By Avry Jones
Top 5 Biggest Surprises in Major League Baseball… so Far
Baseball has always delivered surprises, whether in the regular or postseason. However, sometimes the best surprises occur before the All-Star break, which can excite not only the fans of their respective baseball team but baseball fans and the baseball community. Two months into the baseball season, Major League Baseball has given us a few surprises from teams, making analysts second guess themselves: “Well, I didn’t see that coming.” Trying to find just five of the biggest surprises of the early baseball season thus far can be tricky; however, looking over the past two months to see what has excited fans and disappointed fans has become a highlight of the baseball season thus far. Overall, if the first two months can give us these five surprises, what can the last five months of the seasons give us?
Number 5 – Texas Rangers are leading the AL West, and the Houston Astros are not
At the time of this article, the Texas Rangers are leading the American League West by 3.5 games. The defending World Series Champions ended the month of April barely over .500 with a record of 15-13 (ESPN, 2023). But the Texas Rangers at the end of April with a record of 17-11, which got the ball rolling for leading the AL West. Generally, starting the season strong should end with a strong finish; however, collapses and breakdowns sometimes occur after the All-Star break, which can give other teams the run, they need to win divisions and make a move to get into the playoffs. Although the season is still new, let us see what the Texas Rangers can accomplish after overhauling their roster. Also, watch out for the Seattle Mariners, as what was in the water for the Seahawks and Kraken may work for the Mariners, and I look for them to be a sleeper team again, like in the 2022 postseason.
Number 4 – The AL East is looking to be the AL BEAST, also the Tampa Bay Rays
The Eastern Division of some sports has become the dominant division. Look to the NFC East in the National Football League when all the teams in the division are playing their best and not only fighting each other to make the playoffs but clinch the division title. Currently, ALL five teams in the American League East have above .500 records and over .500 at home. A potential AL Rookie of the Year candidate is left fielder Masataka Yoshida, who plays for the Boston Red Sox(ESPN, 2023). Furthermore, let’s talk about the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tampa Bay Rays started the season 13-0 before a loss to Toronto (wink, wink). However, the start of the Rays season has them currently leading the East, but like all professional sports teams, let’s see how they finish the season (see Boston Bruins and Milwaukee Bucks).
Number 3 – Atlanta Braves, leading the NL East… again
This number may not seem surprising, but the Atlanta Braves leading the National League East is a surprise. Usually, the Braves will lead the East for a few days during the beginning of the season, then make a considerable run right after the All-Star break. Currently, the Atlanta Braves are ten games above .500 and lead the division by 4.5 games; however, their Away record is better than their Home record, not by a little but by a lot (ESPN, 2023). The Braves’ record is only second in the National League behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (again), but not by much. Overall, the National League looks to be a fascinating race this early in the season, with the Mets, Marlins, Brewers, Pirates, and Diamondbacks (What?!) to make moves in their respective divisions as the season progresses.
Number 2 – Liam Hendriks from the Chicago White Sox is back in the majors
When athletes are injured, you hope they have a speedy recovery and that their careers will continue after their recovery. However, when an athlete is diagnosed with an illness, that can be especially heartbreaking. Liam Hendriks was diagnosed with cancer in December 2022 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Non-Hodgkin is a treatable type of cancer; however, Hendriks had it from his neck to his ankles, Stage 4. For someone who lost a grandmother and a mother to cancer, my heart always goes to people who battle this disease, especially family, as it also affects them. All tests, doctor visits, and more tests can take their toll. However, Liam Hendriks was going to fight, and fight he did. After he announced his diagnosis, well wishes poured in from my baseball fans and teammates to everyday people who may have heard about it. Hendricks wanted to come back to baseball, and he made sure to mark the date; make it back in May. On May 29, 2023, Liam Hendriks returned to Major League Baseball to the roaring crowd of Southside Chicago faithful. Hendriks announced he was cancer-free in March and could not wait to return to the Majors. The fight against cancer can be daunting for those with the disease and those within their support network. However, when the battle is won, we should support those wins to show every survivor they are a champion.
Number 1 – New York Mets Pitching (What even is this?!)
During the offseason, there can be much to be excited about when free agents and teams make signings and trade moves. One of these moves was the signing of Justin Verlander after winning a World Series with the Astros. Although with Max Scherzer, the Mets look to have a starting pitching rotation to rival the Braves of the 1990s. However, when this article was written, neither Scherzer nor Verlander were the leaders of the Mets. The leader of the Mets is Kodai Senga, with 70 Ks, a 3.44 ERA, and five wins (ESPN, 2023). Max Scherzer has a record of 4-2, 39 Ks, and 3.54 ERA; Justin Verlander has a 2-2, 22 Ks, and 4.80 ERA (ESPN, 2023). Baseball analysts and writers were crowning the New York Mets with a division crown and postseason berth with this dynamic duo, but Scherzer and Verlander could be better as of now. Of course, the season is still early, but expectations are high for the Mets pitchers, especially with Scherzer and Verlander leading the way. However, can the Mets strike gold with this duo, or will another set of pitchers lead the Mets to the postseason?
1. The AL Central…it’s not bad but not good; it’s just ok.
2. The NL Central is a tight race with the Milwaukee Brewers and… the Pittsburgh Pirates!
3. Don’t sleep on Seattle this year, or you might get beat.
4. The Philadelphia Phillies are just ok, and Trea Turner is also just ok.
5. Baltimore Orioles… that’s it. That’s the post!
As a baseball fan, there are many times baseball has given us many surprises. Usually, those surprises can happen in the postseason. However, baseball can provide us with many surprises early in the season, making us more excited as the season continues. Moreover, shocks give us the unexcepted, making enjoying the game more memorable.
*** All data analytics and statistics were from ESPN (www.espn.com) ***