As we’re rolling into August, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on where we stand now, compared with what we thought this season was going to look like before it started. So, here are what I consider to be the biggest surprises and biggest disappointments in each league this season:
In the American League, the biggest surprise has to be the White Sox. Who expected Adam Dunn and Alex Rios to turn things around the way they have? Who would have thought that this pitching staff would have a Cy Young candidate in Sale, and two more in the starting rotation with ERA’s at or below 3.00? The Orioles and A’s have certainly been surprises, but before this season started, I pegged the White Sox as the worst team in the AL! I picked them to finish in last place, and to lose more than 90 games. As it stands today, they have a half-game lead over the Tigers for first place, and are on pace to win almost 90 games.
In the National League, I’m going to go with the Pirates. I had the Nationals in playoff contention before the season started – I just didn’t know they’d be contending for the best record in the league. I had the Dodgers right around .500, but even then I thought that if the back end of their starting rotation performed better than I expected, they might be in playoff contention (and Capuano, Harang & Lilly have definitely done better than I expected). The Pirates, however, I didn’t have much hope for. I certainly didn’t expect Erik Bedard to work out! I didn’t see McCutcheon turning in an MVP season. I had them losing 90 games, too – and they’re on pace to win 93!
In the American League, I guess the biggest disappointment would have to be the Red Sox. I picked them 2nd in the AL East, because I thought they would turn things around from last year. I fully expected their starting rotation to return to form – it didn’t. I thought their bullpen would be excellent – it isn’t. I thought Valentine might be the change they needed at the helm – he isn’t. I thought they’d win over 90 games, and be in playoff contention – they’ll be lucky to finish above .500. I’m disappointed the Royals didn’t improve like I thought they might, but that was as much a shot in the dark as anything. The Red Sox’s roster looks like it’s a playoff contender – but, they’ve seriously under-performed this year.
In the National League, the clear choice has to be the Phillies. I thought they would run away with their division! I thought they had the best pitching staff in the game. And, frankly, they might still. But, their offense has been putrid. Granted, injuries have had significant impacts on this team, but I don’t think anyone would have thought it would be enough for them to be in dead last place, on pace to lose almost 90 games. Interestingly, the second biggest disappointment comes from the same division – the Marlins, who essentially turned those big offseason moves and new stadium into a below-.500 team. I nearly had the NL East completely upside down from the way it looks like it’s going to finish – I had Phillies, Marlins, Nats, Braves, Mets, in that order. Just goes to show that you never know what can happen over the course of an MLB season.