It's easy to get caught up in the moment -- especially with the excitement of getting a full season this year after the dreck that was 2020 -- but I still had to remind myself just how much season there is while glancing at the standings. We still haven't seen any team even play 20 games. A team like the Royals might win nine out of 14 games from fourth place in the middle of the summer and we'd barely bat an eye, but storm out of the gate at 9-5 and all of a sudden it's, "hey, maybe the Royals are awesome!"
Settle down, we need to tell ourselves.
While it's true I picked the Royals as an "over" this year (to win more than 72 games), which means I'm definitely excited about the start, I'm merely using them as a vehicle here to illustrate just how small a sample of baseball we've seen this year while trying to keep the proper perspective. That is because in looking at the standings right now, compared to how the general public viewed the teams heading into the year, it looks pretty topsy-turvy in some cases. Look at some of these surprises, aside from the so-far-very-fun Royals.
Red Sox - The most popular spot in predictions for the Red Sox was fourth in the AL East, ahead of only the likely-dreadful Orioles. The Red Sox were 10-4 before dropping a doubleheader on Sunday and had looked every bit the part of contender.
Twins - Since a 5-2 start, the Twins have lost six of seven and nearly blew the one win in that stretch. The two-time defending AL Central champs are now shut down with COVID issues.
Mariners - If you looked pretty much anywhere on the internet prior to the season for predictions, you'd find the Mariners slotted either fourth or fifth in the AL West. And yet, they are the second AL team to 10 wins and sitting in first place.
Braves - Arguably the biggest challenger to the Dodgers for NL supremacy heading into the season, the Braves spent more time in last place than any other spot. After starting with four straight losses, it looked like they had their mojo back with a four-game winning streak, but they've been under .500 since then.
Rockies - Just kidding. We knew they'd be awful.
Yankees - How about this one? The worst record in the American League belongs to the Yankees, who were the odds-on favorites to win the AL pennant heading into the season. The Rays totally own them and they just look broken right now. Something to keep in mind: Last year, the Yankees at one point lost 15 of 20 and then immediately thereafter ripped off a 10-game winning streak. Maybe that's right around the corner? It's pretty hard to believe in watching them play right now, but it's possible.
Former Marlins president David Samson broke down the Yankees' struggles on the latest Nothing Personal with David Samson. Listen below:
Onto the rankings. Remember, we're reacting while trying not to overreact. You'll see some big jumps and falls, but, no, I'm still not willing to put the Marlins over Yankees or Royals over White Sox. We're barely getting started on this beautiful marathon. To illustrate that point, take note that if we lopped off the Dodgers and Rockies, the other 28 teams are only separated by 4 1/2 games. It could all turn on its head in a week.
|Surely they would've loved to complete the sweep and demoralize the Padres, but they won the series and have a 3 1/2 game lead already. All is fine.||--||21-17|
|They lost two of three to the obvious best team in baseball, but they weren't really all that far off from sweeping them. Even with losing the series, they have to come away from it with confidence that they can put a scare into the Dodgers.||--||22-17|
|Carlos Carrasco is on the injured list while Noah Syndergaard continues his rehab from Tommy John surgery. Meanwhile, Jacob deGrom is Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman has a 0.90 ERA and Taijuan Walker has looked very good. The foundation for a scary rotation by late summer is here.||11||18-14|
|Is it just me or is Xander Bogaerts pretty underrated, nationally? It feels like he should get more run.||4||24-16|
|Popular breakout candidate Jared Walsh is hitting .341/.426/.707 so far. That'll play.||1||16-21|
|We've been seeing slow starts and then ridiculously hot stretches from the A's for the better part of two decades, but this is extreme even for them. They started 1-7 and have now won eight in a row.||13||24-16|
|Joey Votto is taking a much more aggressive approach this year and looking to punish the baseball. He started slow, but in his last six games he's hitting .434 with three doubles and three homers in 25 plate appearances. It's definitely something to watch.||6||17-19|
