The 2015 season is just two weeks old and the surprising starts to continue both in terms of team and individual performances.
In terms of individual performances the fast starts of the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez and Seattle’s Nelson Cruz are worth mentioning.
Gonzalez had a poor game in Sunday’s 7-0 win over Colorado, going 0 for 5. That collar dropped his batting average to .469! He is tied with Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt for the National League lead in home runs with 5.
But that home run total is puny compared to the 8 already hit by Cruz in his first season with Seattle. He is already one fifth of the way to the 40 homers he slugged for Baltimore last season when he led the major leagues in that category. Last week, Cruz had homered in 5 consecutive games, all on the road.
The Detroit Tigers lead the American League with a 10-2 record over the season’s first two weeks. But the Tigers’ lead in the AL Central is just a single game as defending American League Champion Kansas City has started the season 9-3 and has the AL’s second best record.
No other team in the junior circuit is more than 2 games above .500, including the leader of the AL West, the Houston Astros. Although expected to be improved this season it may be a bit premature for Houston to begin planning for the playoffs.
The Astros are the only team in the AL West that does not have a losing record as they lead the division at 6-6. The two teams that should contend for the division title, the LA Angels and Seattle, are both off to disappointing starts. Both have opened 5-7 and trail second place Oakland (6-7).
The Athletics are an interesting team, with 5 of their 6 wins having been shutouts. They are +24 in run differential (scoring 67, allowing 43) but have not been able to translate that differential into a winning record. The metric known as the “Pythagorian Theorem” postulates that Oakland should have won 3 more games than they actually have, making them baseball’s biggest underachiever according to that measure.
Oakland GM Billy Beane made a concerted effort last season to win it all in 2014 with his midseason moves. Of course, that decision did not work out and further moves in the offseason suggested that a rebuilding program was underway. Yet the early season results give hope to fans in the Bay Area that at least one of their two teams may be able to contend in what might have been an overrated Division coming into the season. It’s still early, of course, but it is a starting point.
The prospects for the ‘other’ Bay Area team appear not so bright but after winning three of the last five World Series fans of the San Francisco Giants have little about which to complain. The defending champs snapped an 8 game losing streak on Saturday night before promptly having their 1 game winning streak end with a Sunday loss that dropped the Giants’ record to 4-10. Only Milwaukee (2-10) and Miami (3-10) have worse records, not just in the National League but in all of baseball.
Philadelphia was expected to be the worst team in the NL and Miami was expected to be a Wild Card contender. The Phillies have started slightly better than the Giants at 4-9. Milwaukee was expected to finish with a losing record, based on the season Win/Loss Totals posted during spring training. The Giants were expected to fall back this season and their win total of 82 suggested they would not even be a contender for the Wild Card.
The National League East was forecast to produce the team with the best record in all of baseball this season as no team had a higher Wins Total than the 94 wins posted for the Washington Nationals. And over the first two weeks of the season the NL East has produced the team that, while not having the best record in all of baseball does have the best record in the National League.
But it’s not Washington.
The Nationals have started a disappointing 6-7 which has them in third place in the NL East, 2.5 games behind not the division leader but behind second place Atlanta.
No, ladies and gentlemen, none other than the New York Mets, at 10-3, have the best record in the senior circuit, slightly better than the 9-3 LA Dodgers and 8-3 St Louis. The Mets, whose 79-83 record last season was their best since 2008, was expected to show modest improvement this season with a wins total of 83.
They were dealt a severe blow when emerging starting pitcher Zach Wheeler was lost for the season during spring training. Last week the Mets placed David Wright on the DL and then suffered a few more injuries this past weekend, including one that will sideline catcher Travis d’Arnaud for perhaps two months.
D’Arnaud was starting to develop into the highly touted prospect he was thought to be when the Mets acquired him from Toronto in the trade for then-reigning Cy Young Award winning pitcher R.A. Dickey after the 2012 season.
Of course the big news in MLB this past week was the much anticipated call up of former Las Vegas high school star Kris Bryant by the Chicago Cubs. It was a controversial decision to demote Bryant to Triple-A prior to Opening Day after Bryant had terrorized minor league pitching last season and did the same to mostly major league pitching during spring training.
Although the reason for starting the season in the minors was not an on-the-field baseball decision despite obligatory comments by management to the contrary, his eventual short term call up was inevitable. And that date arrived last Friday. Although Bryant struggled at the plate with 3 strikeouts and a ground out in his 4 plate appearances he was sharp in the field. A day later Bryant got his first hit and RBI and his hopefully long and illustrious career is off to a .300 start.
Here’s a look at three series to be played this weekend.
Nationals at Marlins: At 3-10, Miami manager Mike Redmond is already thought to be on the hot seat with current Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman considered a leading contender to replace him. The Nationals’ outstanding starting rotation has gotten off slowly with only Max Scherzer and Doug Fister performing as expected.
PLAYS: Washington -130 or less in any matchup; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup; Miami +150 or more in any matchup.
Indians at Tigers: Cleveland was a popular pick to win the AL Central this season and Detroit was a popular pick to decline from winning four straight Division titles. But the Tigers are off to a strong 10-2 start while the Indians are languishing at 4-7.
PLAYS: Cleveland +125 or more against any Detroit starter other than Price; Detroit -150 or less in a start by Price against any Cleveland starter; Detroit -130 or less with any starter against Bauer, Kluber or Salazar. UNDER 8 in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher if Detroit’s Price faces Bauer, Kluber or Salazar.
Mets at Yankees: This attractive interleague weekend series has the most appeal it has had for citizens of the Big Apple in many years. The Mets are off to a hot start at 10-3 and the Yankees are playing better than expected following a weekend sweep at Tampa Bay that has them at 6-6 and Alex Rodriguez just two homers short of tying the great Willie Mays for fourth on the all-time list at 660.
PLAYS: Either team as +125 underdogs or more in any matchup; Mets -130 or less in starts by Jacob DeGrom or Matt Harvey; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]