MLB Survivors: Pans and Faves
If they say life imitates (fill in your favorite subject), then maybe it's fair to say that baseball imitates reality TV. Just like in Survivor, the Major League Baseball team that outwits, outplays, and outlasts the competition is the one that will be the last standing in October.
Baltimore, Kansas City, Florida, and St. Louis have won most of the early reward challenges while the Detroit Tigers have been relegated to Exile Island. Can manager Jim Leyland find the hidden immunity idol in the hope of playing it when his club is on the verge of being voted out?
I mean, who thought that the Orioles, Royals, Marlins, and Cardinals would be leading their divisions heading into the second weekend of the season? Or that the Tigers would have the worst record in the majors? Sure, it's early – very early – but the win-loss records of these clubs still qualify as a huge surprise.
Well, maybe if the Tribe and Tigers merged, they might be able to beat Ozzie although I'm not sure if the White Sox manager can repeat the magic of 2005.
Let's take a look at the standings:
EAST W L PCT Baltimore 6 3 .667 Boston 5 5 .500 NY Yankees 5 5 .500 Toronto 4 5 .444 Tampa Bay 4 5 .444
CENTRAL W L PCT Kansas City 6 3 .667 Chicago Sox 5 3 .625 Minnesota 4 5 .444 Cleveland 4 5 .444 Detroit 1 8 .111
WEST W L PCT LA Angels 6 4 .600 Oakland 6 4 .600 Texas 5 4 .556 Seattle 4 6 .400NATIONAL LEAGUE
EAST W L PCT Florida 6 3 .667 NY Mets 4 4 .500 Philadelphia 4 6 .400 Atlanta 3 6 .333 Washington 3 7 .300
CENTRAL W L PCT St. Louis 7 3 .700 Chicago Cubs 6 3 .667 Milwaukee 6 3 .667 Cincinnati 6 4 .600 Pittsburgh 3 6 .333 Houston 3 7 .300
WEST W L PCT Arizona 7 2 .778 San Diego 5 5 .500 LA Dodgers 4 5 .444 Colorado 4 5 .444 San Francisco 4 6 .400
New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox fans may not like it but an outsider could make an argument that it's good for baseball when Tampa Bay and Toronto beat these two powerhouses on the same day, especially early in the season when every team still has high hopes. The Rays and Blue Jays appear to be playing even better than their win-loss totals indicate. Both teams have positive run differentials despite losing records.
Kansas City is tied for the best record in the American League despite the fact that the team has scored the third-fewest number of runs. It follows that the Royals are obviously getting the job done on the run prevention side of the equation. KC has allowed only 24 runs, nine fewer than the next-best team. The team leads the league in ERA, BAA, OPS, WHIP, and SV. What makes everything all the more remarkable is the fact that the Royals have beaten the Tigers and Yankees five out of six with two shutouts. Yes, the same two clubs that feature perhaps the most power-packed lineups in all of baseball – or so we thought just two weeks ago.
Zack Greinke (2-0, 0.60), Brian Bannister (2-0, 1.50), and the bullpen have been outstanding. Five relievers have yet to give up a run covering 15 1/3 innings. Including Hideo Nomo's debut on Thursday, here is how the entire bullpen has performed thus far:
IP H ER HR BB SO ERA W-L SV 25 15 4 4 7 29 1.44 1-0 5
Remarkably, Kansas City has only made one error in nine games and that miscue was by a pitcher (Ron Mahay). The team's defense has converted about 72% of balls in play into outs, good for second in the AL.
Like Kansas City, Oakland has been pitching its way to a fast start, allowing just 33 runs in 10 games. With Rich Harden on the DL, it will be interesting to see if the A's have enough depth in the starting rotation to keep up the pace. While Dana Eveland has put together superb back-to-back outings, it remains to be seen whether the southpaw can stay healthy and give his club 180 quality innings this season.
Over in the National League, Florida is 6-3 even though the competition has outscored the Marlins by nine runs. Atlanta, on the other hand, is 3-6 with a positive run differential. Look for their fortunes to reverse themselves over time. Washington has been a hot and cold team, winning its first three and losing its last seven.
Many pundits thought St. Louis had one of the worst starting rotations in baseball, yet the Cardinals have only given up 30 runs in 10 games. Mind you, this is without Chris Carpenter, who is rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year and is not expected back until the second half at the earliest. In the meantime, the Chicago Cubs head into a weekend series in Philadelphia with the second- longest winning streak in baseball.
Arizona has arguably been the best team thus far, both in terms of its 7-2 win-loss record and its 54-27 runs scored and runs allowed mark. The Diamondbacks, in fact, lead the NL in scoring and preventing runs, perhaps an early indicator of the club's prowess. Arizona will host the Colorado Rockies in a three-game set this weekend that pits the top two teams from the West last year. Tonight's matchup involves aces Jeff Francis and Brandon Webb battling one another.
On one hand, the season is less than two weeks old (well, at least for everyone other than Boston or Oakland) so it would be silly to place too much emphasis on the early returns. On the other hand, the standings a year ago ended up telling a pretty good story for almost every team not named the Phillies or Cubs.
Bottom line: Don't get overly confident or despondent based on how your team has performed in April. But, at the same time, let's not be totally dismissive of what has taken place thus far.
OK, it's time to tally up the votes...