Early Season MLB Observations

by - Correspondent -
Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports
Charles LeClaire - USA Today Sports

As we move into the second month of the 2018 MLB season, flowers start to bloom, and bats begin to boom. We know pennants can’t be won in April, but they certainly can be lost. Here is a trip around the bases starting in the National League.

In the Central Division, the Cubs are 7-1 vs. the Brewers, 9-11 vs. the rest of the league including 2-3 vs. Cincinnati and Miami. The top three teams, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Chicago, continue to flip-flop which should continue through the summer.

Pittsburgh is hanging around at 17-15 and could pose problems for other teams with their young pitching. Chicago’s staff ranks 5th in ERA at 3.48 but still has walked 120 batters which is currently tied for third highest in the league behind Atlanta at 138. San Diego and Miami are tied for second with 129. Cincinnati has the same amount of batters walked as the Cubs with 120, but has a 5.29 team ERA. Go Figure?

The Cubs just completed a seven-game homestand, in which they scored a total of 15 runs, even more concerning is they are not also hitting the ball out of the infield with the wind blowing out at 20 mph! Even more puzzling was Joe Maddon’s decision to start a spring training lineup and give his regulars a day off, with an off day two days later, which halted a five-game winning streak. The Brewers are 18-6 against everybody not wearing a Cubs uniform, and the Cardinals have been up and down. The return on the Cards' 80 million dollar investment in Dexter Fowler has produced a .170 batting average, and on Wednesday he was dropped into the cleanup spot vs. the White Sox. $80 million is $104 million less than the Cubs are paying Jason Heyward who is batting .229 and has even looked shaky in the field, misplaying several fly balls. How much longer can Maddon keep putting his name in the lineup?

In the NL East, the surprising Atlanta Braves at 19-11 look like last year’s Brewers, as their young stars are making their way to the big leagues. Centerfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. the Braves top prospect is hitting .382, and along with second baseman Ozzie Albies are giving the Braves a daily double ahead of first baseman Freddie Freeman who is hitting .322 and veteran outfielder Nick Markakis who is smashing .336 in the cleanup spot. The Mets are cooling off after a hot April, the Phillies are playing a little over their heads at four over .500, the Nationals are barely keeping their heads above water, and the Marlins have won three straight series, including a series win last week at Dodger Stadium.

Speaking of the Dodgers, the dreaded Game 7 hangover seems to be with them as they sit three under .500 and seven back of Arizona (21-10), who doesn’t seem to be missing J.D. Martinez. His replacement Steven Souza, Jr missed the first month recovering from a spring training injury, but they continue to win at .677 clip. The Rockies haven’t hit yet; the Giants are what I thought, a .500 team with age, who are awaiting the results of starter Johnny Cueto’s MRI and the Padres are forever rebuilding.

In the AL East, the Yankees are starting to hit their stride as they just completed a 6-1 trip through Anaheim and Houston. The Red Sox still lead the division with a .733 winning percentage; the Yankees are second at .677, which means the rest of the division should start making winter plans. In the AL Central, the weakest division in the majors it’s the Indians and a group of teams already looking forward to the July 31 trade deadline. The Twins at 10-16 are a major disappointment so far, coming off an 85 win campaign and a Wild Card appearance. Two years ago they won 66 games; this is a tough team to figure out on a yearly basis.

In the AL West the Astros at 20-13 lead the 19-12 Angels by percentage points. The Angels are very right hitting heavy and desperately need some left-handed power to balance out the everyday lineup. The Angels are 0-6 vs the Yankees and Red Sox, getting swept at home by both teams. Not a healthy sign, considering they might see one or both of those teams in October. The Mariners have flown under the radar at 17-12, while Oakland has shown improvement hanging around .500, while the Texas Rangers who won 90 games in 2016 are in the basement at 12-20.

We still have a long summer ahead, and in baseball, teams can get hot for months like the 2017 Dodgers, so it will be interesting to see what changes are in store for expected contenders like the Cubs if they don’t start hitting. Stay Tuned!

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