MLB Power Rankings: Mets, Pirates and Angels are building a playoff foundation in April
A closer look at the teams that are off to starts that could propel them into October
Instead of going on and on about how it's early (it is, still) and that we shouldn't be overreacting, let's instead drop the "over" and react with a story about the 2015 Houston Astros. It'll apply to several 2018 teams off to hot starts, such as the Mets, Angels and Pirates.
In 2015, the Astros started the season 18-7. It was a surprise, as they had won just 70 games the prior season. Sure, everyone expected them to be better, but not in the conversation for the best team in baseball. The thing was, they actually weren't that good. They just played over their heads during that 18-7 start. They would go 68-69 the rest of the way and that was probably more in line with how good that team was. Their true talent level was around .500, but the huge start where they played over expectations banked them some extra wins and helped them to make the playoffs at 86-76.
The next season, it seems like the Astros regressed to 84 wins, but it was probably more in line with their rise of talent. Things just looked out of whack thanks to that 18-7 start. If they went something like 70 wins to 80 wins to 84 wins, it wouldn't have been nearly as surprising.
Moving on to this year, let's lock in on the aforementioned trio of hot starts that some might call surprising.
The Mets are 12-2. You don't need me to point out that their pace of 139 wins is unsustainable. Le'ts say the Mets true talent level for the season is something like 83 wins. That would be a true talent level pace of them being 7-7 or 8-6 right now. So they've already banked five wins. Let's say they play at an 83-win pace the rest of the way. That means they'd go something in the ballpark of 88-74 and that's likely to get them into the postseason. Just like that, all thanks to the Amazin' start.
The Pirates are 11-4. Most projection systems had them in the high-70s in wins heading into the season. Let's say that's their true talent level, meaning they've banked around five wins. That then pushes them up into the low-80s in wins, which gets them into contention into the middle of the summer and maybe they make some noise around the trade deadline and play themselves into the mid- or high-80s.
The Angels are 13-3. I liked them as a wild card heading into the season, so let's say their true talent level is 88 wins. They've already banked at least four wins, so all of a sudden, they look like a 92-win team and that could possibly make them a division contender.
We also have to factor in the intangibles. They are likely overrated among casual fans, but it can't be discounted to start seeing a team feeling positive, confident and together. I think back to the 2015 Royals and how much better they were than many wanted to give them credit, and much of that was tied into how much you could feel in the clubhouse they were playing for each other and confident in each other.
Things will change as the longest major professional sports season continues to unfold. It's early. Way early. We shouldn't overreact. We can react, though. We've seen enough from the Mets,Pirates and Angels to believe they can parlay their starts into something more than what was expected heading into the season. Just because they can doesn't mean they will, but it's on the table. Oh, and I'm not ignoring the Diamondbacks and/or Red Sox. They were playoff teams with 90-plus wins last season.
|1||Astros||No, I'm not knocking them down after a 10-6 start. That's a full-season pace of 101 wins! The champs are still the champs, but at least now people will stop acting like they're gonna win 130 games.||--||73-47|
|2||Red Sox||It would appear 2016 Rick Porcello is back.||--||86-35|
|3||Angels||They didn't even get Ian Kinsler back until three games ago. What an amazing start.||2||61-60|
|4||Mets||They're 12-2 with Yoenis Cespedes hitting .190/.266/.362. That's a tad scary.||2||50-67|
|5||Diamondbacks||Here are the things statistically that definitely look unsustainable right now: David Peralta's triple slash line. That's it. That's all that stood out. Plus, Jake Lamb and Steven Souza have been hurt. This is a really good ballclub. They only drop because the Angels and Mets are going nuts and forced my hand.||2||66-55|
|6||Blue Jays||Winners of nine of their last 12, the Jays look like a playoff-caliber club once again.||1||54-65|
