Several surprising names atop MLB stats in the early going

Carlos Beltran is helping St. Louis Cardinals fans forget what's-his-name when it comes to power stats. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Wait a second. Carlos Beltran leads the National League in home runs?

You read that correctly. Beltran, signed by the Cardinals in the offseason, is having an amazing start to the year. In 33 games, he is batting .298 with 13 home runs and 32 runs batted in. Compared to seven home runs, 18 runs batted in and a .323 AVG through the Giants’  last 44 games last season. Beltran is just one of many players who are surprisingly leading categories across the MLB.

If I asked you who had the best ERA in the American League, and told you it was a  Detroit Tiger. You’d jump up and emphatically say, Justin Verlander! Then, I would quietly tell you, no. Drew Smyly, ladies and gentleman, is the ERA leader in the AL. Not Verlander, CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver nor King Felix (Felix Hernandez). The top 10 ERA leaders in baseball actually might surprise you. In order, the top 10 ERA leaders in baseball:

  1. Ryan Dempster – 1.02 ERA
  2. Johnny Cueto – 1.12 ERA
  3. Drew Smyly – 1.59 ERA
  4. Brandon Beachy – 1.60 ERA
  5. Stephen Strasburg – 1.64 ERA
  6. Jake Westbrook – 1.76 ERA
  7. Lance Lynn – 1.81 ERA
  8. Carlos Zambrano – 1.88 ERA
  9. Jake Peavy – 1.89 ERA
  10. Gio Gonzalez – 1.94 ERA

No surprise in the fact that eight of the 10 players come from the pitcher-dominated National League. What may surprise you is the fact that every player in the top 10 overall has an under-two ERA. With all the focus on what Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp have been doing (respectfully so), there hasn’t been enough focus on what the pitchers are doing. They’re has been dominating performances this season, but they’re also have been shorter outings, as well. Take a look at Strasburg for example. His coach put an inning’s limit on him before the season, and it has showed early on. He’s finished the seventh inning only twice in seven games. Same for Beachy; he’s reached the eighth inning only once in seven games pitched. Innings limits like these are leading to lower ERA’s for starters and more work for relievers. We’ll see if this trend continues when teams are making playoff pushes.

The top RBI guys aren’t much of a surprise, really. The usual culprits are there, Hamilton, Kemp, Miguel Cabrera, David Ortiz and Carlos Gonzalez to name some. There are some names you wouldn’t exactly expect either. Beltran (at this point in his career), Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn (I just want to say I hate you Adam Dunn — you killed my fantasy team last year!) Freddie Freeman, David Freese, Luke Scott, Jay Bruce and Adam LaRoche, to name a few. Players like Freeman you expected to eventually be a force in the league with his talent. I just didn’t see him being tied for sixth in the majors in his second year.

Batting average and home runs are a bit of the same thing. The people I didn’t see being there so far are players like Rafael Furcal being second in the NL in batting average and Ryan Sweeney being fifth in the AL in batting average. In the home run category, it’s players like the Chicago Cubs rookie Bryan LaHair being fifth in the NL  and Encarnacion being tied for second in the AL with Dunn and Curtis Granderson. It’s nice to see parity in the majors this season. A lot of young players stepping up and playing well for their respective ball clubs, as well as the vets like Ortiz and David Wright. Speaking of Wright, he’s having a huge season. Many people started writing him off with his injuries and inconsistent bat, but Wright is proving all the doubters wrong. He’s sporting a .400 batting average with four home runs, 21 runs batted in, a .489 OBP, A 1.080 OPS and 13 extra base hits. He’s top-10 in five of the NL’s top categories. Wright is doing his best to keep the Mets afloat in the NL East with the surging Braves and surprising Washington Nationals.

All in all, it’s shaping up to be a great baseball season with tons of surprises. I can’t wait for the rest to unfold. Let’s see how long Hamilton keeps smashing baseballs — he’s doing pretty good so far, to say the least. Will he break Bonds’ record? Who knows? We all have to just sit back, admire, watch and the let the rest unfold.

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