As of today, many teams will be playing games #41 and/or #42. If you divide 162 by 4, you get a mess (or 40.5), so it’s safe to say that we are a quarter of the way through the baseball season. Granted, that’s a lot of baseball left to play, but it’s also not an insignificant number. Several teams have played themselves into excellent position throughout this year’s first leg. Others have dug themselves a hole. Still others started slow, yet are coming on strong as the year moves onward.
Since the quarter leg is a reasonable time to look around and see where we are. So, instead of a normal “Three Up, Three Down”, here’s Six Up – or the Division Leaders. Are they flukes? Are they real things? Who’s in? Who’s out? Who can say? (Not me, that’s for sure. Two of my wild card choices are trash, and another two division leaders are not in the best of shape, to say the least. Proving that I have no idea what I’m doing, which you already knew if you recall my last season’s postseason guessing streak of 1-8.)
AL East – Division Leader(s) – New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays (tie)
The Yankees built to a strong start on the backs of a remarkably consistent bullpen, led by stud Dellin Betances and offseason pick-up Andrew Miller. Two weeks later, and that powerful duo seem to be the only ones holding their own. A hot start by A-Rod has tapered off, though his power has seemingly returned – same with Mark Teixeira, though those low batting averages/OPS scores suggest a regression to the mean sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Tampa continues to win somehow. Hell, there might be snake oil in the water.
What is for sure is that the Red Sox haven’t gelled after an offseason of high hopes. Baltimore’s been plodding along, showing flashes of prime power but also severe despondency. And the Jays (my preseason pick) look bad – watching their pitchers perform is like watching wounded roadkill writhe in pain on the asphault. You just want to put it out of its misery.
So, in short, no, I have no fucking idea what’s going on here. This division could turn on a dime.
AL Central – Division Leader – Kansas City Royals
As I type this, the Royals just beat up on my poor Reds to the tune of 7-1 (and it was never that close). They’re continuing to hit well; Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain have picked up right where they left off in the postseason, while newcomer Kendry Morales might be the first quarter winner for Best Bargain Offseason Signing. Meanwhile, both starting and relief pitching have been effective. This is a team that can win a whole lot of games. A lot of people looked at last year and called their run a fluke – what it might have actually been was a necessary gelling point for a young core, a moment where everything came together and clicked, allowing young players to say “a-ha, that’s how it’s done!”
And now they’re in first place in what might be the best division in baseball. The Tigers are right behind them, and should flirt with first place all year long. The Twins (!!) are somehow right in the thick of things. The White Sox recently pulled themselves out of an early swoon and should also be in the thick of it. Even the Indians are showing flashes, although they’ve dug themselves quite a large hole indeed. The AL Central is easily the best division in baseball through the first quarter. Let’s see if it holds up.
AL West – Division Leader – Houston Astros
Speaking of “holy shit, what the hell is going on here”…
The Astros are riding their pitching to the max. Dallas Keuchel has been absolutely lights out and will garner Cy Young consideration if he keeps this up. Alas, this might all be smoke and mirrors – too many important hitters in that line-up are barely hitting their weight. If George Springer, Evan Gattis, and Chris Carter don’t turn it around sooner rather than later, this mirage could fall apart…
Unless the rest of the division continues to flail like aforementioned roadkill. The Mariners (another damn preseason pick – this is why I don’t get paid for this) have an offense that couldn’t score if they were at a one color roulette table. The Angels are back to being the up and down team from two years ago instead of the powerhouse from last year. (Though never count out Mike Trout, that much is clear) The less said about Oakland, the better. And I don’t know what set of ancient gods the Rangers pissed off, but some divine force clearly has it in for them – although Shin-Soo Choo seems to be turning it around finally. Plus, future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre hit his 400th career home run, so they can’t be all that bad, can they?
(Yes. Yes they can.)
I just want to remind everyone that Bryce Harper, he who leads the majors in RBIs and the NL in home runs, is all of 22 years old. When I was 22, I was singing a crappy acoustic version of “Wonderwall” to my college girlfriend, hoping to impress her. If I were her, I’d have left me, too. Also, the Nationals are finally looking like the world beaters we all thought they’d be. The moral of the story is don’t play Oasis to your girlfriends on guitar. Instead, take them to a damn ball game.
The Mets are still in it – their pitching is too good to not be. The Braves are about who we though they were. There’s no Giancarlo Stanton home run long enough to make anyone forget that the Marlins are the worst run franchise in the majors. But the Phillies don’t look that bad! Several key players are doing well enough to be considered trade bait at the upcoming deadline! See, Phillies fan? There is a silver lining!
NL Central – Division Leader – St. Louis Cardinals
Their star prospect died in a terrible tragedy in the offseason. Their ace is out for the year…again. That offseason trade for Jason Heywerth doesn’t look so good when the player they got rid of almost pitches a no hitter. (Granted, against the Marlins) And somehow, it doesn’t matter, because the Cardinals are once again the best fucking team in the majors.
The Cubs are storming on strong, and the Pirates might get better once Andrew McCutchen stops limping around like Captain Ahab. However, the rest of the division <drinks again> doesn’t really have a lot to offer besides target practice for Cardinals hitters. Soon enough, they’ll be celebrating their champagne supernova in October.
God, I hate Oasis.
NL West – Division Leader – Los Angeles Dodgers
And here, we find that all is right with the world. The Dodgers are in first place, the Giants coming on strong behind after some early season struggles, the Padres middling around trying to figure out their identity, and the Diamondbacks and Rockies fighting like the Gallagher brothers for the cellar.
See? You can predict baseball!
Also, never play Oasis for your girlfriend. That’s a rookie mistake if ever there was one.