The baseball season is two weeks old and there already have been some big surprises. Some of those surprises are previews of things to come and will be sustained, others are flukes or flashes in the pan that will subside and be forgotten when we look back at summaries of the season in October.
(All Stats of Sunday, April 17)
Surprise #1: The Baltimore Orioles
Stats: Started 7-0, currently 8-3, undefeated at home and a plus-15 run differential
Skinny: The Orioles started fast and haven’t let up, hitting four home runs in a nine-run
inning against Texas on Saturday. Led by Mark Trumbo and Manny Machado on offense and a stingy bullpen (9.9 K/9 and a 2.03 ERA), the Orioles are undefeated at home and lead the AL East by two games.
Sustained or Subside: There is no way Baltimore will continue at a plus .700 clip and
it’s also unlikely that they will stay in first place. The bullpen won’t be unhittable forever and while the starters will bring down their 5.14 ERA, they only have one quality start so far this season. The O’s offense is good, but not that good. Expect a sharp decline in the coming weeks.
Surprise #2: Trevor Story
Stats: 7 HR in first 6 games, 1.131 OPS and a .294 batting average
Skinny: Story burst onto the scene this season, hitting two home runs off Zach Greinke in his debut, and then smacking four more in his next three games. Story leads the majors in home runs, is third in RBIs and leads fantasy leagues in adds. He’s carried the Rockies to a 7-5 record and second place in the NL West.
Sustained or Subside: We have to cheat and go in the middle on this one: Story won’t
keep up his torrid pace, but he’ll do more than enough this
season to get Rockies fan dreaming of the future while slowly
forgetting Tulo. But the Rockies will still finish fourth.
Surprise #3: Phillies Rotation
Stats: 5 Wins, 10.65 K/9, .97 WHIP and a 3.42 ERA
Skinny: The Phillies young rotation has sparkled so far this season (Jeremy Hellickson’s
last start notwithstanding). The highlight for the Phillies, and potentially the best pitching performance we’ll see all year, was Vince Velasquez’s 3 hit shutout that included 16 strikeouts and no walks.
Sustained or Subside: Velasquez is an intriguing arm and the Phillies definitely have
potential. Their overall team talent, however, will overshadow any chance the rotation has of making the Phillies a contender, but we like the odds that the Phillies rotation continues their success, even if not at the same dominating rate it has started the season.
Surprise #4: Zach Greinke
Stats: 0-2, 6.75 ERA, 1.56 WHIP
Skinny: Greinke’s first two starts made the Dodgers look like geniuses for letting the 32
year old walk in the offseason. Greinke bounced back in his third start, but something still seems slightly off with him. Maybe it’s the haircut.
Sustained or Subside: Of all the surprises, this seems the most likely to subside. Greinke
has left some pitches up and paid dearly for it, but there’s little doubt Greinke will study up, improve and get back to normal.
Surprise #5: The Utley Rule’s Impact
Stats: (At least) 2 games changed (sorry, Toronto)
Skinny: Chase Utley’s now infamous slide in the NLDS, broke up a double play (and a
leg), gave the Dodgers a win and changed the MLB. After the mind of MLB reviewed the play, they changed the rules. This rule change has led to losses, most notably a reviewed play that ended a game between Toronto and Texas. The rule also played a direct role in a Braves extra-inning loss to the Nationals.
Sustained or Subside: The Utley Rule will continue to have an impact as base runners
and teams begin to adjust. It might be a slow process, however, so expect a few more game changing calls as the season progresses. And with that, be prepared for several former players, talking heads and articles complaining about the “way the game is now” and “how the game is meant to be played” each time the Utley Rule is a factor in a game. We promise to avoid that in this space.
Surprise #6: The Holes in the Dodger Bullpen
Oh, wait. This isn’t a surprise.
Those Bench Warmers are Derek Cheng (on twitter @DCheng110), Riley Saxon (@coachrileysaxon) and that other guy, Rob Diaz (@_RobJoc). They enjoyed their time on the bench during their playing days and produce a weekly Youtube show on Tuesdays. Those Benchwarmers can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter and Instagram: @warming_benches.