With the 2015 MLB Opening Week in the books, there have been some early surprises and early disappointments. However, as we all know, it’s a long season so don’t get too excited or fret too much with over 150 games remaining this year. To me, there have been four storylines that have caught my eye so far: 1. Atlanta starting 5-1. 2. The Royals and Tigers combining to start 12-0 in the AL Central. 3. The NL-favorite Nationals struggling. 4. The lackluster Cubs.
The Braves, whom many expected to be in tank mode this season (including myself), have shocked the league by winning five of their first six games. Is it because the Miami Marlins and New York Mets aren’t as good as many predicted? Possibly, but not probable. General Manager John Hart and Manager Freddi Gonzalez have to be given credit for their hot start. Atlanta could have easily limped out to a one or two-win start to the season and no one would have batted an eye, but instead, Gonzalez has a plucky Braves team playing hard and winning with small ball and strong pitching.
Out of everyone from Atlanta’s depleted offense, who would have predicted journeyman Alberto Callaspo would lead the team in hitting out of the gates with a .538 batting average? And who would have thunk that the mixture of rookie relievers and well-traveled veterans in the backend of the bullpen would combine for a 0.44 ERA in 20.1 IP while striking out 22 and allowing a MLB-low .097 batting average to opposing hitters? Definitely not me. Enjoy this recent run of success, it may not last much longer or for all we know, the Braves might be the Hawks of baseball.
On the flipside of the NL East, the Nationals, who some picked to win 100-games, have fumbled their way to a 2-4 start. Ian Desmond has already committed four errors in his first six games; two of which helped the Mets take two out of three games in Washington. The Nationals’ pitching hasn’t been as dominant as predicted but has been good enough to win games. It’s been their offense which has faltered scoring just 13 runs thus far–least in the division. It is a long season, but every single game counts as the wins and losses begin to pile up. Washington fans shouldn’t worry about the slow start yet.
The AL Central race has already begun with the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers both 6-0. The Royals just completed a statement sweep of the Angels in Los Angeles. Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez and new additions Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios highlight the success of the Royals’ offense. The pitching staff without James Shields has flourished as well with Yordano Ventura looking like he might be ready to take his game to the next level at the tender age of 23. The Tigers already boast a +31 run differential and have clicked on all cylinders. Miguel Cabrera is coming off a ho-hum 11-for-14 weekend series against the Indians in which he drove in six runs. Justin Verlander is on the 15-day DL with a triceps issue, but it hasn’t affected the team at all now that David Price is in the Motor City for his first full season. The 2012 Cy Young award winner has yet to allow a run in his first 14.1 innings pitched.
The Cubbies (3-2) took the stage in the first game of the season and proceeded to lay an egg. Jon Lester’s arm already looked dead as he was rocked for eight hits in 4.1 innings. The Cubs have rested him eight days before his next start this week. The 31-year-old signed a six year, $155 million dollar contract this offseason and if he can’t find his form and his age catches up to him, it is the type of contract that can cripple an already cursed franchise. Also, the renovations of Wrigley Field have been a disaster. Toilets did not work and lines lasted nearly an hour for the bathroom. Fans had to pee in cups and one concession stand ran out of hotdog buns but not hot dogs. Just another year of the Cubs being the Cubs.