We are now about one-third into the MLB season, with interleague play set to begin this weekend.
Two players are still hitting .400 (Josh Hamilton and David Wright), the game’s most anticipated prospect in years in Bryce Harper is getting off to a fine start, and Albert Pujols is once again showing serious signs of decline.
The biggest surprise, however, has been the Baltimore Orioles staying near the top of the American League East standings despite having to fend off the usual three-headed monster of New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay.
Which of these trends will last well into the summer and which ones will go down as just a blip on the radar?
The Nats pitching is phenomenal and on its own would've probably been enough to put them in discussion for a playoff spot.
All their lineup needed was a small jolt to push them over the hump and they've gotten it in Bryce Harper.
Washington's new-found balanced attack means those postseason dreams are much more of a reality.
This team is nothing short of dreadful right now and we don't see how they can ever catch the Texas Rangers.
Albert Pujols is very slowly starting to pick it up, but their problems run much deeper than that with a bullpen that has struggled mightily.
Even worse, the hitting coach was already given the boot and there are rumblings of player-management disagreements.
That second wild card is also probably out of reach considering the AL East is so loaded.
There hasn't been a triple crown winner (league leader in AVG, HR, RBI) since Carl Yaztrzemski in 1967.
We've been down this road before with the likes of Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp, but Josh Hamilton is on a different level.
No, Hamilton is not going to hit .400, but the guys right behind him (Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, etc.) aren't going to hit as well as they have, either.
As for the home run and RBI titles, those shouldn't be a problem at all.
Cleveland can thank the schedule makers and a bit of luck for their first-place standing.
The Indians are an average hitting and very poor pitching team. Also, that small division lead on the heavily-favoured Detroit Tigers will evaporate as soon the Tigers' back end of the rotation and the bullpen figure things out, which they will.
It's been a nice, under-the-radar story so far, but Cleveland's run at the top won't last much longer.
Basically, Texas and St. Louis are the two most balanced teams in the majors.
Each team ranks either first or second in MLB in every major hitting category.
Add in their solid pitching, especially the Rangers' staff, and you've got yourself a good formula for World Series déjà vu.
Unlike previous years in which they started off hot and then cooled down significantly to finish in last place, these O's are not a fluke.
Baltimore strikes a very good balance between hitting (fifth in runs scored and slugging percentage) and pitching (top 10 in ERA, WHIP, and batting average against).
Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Matt Weiters lead one of the AL's best lineups, while a deep rotation and the league's best closer (Jim Johnson) have been pleasant surprises.
Will they win the division? Probably not. Do they have a solid shot at surprising everyone with a wild card berth? Absolutely.
Atlanta always seems to be the forgotten team.
Sure, their pitchers have had a few bumps so far, but their lineup has put them in the thick of things.
It's only a matter of time before that deep and talented staff gets back into the groove of things and the Braves start challenging for the NL East crown.
David Wright is back to his old self, which is a big reason why the Mets are even somewhat relevant right now, but to suggest he can keep this up would be ridiculous.
Wright's batting average on balls in play is an other-worldly .460. THAT has zero chance of lasting. (BABIP basically measures luck, a.k.a 'hitting it where they ain't.')
He has a great shot at winning the NL batting title, but he's not going to hit .400.
Ethier's batting average and on-base percentage are well in line with his usual stats, but his power numbers are indicative of a guy looking for a big payout.
Remember how former Dodger Adrian Beltre had an all-time great season right before his huge deal with the Seattle Mariners?
This looks awfully similar.
Miami has picked things up over the last few weeks after opening the season poorly.
And their pitchers are as good as everyone expected them to be, but the problem is that enormous new ballpark.
Their lineup can't get much done at home as long as that heavy, humid South Florida air keeps eating up fly balls and the deep outfield walls make it nearly impossible for much to leave the park anyway.
It also doesn't help that the Marlins' one and two hitters both have an OPS under .700.
The Yankees have a lineup that terrifies opposing teams, a good bullpen, but an increasingly awful starting staff.
What else is new?
This formula has worked for New York for years and years. It probably won't get them far in the playoffs, but they'll still get to the postseason.
There's no way a lineup that great doesn't win at least 90 games.
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