The 162 game marathon known as the MLB regular season finally commenced this past week, and fans around the country rejoiced. Baseball’s offseason always seems to take an eternity, almost as long as the season itself takes.
With that being said, it allowed for each of the contenders across the League to bolster their rosters in order to challenge the defending champion, the Boston Red Sox, who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers four games to one in the 2018 World Series.
The Red Sox were by and large the best team in the MLB, leaving all of the other teams in the dust.
So far this season, however, the case has been the exact opposite. The Red Sox have gotten to a rather disappointing 3-8 start, good for the second-worst record in the entire MLB. Their performances have been a far cry from their world beating ways a year ago.
The bane of their existence has been their starting rotation, which is usually their strong suit. The rotation’s collective earned run average (ERA) is 8.57, which is just good enough to be the last in the MLB. Opposing hitters are batting .320 off of the starters, and the pitching staff as a whole has given up the most home runs in the entire League.
While most expect the uber-talented team to return to form soon, a cause for worry is the velocity of their ace, starting pitcher Chris Sale. In his second start, his four-seam fastball was sitting at a college-level 89.0 miles per hour, a staunch departure from the average 97.0 miles per hour fastball of last summer.
This drop in velocity is a cause for his ineffectiveness in his first two starts and also raises some concerns about injury. Any serious arm or shoulder issues for Sale would spell out big trouble for Boston’s pitching staff, as well as their success as a team.
Their main worry within the division has not been their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, who have already been stricken with a number of injuries. Key contributors like shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, third baseman Miguel Andújar and outfielder Giancarlo Stanton have recently suffered injuries, adding to the ever growing list of players on the Inactive List. They’ve been pretty middle of the road, with a record of 5-4, staying afloat with their immensely deep lineup.
The Tampa Bay Rays have jumped out to the second-best record in the American League (AL) at 8-3. They have not dropped a series yet. Their pitching staff has carried the weight for them, with their collective ERA being 1.88 over 91 innings. The reigning Cy Young winner Blake Snell struck out 11 Chicago White Sox batters in his previous start.
It’s impossible to predict whether or not their win total will continue to proceed at the rate that it is right now. But if the Rays starting pitching continues to hold down the fort, they’ll be a very tough team to deal with for the rest of the season.
The biggest surprise in the American League comes from the AL West, as the Seattle Mariners, who have came out to an explosive 9-2 start. This comes as a shock because the Mariners sent away some of their biggest pieces this offseason, including top offensive threats Nelson Cruz and Robinson Canó.
Their departures have meant nothing though, as Seattle has been mashing the ball, homering in 12 straight games to start the season. New additions shortstop Tim Beckham Jr., designated hitter Edwin Encarnación and right fielder Domingo Santana have helped to fill the holes, helping them become the best offense in the MLB.
In the National League (NL) East, the Philadelphia Phillies’ splash offseason moves have paid dividends so far as they lead the division with a record of 7-2.
The obvious presence of outfielder Bryce Harper, who is batting .345, has electrified the Philly faithful, but the contributions from shortstop Jean Segura, first baseman Rhys Hoskins and centerfielder Odúbel Herrera have helped to create one of the most stacked lineups in the League. If they continue to click at the same time, the Phillies could quite possibly the make the NL East a one horse race.
Moving toward the NL Central division, there has been a shocking development: Christian Yelich is still good at baseball. The reigning NL MVP has put together a ridiculous start so far, posting five home runs and 13 runs batted in only 10 games. He’s slashing .361/.489/.889 with no signs of slowing down.
The Milwaukee Brewers go as he goes, and as long as he continues to be a top 3 player in the game of baseball, Milwaukee will continue to run roughshod over the rest of the division.
In the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers have jumped out to the top of the division with an 8-3 record. That’s all fine and dandy, but that is not what I want to focus on here. I want to highlight the absolutely torrid start by former Baltimore Orioles centerfielder Adam Jones, who is now on the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The D’Backs are only 5-5, but Jones has been an integral part to each of their wins, leading the team in home runs (4), slugging percentage (.727) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.105).
Jones has cemented himself as a staple in their offense. As the season goes on, I want nothing more than to see him succeed because he was the most important Oriole for 10 years, meaning everything to Baltimore.