The season is one-eighth in the books, and as usual so early, there are surprises...
Go, Jays! Toronto has sprinted out to a 15-7 start thanks to a balanced hitting/pitching effort - 5.5 rpg (3rd) and 3.66 ERA (5th). 8 different pitchers have wins; Roosevelt Thomas is off to a .322/4/22 start.
Whassup Twins? Minnesota started 8-3 but reeled to an L11 since. Yes, their pitching has struggled some (notably Kevin Chong's 9.15 ERA). But the real culprit is the AL-last 3.36 runs per game. Rookie Asdrubal Azocar has done his part - .284/7/17, but no one else has picked up the slack form the slumping Harry Rivera and the injured Sterling Adams.
Henderson vs. Gutierrez: Remember when the big Red Sox Max Gutierrez trade went down (with Paul Henderson being one of the return pieces)? If we had peered into the future and seen these stat lines...
something tells me EVERYONE would have identified #1 as Gutierrez and #2 as Henderson.
And yet, Henderson's .371/6/22 (along with a bunch of other hot Boston hitters) has led the Sox to a 15-7 start. Even when you throw out the 51 runs they scored against a trio of zero'd-out Orioles starters, Boston leads the AL at 6.21 runs per game.
Rays/Rangers Pace South: The 3-time defending champ Royals were expected to take the division again, but so far it's the 14-8 Rays and 13-9 Rangers leading the way. Tampa Bay's doing it with pitching - 2nd-in-AL 3.23 ERA, SP's Sherman Lidge and Robinson Neruda are 6-1, and closer Haywood Truman has closed 8 of 10 despite a 5.06 ERA. Texas is doing it by winning the close ones - 7 1-run wins already.
Angels' Aces: Anaheim SP's Sam Pearson (3-0, 0.72) and Eduardo Julio (2-1, 0.93) pace the AL in ERA and have led the Angel staff to a blistering 2.45 ERA (Rays are a distant second at 3.23).
Hot Hunt: Montreal's Wesley Hunt (.321/11/20) leads the NL in OPS, Expos lead the league (with PIT) at 6.05 runs per game. SS Dustan Beimel is also red-hot at .340/7/22.
Pirates' O, Mets on Move: Pittsburgh's fortunes were thought to hinge on pitching. So far, though, the staff has been average-ish (4.22) ERA while the lineup has produced 6+ runs per game (Sobolewski .400/5/13, Posada .312/8/26). New York stumbled out to a 3-7 start, but has recovered with a 9-3 run.
Atlanta's Bats: No real surprise that the Cardinals and Braves lead the NL in ERA at 3.10 and 3.79 (they were #2 and #3 last year at 3.12 and 3.24). But Atlanta's runs per game are up 31% from last year, 4.72 rpg to 3.60. RF Bo Hines (.319/8/25) and free-agent 1B Eric Green (.341/3/14) have sparked the lineup.
NL West parity: the Padres lapped the field last year, winning by 13 games and smoking 4th-place San Francisco by 37. But parity rules so far this year, with only 2 games separating the 1st-place Dodgers from the 4th-place Giants. Pitching has been key in the West: 3 teams are in the top 5 in ERA (Rockies 3.84, Dodgers 3.93, Padres 3.94), while the best any lineups have done is the league-average 4.59 rpg (Rockies and Giants).
AL BA: Alejandro Cruz, Yankees - .422
NL BA: Walker Sobolewski, Pirates - .400
AL HR: Tony Cohen, Royals - 10
NL HR: Wesley Hunt, Expos - 11
AL RBI: Ismael Rios, Yankees - 28
NL RBI: Sandy Quinn, National - 28
AL OPS: Adam Shipley, Red Sox - 1.162
NL OPS: Wesley Hunt, Expos - 1.221
AL Wins: Torrealba (Rangers), Cepicky (Sounds), Jacquez (White Sox) - 4
NL Wins: Cambridge (Cardinals), Hamilton (Dodgers), Schlehuber (Expos), Sullivan (Pirates) - 4
AL ERA: Pearson, Angels - 0.72
NL ERA: Monahan, Cardinals - 0.78
AL K's: Rivera (White Sox), Smalley (Twins) - 31
NL K's Contreras, Mets - 39
AL Saves: Truman, Rays - 8
NL Saves: Bibby, Pirates - 7
AL runs per game: 4.86, up 6.3% from last year
NL runs per game: 4.59, up 2.2% from last year