Two-month wrap: East coast, Orioles, Nationals and Josh Hamilton
I wrote an article on the biggest surprises and disappointments in April, but now that May is coming to a close, it’s time to take a look at the newest trends in baseball. Many people say they wait until June 1 before they determine what a player or team is going to look like for that particular year.
Now that we’re reaching that June 1 deadline, we’re beginning to see what teams are for real and which ones had early moments of flash. Let’s take a look at what happened in the first two months of the season.
East coast dominating baseball
I also wrote a story on east coast teams dominating baseball right now, and since then they’ve only made their resume better. At the end of May, every team in the AL and NL East is at least two games above .500. That is a truly incredible accomplishment and shows how powerful these two divisions are. I doubt all 10 teams will be able to keep that success up through the entire season, but it’s cool to see all those teams with winning records this late in the season.
Baltimore still atop the AL East
One of the biggest surprises in April was the start of the Orioles, and we thought a rough May schedule would determine whether or not they were for real. Well, after winning 15 of their first 23 games in May, they’ve lost five in a row. But they remain in first tied with the Tampa Bay Rays at 29-22. The rest of the division has caught up, though, as the Boston Red Sox, who are in last place, only sit two and half games back. They survived a difficult month, but the book is still out on the Orioles.
The AL Central is unpredictable
The Cleveland Indians showed signs of progression last season and then tailed off. They started this season the same way, and still we expect them to tail off and for the Detroit Tigers to take over. Well, after sweeping the Tigers and presumably taking control of the division, they were then swept by the White Sox who finished May with an eight-game winning streak to take a two-game lead in the division. The Kansas City Royals are playing better baseball, and only the Minnesota Twins appear out of it. The division that seemed to be the most predictable entering the season is turning out to be the most unpredictable.
Josh Hamilton wants to make money
When we look back on this season, most people are going to remember the tear Josh Hamilton went on in mid-May that reminded everybody why he’s the best player in baseball and why he’s going to make a ridiculous amount of money this offseason. Hamilton hit nine home runs in a stretch of six games, including four in one game. He finished the month of May with 12 home runs and a .344 average, which was actually lower than is April average of .395. He leads the league in home runs and RBIs and is second in average, so he’ll be on Triple Crown alert all summer. The fact that he’s failed to work out a deal with the Rangers makes me believe he thinks he can get massive amounts of dollars elsewhere. And after what he’s done so far this season, I believe him.
The Nationals pitching staff is superb, and Gio Gonzalez is an ace
The magnificent start by the Washington Nationals pitching staff is even more for real then we could have imagined. They still hold the best record in the NL East, despite a sweep by the Miami Marlins to close the month of May, and their pitching is still dominating. They lead the entire league with an ERA of 3.01. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the closest at 3.14. They’ve struck out 427 batters, which also leads the league, and have only walked 147. Their top four pitchers all have an ERA of 3.17 or below.
That staff is led by Gio Gonzalez, who was acquired in what might have been the best trade of the offseason, and one that could go down as the best ever in the history of this franchise. Moving over to the National League, Gonzalez has posted a 2.04 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 10 starts. He’s 7-1 and has struck out 79 hitters, while only walking 25. He’s given up only 33 hits in 61.2 innings. He’s the early Cy Young award winner and the main reason the Nationals are still in first place.
Melky Cabrera can hit
Last year, Melky Cabrera surprised us all by putting up the best numbers of his career after the most disappointing season of his career. This year, the still young 27-year-old is proving those numbers weren’t a fluke. Through May, he has the best average in the National League at .373, which is eight points higher than second-place David Wright and 40 points higher than a couple of people in third place. He already has six triples this season and has only struck out 28 times in 209 at bats, while walking 17 times. He’s putting the ball in play and scoring runs, as he’s tied for fourth in the league with 38. This has been a nice pickup for the Giants and could be the boost this offense needs to help them catch the Dodgers.
As Pujols goes, the Angels go
It’s no shock that the Angels good play of late has directly coincided with the resurgence of Albert Pujols. After watching him carry offenses in St. Louis for extended periods of time, you knew once he got going, the entire team would benefit. The Angels went 18-11 in May, while Pujols hit .263 and blasted all eight of his home runs this season during the month. He hit five of those during their eight-game winning streak late at the end of the month. After his average dipped down to .192 on May 11, he finished the month going 25-76 (.329). Needless to say, Pujols has his swing back and the Angels are fast approaching the Texas Rangers to make this AL West race interesting again.
There are many more things we’ve learned through this 2012 season, but the most important thing we’ve learned is baseball is an amazing sport, and no matter how many games you watch, you’ll always see something different. There has been a lot of excitement this season, and things will only heat up as the summer temperatures do the same.