MLB Thoughts One Month In (AL)
American League East
The Yankees rotation hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been better than expected. Even with Phil Hughes mysterious medical ailment, throwback performances from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia have helped the Yankees jump a few games up in the season’s early month. The Rays started slowly, but have gone on a run in recent days despite losing All-Star third baseman Evan Longoria to the DL. The pitching has carried the club so far, and Ben Zobrist has shown signs of bouncing back from a disappointing 2010 campaign.
Boston has won three in a row to pull within one game of .500 on the season. Every facet of Boston’s 2011 club has underachieved so far this season. The starting rotation is certainly not comprised of 5 aces and the lineup certainly won’t threaten to score 1,000 runs this season as many predicted. Even the bullpen has been subpar. Still the most talented team in baseball, Boston will certainly turn things around, but they’ve dug themselves a bigger hole than they would have liked. Baltimore and Toronto have experienced the growing pains many expected them to go through. They’ve both had nice contributions from young pitchers (Drabek, Britton) but have been too inconsistent to honestly challenge in this division.
American League Central
White Sox: 11-21
The surprise of this division is also the surprise in all of baseball. The Indians have exceeded just about every expectation anybody had of them before the season started. The rotation has pitched extremely well, and even though individual hitters have struggled, the offense has been one of the best in baseball (5.4 runs per game). The Royals have also gotten pleasant contributions from players, especially in their bullpen. But perhaps the largest part of their success has been the maturation of Alex Gordon. Gordon went from highly touted prospect to perpetual disappointment into one of the better hitters early in the 2011 season.
The Tigers haven’t managed to find any offensive support for their pitching staff apart from Miguel Cabrera, and some offseason signings have yielded less than ideal returns. Victor Martinez has spent some time on the DL and Joaquin Benoit has an 8.18 ERA. The Twins have simply been unable to muster anything on offense, scoring a league low 89 runs—no other AL team has scored less than 103. The White Sox have allowed the most runs in the American League, and statistics like that often lead to a considerable amount of time spent in the cellar. Adam Dunn has been underwhelming in his transition to designated hitter and both Chris Sale and Matt Thornton were equally disastrous in their attempts in replacing departed closer Bobby Jenks.
American League West
Baseball’s smallest division has also been the most closely contested through the season’s first month. The Rangers came out of the gate hot, but have since cooled off since injuries to Josh Hamilton and Neftali Feliz. The Angels, behind Jered Weaver’s 6-0 start have grabbed a share of the division lead despite underwhelming performances by Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales’ extended absence.
The Athletic’s are baseball’s consummate .500 club, with a 7-7 home record, an 8-8 road record, with 103 runs scored and 104 runs allowed. The Mariners certainly miss the big arm of Cliff Lee, but Justin Smoak is off to a nice .296/.402/.531. However, apart from Smoak (168 OPS+), Ichiro (112) is the only other regular who has been better than league average with the bat. Starter Michael Pineda has been impressive in his first season, and is an early favorite for American League Rookie of the Year.