Monday, May 2, 2011

10 Biggest Surprises of April

1. The Cleveland Indians have the best record in baseball at 19-8. And who's in 2nd in the AL Central? The Royals, of course. The Marlins are another team off to a surprising hot start.

2. Two of the biggest disappointments this season have been Derek Jeter and Justin Morneau. I honestly thought that these two would be extremely motivated by their tumultuous 2010's to have white-hot Aprils, but that hasn't been the case. Jeter is looking every bit his age, and I'm starting to legitimately worry that Morneau may never be the same following his concussion.

3. Joey Bautista is so far proving that last season was not a fluke. The three guys I was looking for at the start of the year to have huge regressions from 2010 were Bautista, Phil Hughes, and Mike Leake, and so far Jose is the only guy proving me wrong. Not only is he on pace to repeat his 54 HR performance from last year, but he is arguably one of the top 5 best players in all of baseball right now. I'm still keeping an eye on this guy but so far he has not let up.

4. Almost every single guy that the Yankees brought back from the dead - guys that we all laughed at when they signed - is not only contributing, but playing very well. Russell Martin was brought in to back up Francisco Cervelli and now is one of the team's offensive leaders. Freddie Garcia and Bartolo Colon both made the team as spring non-roster invitees and have salvaged the staff. And no, I haven't manipulated that photo on the left - Bartolo really still is that wide. Eric Chavez is killing the ball off the bench, and probably would be playing a lot more if they didn't have $500 million worth of players already at the corner infield spots and DH. Chavez will either be the Marcus Thames of 2011, or I can see him getting traded for a bullpen arm down the stretch.

5. On the heels of a lackluster second half of last season after breaking his pinky, Andre Ethier has started this season off with a 27-game hit streak, the longest April hit streak of all time. A hit today, and he's halfway to DiMaggio.

6. Lance Berkman looked to be in rapid decline following a deadline trade to the Yankees last year. But he signed a one-year deal with the Cards and actually decided to show up to camp in shape for his first spring not with the Astros, and he is destroying the ball. He is in the top 10 in most offensive categories including batting average, home runs, and RBI. What's even more remarkable is he's doing it as the everyday right fielder, a position he hasn't played regularly in four years due to bad knees.

7. Jared Weaver, Justin Masterson, AJ Burnett, Aaron Harang, and Kyle Lohse have a combined 23 wins.

8. The Pirates actually ain't half bad. Their record won't surprise you like the Royals or Indians would, but they have a very young and talented lineup that is hitting its stride. Neil Walker and Andrew McCutchen are not far off from being perennial all-stars. Charlie Morton is 3-1 after three horrendous seasons in which he went a combined 11-29 with an ERA over 6. Kevin Correia is actually a legitimate ace of this staff so far.

9. The Twins have somehow made it through their 2nd April at their new outdoor ballpark without a snow-out.

10. Lastly, this one is off the field but I have to mention it. Ryan Braun, with 5 years remaining on his current contract, signed a 5-year extension with Milwaukee through 2020. Ryan Braun is a Brewer for at least another 10 years - it sounds better every time I say it. It is very refreshing in today's game to know that there are still guys out there like Brauny and Tulo that value hometown pride and staying with a team for life.

Brewers 13-14, -2.5 (4 @ Braves, 3 @ Cardinals)
Reds 14-14, -2.0 (3 v. Astros, 3 @ Cubs)
Twins 9-18, -10.0 (2 @ White Sox, 4 @ Red Sox)

Erik - 3
Peter - 13

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