We are one full month into the 2013 Major League Baseball season and we have some major surprises and disappointments so far. The division leaders are the Red Sox, Rangers, Royals, Braves, Cardinals, Rockies (!), while the divisional cellar-dwellers are the Blue Jays (!), White Sox, Astros, Marlins, Cubs, and Padres. Other than the Blue Jays being in last place in the AL East, there aren’t too many surprises in last place teams. In the first place teams, on the other hand, 3 of the 6 teams are pretty major surprises that nobody thought had a chance this year. Now, April is a pretty small sample size when put into perspective of an entire season so I’m going to go through the surprises and discuss whether or not they can keep it up.
The first surprise is the Boston Red Sox in first place in the AL East. With only 8 losses so far this year, the Sox are 5th in the MLB with a 3.49 ERA, 1st in batting average against, 1st in strikeouts, 3rd in runs, and T-1st in on-base-percentage. If your team is getting on base and not letting the other team get on base, you’re going to win a lot of ball games. The Red Sox have the talent and I think they can maintain
The second surprise is the Kansas City Royals leading the AL Central.
The Royals are 6th in ERA, 17th in batting average against, 15th in strikeouts, 19th in runs, and 9th in on-base-percentage. While their record may be good, the peripherals don’t really signify that the Royals are on track for lasting success this season. I think that the Tigers take control of the division relatively soon but in another year, the Royals will be a force to be reckoned with.
The last surprise divisional leader is the Colorado Rockies. Statistically, the Rockies are 12th in ERA, 21st in batting average against, 24th in strikeouts, 2nd in runs, and T-1st in on-base-percentage. Pitching is obviously an issue for the Rockies but offensively, they can hang with just about anybody in the league. They have to contend with the Giants and Dodgers in the NL West but if they can continue to win their home games in a very hitter-friendly park (they are 9-3 at Coors Field so far) and play .500-ball on the road, they have a chance to surprise everybody. Another game-changer is Troy Tulowitzki’s health. If he stays healthy for the majority of the season, I think they can give the Dodgers and Giants a run for the NL West. If Tulo misses extended time, there’s just no way that their pitching can keep them in close games.
As for the last-place teams, the only real surprise is the Toronto Blue Jays, and maybe the Chicago White Sox (although I think they’re just getting too old and their farm system is depleted). Nobody expected the Astros, Marlins, Cubs, or Padres to challenge for a divisional title and they all made sure early on that they weren’t going to. The Blue Jays are dealing with a plethora of injuries to both pitchers and position players, and while they may already be 9.5 back of the Red Sox, they are only 6 back in the Wild Card. I don’t think any of the other teams have a chance to get back in the thick of things, but if the Blue Jays can overcome these injuries and start winning some close games, they have the talent (and payroll) to get hot and start streaking.