|7||Indians||The Indians are 8-6 despite an offense collectively hitting .200/.281/.326. That's remarkable.||1||68-51|
|8||Cubs||There's still plenty of time to turn it around, but this feels exactly like last year's team and that comes across as a negative. Wait, that's the one that won 92 games and went to the NLCS. Man, how things have changed when it comes to how this franchise is viewed, huh?||4||69-50|
|9||Yankees||Overall, they haven't looked very good, but it's only 14 games and they've still won half of them. The talent will take over soon enough.||--||75-44|
|10||Pirates||Corey Dickerson is hitting .358/.386/.585 after the Pirates got him for basically nothing during spring training.||3||61-60|
|11||Mariners||King Felix has been very good in three starts with one complete meltdown weighing down his stat line. The seven strikeouts and zero walks on Sunday were especially encouraging.||3||70-52|
|12||Twins||People have been complaining about Joe Mauer, his salary and his lack of power at first base for so long that he's become underappreciated. Not liking him is not Minnesota Nice, guys.||3||56-63|
|13||Dodgers||Going in the opposite direction of the teams mentioned in the intro, the Dodgers dug themselves a bit of a hole, but are likely still plenty talented to get out of it.||2||64-57|
|14||Rockies||DJ LeMahieu's career high for home runs in a season is 11. He only hit eight last year. He already has five this season. The most amazing thing is this surge hasn't been Coors Field driven. In fact, all five homers have come on the road.||2||64-55|
|15||Brewers||LOL-worthy stat line of the week: Josh Hader has 22 strikeouts in 9 2/3 innings. That's 20.5 K/9.||4||68-55|
|16||Cardinals||Oddity: They are 2-4 at home and 7-3 on the road. It's not quite as shocking as it looks, though, since they just swept the hapless Reds on the road in four games.||2||65-55|
|17||Phillies||OK, now *this* is what I was expecting to see from my preseason NL Sneaky Sleeper. Well done so far, Phils.||5||65-53|
|18||Nationals||Man, this is getting brutal. The Nats have dropped nine of their last 12 games and are already six games back of the Mets.||8||60-60|
|19||Braves||There aren't many baseball players more exciting to watch than Ozzie Albies.||7||67-51|
|20||Athletics||Contrary to my Phillies comments, not a great start from my AL Sneaky Sleeper. C'mon, guys!||3||72-49|
|21||Rangers||An already-poor team saddled with injury woes pretty early in the season. It makes me start thinking down the line if they would trade Adrian Beltre and if he'd accept one. He's never won a ring and in the last year of his deal. He's also been settled in Texas for eight years now, is extremely close with Elvis Andrus and changing teams isn't a small deal.||--||53-69|
|22||Padres||Third baseman Christian Villanueva hit .344 with four homers in 12 games last season after his debut. So far this year, he already has five homers in 13 games with a line of .293/.396/.756. They might have something here, so keep an eye out.||5||48-74|
|23||Giants||The tough task for this front office this first half is going to be evaluating how good the team could have been without the pitching staff decimated by injuries. You don't wanna break up what would have been a contender.||6||61-60|
|24||Orioles||Poor Dylan Bundy. He's got a 1.40 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP, 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 25 2/3 innings this season. He's 0-2 for all that great work. Then again, I shouldn't even look at that stat. It's so irrelevant.||4||36-84|
|25||Tigers||No one on the team has more than one home run and the Tigers are slugging .327. We're only 13 games in, but yikes.||1||50-71|
|26||Royals||After last year's debacle, Ian Kennedy is off a great start (1.00 ERA through three starts). He's signed through 2020, so I doubt the Royals could move him this summer, but you never know.||2||36-83|
|27||Rays||Through four starts, Chris Archer has a 7.84 ERA and 1.69 WHIP, which isn't too nice. By ERA he was roughly league average each of the last two years, too. Maybe he's just overrated at everything except striking guys out?||2||60-59|
|28||White Sox||The Sox have dropped eight of 10 and they've scored two or fewer runs in five of those 10 games.||3||44-76|
|29||Reds||Dreadful. It's not his fault, but I wonder how long with the Reds playing like until they fire Bryan Price as a cosmetic move.||3||52-68|
|30||Marlins||Hey, J.T. Realmuto will be back soon!||--||48-74|
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