|They really had things rolling in the important games, taking series from the Cubs, Cardinals and then the Cubs again before dropping two of three at home to the Pirates. Baseball is funny! Also, they are banged up offensively.||4||20-19|
|The White Sox haven't been above .500 all season. They've been exactly .500 at 1-1, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6 and now 8-8. They'll set out to change that bright and early Monday morning.||7||23-14|
|For all the surprises, this is just about exactly what I thought. Bad offense, excellent pitching and hovering just above .500. Oh and keep an eye on Shane Bieber. That's now 48 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings.||8||21-15|
|They haven't lost a series. They just went 5-2 in a week against the Angels and Blue Jays. Pretty impressive start and it even looks like Mike Matheny is having fun. Who knew that was possible?||9||17-21|
|It's only 15 games, but the Giants' rotation has been excellent so far. Starters have pitched to a 2.39 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.||3||23-15|
|They are 15 games in and sit with a 4.14 bullpen ERA. Now they could stand for the offense to be a bit more consistent.||7||21-18|
|The upcoming stretch will tell us a lot about this team and it's possible staying power. They get the Dodgers at home before heading to Boston and then Houston (where the Astros are likely to be at full strength again) before returning home to face the Angels.||7||19-20|
|From 6-1 while owning the ever-living hell out of the A's to 7-8 with team-wide COVID issues. Poor Dusty Baker has probably aged a decade so far this year.||12||22-17|
|They better hope the Ronald Acuña injury isn't serious. He's been doing some heavy lifting in propping up their offensive numbers.||9||18-20|
|Something that hasn't gone wrong is Byron Buxton. He's still holding that ridiculous 1.094 slugging percentage through nine games.||12||12-24|
|They'll surely be getting George Springer soon and he'll provide a boost. Regardless, it looks like the Vladimir Guerrero Jr. thing is happening. He's slashing .389/.507/.667 so far and is straight up murdering the baseball.||8||20-17|
|Small-sample fluke? For whatever reason, the Rays are 5-1 against the Yankees and 3-7 against everyone else. Unfortunately for the Rays, they don't play the Yankees again until May 11. They'll have to beat someone else if they want to rise here.||10||21-19|
|Aaron Hicks is hitting .160, Giancarlo Stanton is hitting .176, Gio Ushela has a .291 on-base percentage, Gleyber Torres is hitting .196 with a .235 slugging and even D.J. LeMahieu and Aaron Judge are capable of better. It's been dreadful to watch.||9||21-17|
|Pretty miserable start to the season with the COVID shutdown, starting with key players on the injured list and the tough schedule. They just went 4-3 last week, though, so there's some normalizing happening.||3||15-19|
|Yadier Molina had four homers in 42 games last season. From April 7-17 this season, Molina homered four times in 31 at-bats.||5||23-16|
|The Marlins suffered some pretty bad "luck" en route to a 1-6 start. They've gone 6-2 since. I'm prepared for a decent jump next week if this holds.||6||17-21|
|The offensive explosion Saturday was a reminder of the potential firepower the Cubs have on any given night. The game Sunday was a reminder that they likely aren't that good a team anymore.||2||18-19|
|John Means had a tough 2020 season after his 2019 All-Star breakout. So far this year? How's a 1.52 ERA through four starts sound?||--||16-22|
|Dane Dunning, who came over via the Lance Lynn trade, now has a 0.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 16 strikeouts in 15 innings.||--||18-22|
|You know, other than getting obliterated in Cincinnati, the Pirates have been surprisingly adequate. If we eliminated that Reds series, the Pirates have gone 7-6 with a +6 run differential. Still, those games against the Reds counted and there isn't really much room to move them up with the Rangers taking a series from the Rays and the Orioles beating the Rangers in a series head-to-head.||1||16-22|
|That series in Houston was fun! And then it was back to reality.||2||13-25|
|In his last 10 games, Eduardo Escobar is 13 for 37 with six homers and 11 RBI.||6||17-22|
|Previously, the longest homer-less streak of Trevor Story's career was 17 games. Going back to last season, he's currently up to 27 games now without a home run.||3||15-24|