? The Pirates let go of Andrew McCutchen and Gerit Cole in what many thought would be a surrender — writing off any respectability this season to call it a “rebuilding year.” Instead the team is five games above .500 and has the league’s highest scoring offense and a .265 team batting average.
Boston Red Sox
Everybody knew the Red Sox would be good this year, but the team has already exceeded expectations. Three weeks in and the Red Sox have the best record in the Major Leagues at 15-2. But these wins haven’t been just victories, they’ve been displays of utter domination. Boston has posted double-digit scores so far in four games — against the Orioles, Angels, and twice against the rival Yankees, who they recently crushed 14-1.
While new Angels teammate Shohei Ohtani is getting all the attention the veteran is putting together another quality season. Through 18 games he is hitting .286 and has six home runs and 13 RBI.
The free agent to be is giving future suitors quite a preview of what he can provide. The 25-year-old slugger is hitting .288 and has eight home runs and 18 RBI. He is putting up similar numbers to his 2015 MVP season and should have the richest contract in baseball history next year if he continues this production.
New York Mets
While many figured the other team in the Big Apple would be this season’s big New York winners, the Mets have been on a roll, winning all but one of their season-opening series. Other than a stumble against the Washington Nationals, losing 2 of 3, this team is currently atop the NL East by two games. They will be tested in the next two weeks as they embark on a 10-game road trip.
Perhaps one reason the Mets are doing better than the Yankees: the wealthiest man in baseball has been a bust so far for his new team. He was supposed to be the second half of the power equation for the Bronx Bombers, but while Aaron Judge has performed, Stanton has not. Hitting just .203 with 29 strikeouts, Stanton has been booed more than cheered, and manager Aaron Boone is even considering moving him down in the lineup to see if that doesn’t turn his season around.
While Bryce Harper may be flourishing, his team is not. The Nationals are next to last in the NL East, with just the pathetic Miami Marlins below them. This was a team that was 8/1 to win the World Series, but has watched those odds rise to 15/1.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The boys from Chavez Ravine were mentioned as World Series favorites at the beginning of the season. That talk has yielded to wondering if they can make the playoffs. The Dodgers are now 12/1, and are no longer favorites to win the National League. They are a game below .500 and in third place in the NL West.