We are now just about 20% done with the 2018 baseball season. This is both extremely early or starting to see real trends develop in this baseball season.
Yes – we know there are going to be a lot of strikeouts and home runs that go with those uppercut swings. We know that that between Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, and of course Shohei Ohtani the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are making more noise than they have in some time. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros are all about playing as expected if not better and seem to be the top three teams easily in the American League.
The National League though has been throwing some curveballs. The Nationals who were supposed to win the NL East before the season started and stumbled some but now sit at 18-17 and 2 games out of the top. That top spot is Atlanta – energized by young talent in the rotation as well as on the field in Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. The Mets have been bitten by injury and now seem on their way to the proverbial cellar which will actually be inhabited by the Marlins – who are about as bad as expected.
The NL Central is tight like always, with the Pirates putting their hat into the mix for the traditional three-team race. The Cardinals, Brewers, and Cubs are all in it as well, with the only the Reds failing to hang around and making their own case to be worse than the Marlins.
Then we come to the National League West. I despise the Dodgers, and I still picked them to win the division. I was however worried though that while the Astros went out and got even better by signing Gerrit Cole (who is having a career year), the Dodgers kind of sat back. They ditched some of the extra starters like Brandon McCarthy they had and didn’t sign Jake Arrieta after losing Yu Darvish.
Then – before the season started – they lost Justin Turner for a while. He isn’t back yet. Rich Hill predictably went to the DL soon. Clayton Kershaw and Alex Wood have a combined record of 1-7. Kenley Janssen sparked a lot of questions early with a loss of velocity and two blown saves early but has pitched better of late.
Then down went Shortstop Corey Seager for the season. Then Kershaw went to the doctor’s office. Uh-oh.
Luckily for the Dodgers, it appears his injury is just biceps tendinitis and he shouldn’t miss much time. Heralded rookie Walker Buehler provided a big boost this week as he started a combined no-hitter for the Dodgers, but they still lost 2 of 3 to the Padres in Mexico.
Their starters actually have the 3rd best ERA in the National League, but the bullpen is down at 11th and IP-wise is the 5th most used bullpen in the NL, putting their overall ERA at 9th. Respectable, but not what was expected of this team that has upgraded challengers in the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. The Giants are also playing a little bit better than some expected after losing Madison Bumgarner to start the season – though with Johnny Cueto joining him they may start losing ground as well.
So the Dodgers trudge along. They are still 4th in the NL in Runs, Hits, and Total Bases. Somehow their team batting average of .243 is 4th in the NL, but they are lacking so far in home runs, just clocking in at 30 team home runs while Bryce Harper has 12 by himself for that Nationals.
Again – it is early. Yet the Diamondbacks have built an 8 game lead while losing co-ace Robbie Ray the last couple weeks, and he will be back in the rotation soon. They used to do this religiously – lag the first half before a strong second – and could easily do so again. Dave Roberts has given his players trust in him and how he uses them to get to the playoffs. Yet after being one win away from a Championship last year – anything short will be a major disappointment for this team.
It’s not too late, but as Yogi Berra once famously said(maybe) – “It’s getting late early.”