The early going in the MLB season is always filled with some shocking surprises, some jaw dropping and welcoming, and others depressing and difficult to digest. We'll take a look at the 7 Biggest surprises in the early going of the 2014 MLB season.
The Positive Surprises
Miami’s Young Pitching Staff
The Marlins currently sit at 20-18 while being just two games out of first in the NL East. That is mainly due to their young staff of Jose Fernandez*, Nathan Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez and Tom Koehler. The four of them, who are all under the age of 27, have combined for 11 wins, 176 strikeouts and all currently have under a 3.00 ERA. Miami is still desperately looking for a consistent fifth starter but if these young guns can stay hot they could push for a playoff spot, and if they make it you will not find any teams who will want to face this formidable group.
Forty games into the season you could not have asked for a better start than Tulo has put up. He is currently hitting .394 with 11 homeruns, 33 RBI and 37 runs scored. He has more than taken advantage of the thin air in Colorado as he is hitting a ridiculous .608 at home this year through 15 games played in Coors Field. It will be hard for this to maintain anything close to that pace but with the emergence of Charlie Blackmon and resurgence of Justin Morneau, the Rockies lineup has enough protection on both sides of Tulowitzki to keep him seeing good pitches for the foreseeable future.
The Return of Francisco Rodriguez
From the time he made his debut with the Angels, most people in baseball knew Rodriguez had the stuff to be a dominant closer. After a few rough years in Milwaukee, Rodriguez returned this year and was given the keys to the closers role. He has shown why he was put in that role thus far as he has yet to allow an earned run in 19 innings. He has converted 15 saves already and has 26 strikeouts in those 19 innings. Rodriguez has been a big reason that the Brewers currently are first in the NL with the best winning %.
The Negative Surprises
Jose Fernandez's Torn UCL
It was like a collective groan of "another one?" was let out yesterday when the Marlins confirmed Jose Fernandez had a serious UCL tear and would be shelved for at least 12 months with TJS. We're talking about the best young pitcher to come along in years, a dominant force with a ceiling as high as the most filthy aces in the game. Jose is the most recent in a long list of quality pitchers to go down with UCL ligament damage and need TJS in 2014. Something will need to be done to figure out what's causing the massive prevalence of these injuries, because obviously the kid gloves most teams handle their pitchers with little effect on preventing these ghastly injuries. Farewell until 2015 Jose, we wish you a speed recovery.
Jeter’s farewell tour
After missing much of last year, Derek Jeter announced this would be his last season and most Yankee fans hoped that he would go out on a high note like Mariano Rivera did last season. That has not been the case as Jeter has sputtered with a .263 average and just 1 home run this year. It has only gotten worse for the veteran as his last two weeks have seen him scuffle even more. There have been a lot of New York supporters who have started to think that manager Joe Girardi should bench Jeter, who has also lost range at shortstop, but he has yet to do that. For a player who has played 20 years and has a .312 career average, you should expect Jeter to figure things out sooner than later.
Arizona’s pitching staff
As we move past the quarter pole of the season, the Diamondbacks have allowed 22 more runs than the next closest team, the Astros. That has started with a rotation that only has one pitcher under a 4.80 ERA and has two pitchers, Trevor Cahill and Mike Bolsinger, over a 6.00 ERA. The bullpen has not been much better as set up man Oliver Perez has a 4.50 ERA and closer Addison Reed has a 4.34 ERA. That has pushed Arizona to the bottom of the competitive NL West and may have buried their season before it really got going.
Atlanta’s plate discipline
Not that a lineup featuring the Upton brothers and Dan Uggla is going to work the count, but the Braves offense has been downright pitiful. As a team, Atlanta has only been able to work 94 walks, 26th in MLB, while striking out 313 times which is 7th most. That has been a big reason that they are dead last in baseball with just 115 runs scored thus far. The good news is that their solid pitching staff has kept them in first place, but it will need to improve if they want to hold off the likes of Miami and Washington.