1 early surprise from all 30 teams

April 19th, 2022

We really should not be surprised by too much of anything for the first week-plus of the season. After all, it’s an extremely small sample size: During the regular season, you’re unlikely to even notice a 10-day span. But this is the first 10-day span, which makes it feel more important and lasting than it actually is. Which makes it very fun to play around with.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at each team’s biggest surprise over the first 10 games or so. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s bad, but surely, no one saw it coming.


Blue Jays: Alek Manoah has taken it up a notch
The 24-year-old right-hander has already earned a reputation as the steadying influence of this rotation, something that’s particularly needed now that Hyun Jin Ryu is hurt. But so far, in his two starts, he has looked like an ace himself, striking out 13 in 12 innings, with the Blue Jays winning both his starts. (That’s another thing that’s becoming a habit.) He still walks too many guys, but man, if this is your third or fourth starter, look out.

Orioles: A local kid is giving them reason to cheer
It was pretty amusing, you have to admit, seeing how truly bonkers Orioles pitching was driving Yankees fans over the weekend. (Yankees fans are particularly overwrought this year: It’s as if missing the World Series for 13 straight years has turned them into Mets fans.) One of the primary shutdown starters was Maryland kid Bruce Zimmermann, who has thrown nine scoreless innings so far, with 10 strikeouts. And he’s soaking up every minute of it:

Rays: What in the world has gotten into Ji-Man Choi?
Outside of Wander Franco and Manny Margot, the Rays' offense has been pretty sleepy so far. But goodness, look at the Ji-Man! He’s putting up Bonds-ian numbers so far: .455/.613/.864. Actually, Bonds never put together a season like that. (Though he sure had more than a few weeks like that.) He hasn’t done the splits at first base yet, though.

Red Sox: Michael Wacha looks like 2013 Michael Wacha
It has been a long, long time since Michael Wacha was a budding superstar: The Red Sox certainly remember, because they had to face that Wacha in that 2013 World Series. Wacha bounced around from the Mets to the Rays after leaving St. Louis, with no success, but he has been terrific for the Red Sox so far, striking out nine and giving up just three hits in two starts. He’s walking too many guys, but so far, he sure looks like he was worth taking a flyer on.

Yankees: The big bats are struggling
Seriously, though, there’s some reason for Yankees fans to be freaking out. The offense was never going to be that 1,000-run juggernaut people were predicting a few years ago, but how can this collection of guys be hitting .229? With a lower slugging percentage than the Pirates? There are many hitters struggling, but Joey Gallo seems to stand out: He is 4-for-29 on the year, and all four hits are singles. How does that even happen?


Guardians: Steven Kwan, obviously
He slowed down a little over the weekend, but he was the story of the first week of the season and sure looks like a potential solution to at least part of their outfield issue. Another fun surprise, a bit obscured by Kwan: Owen Miller, who is leading the Majors in doubles with seven. That’s one fewer than he had last year, in 60 games.

Royals: Bobby Witt Jr. isn’t hitting
Witt’s big Opening Day game-winning hit might have made you think he was taking the league by storm, if that’s the last time you were paying attention to the Royals. But it has been pretty rough sledding since then: He’s only 5-for-32 on the year, with no homers. He’ll get there. But it’s not happening immediately, and many thought it would.

Tigers: The kids are ready
Just last week, we were all worried about Spencer Torkelson. He has been on an absolute tear since then, and it’s not just him. Perhaps most encouraging has been the young pitching in the rotation. Tarik Skubal has looked solid so far, but most exciting, Matt Manning -- who the Tigers never could get going last year -- has put together two encouraging outings so far. Even better: He has yet to walk a single batter.

Twins: Carlos Correa can’t get the engine started
Much of the fascination with Correa’s contract with the Twins revolved around the idea that he could opt out after one season -- if he had the monster MVP season everyone was expecting. Well, so far, Correa is hitting like a pitcher. His slash line is .133/.212/.300. Yikes. Has someone thought about turning him off and then back on again?

White Sox: Is Liam Hendriks all right?
Perhaps the most dominant reliever in baseball the last two years is off to a highly inauspicious start, giving up an average of more than two hits an inning in his first five appearances. He still has four saves, but it certainly has not been pretty.


Angels: The rotation looks … passable?
Let’s not get carried away: Maddux/Smoltz/Glavine this isn’t. But Noah Syndergaard has been all the Angels could have dreamed of, and Michael Lorenzen looked more than capable in his one start. Sure, Shohei Ohtani has been hit a little harder than you might have liked so far, but certainly he’s not someone you worry about. That’s three solid starters right there, with some hope for José Suarez as well. That’s not great. But with that offense --- and Mike Trout back as Mike Trout -- you don’t need great. You just need passable. This could be passable.

Astros: The offense is upside down.
Your Astros hitting like All-Stars? Jeremy Peña, Jose Siri, Chaz McCormick. Your Astros struggling at the plate? Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuve, Yuli Gurriel. It’s a very strange sport.

Athletics: Apparently there are still some solid starting pitchers left to trade.
Frankie Montas was thought to be the last man standing, but Paul Blackburn and Daulton Jefferies, both under 28 years old, have given up just four earned runs in 19 1/3 innings so far. The A’s have been pretty feisty.

Mariners: The phenoms haven’t hit their strides
We all spent most of last year waiting for Jarred Kelenic to get it going, and by the end of the year, he finally did. Looks like 2022 is going to be the same, not just for Kelenic, but for the even more highly regarded phenom Julio Rodríguez. They’re a combined 9-for-61 so far, with three extra base hits and 27 strikeouts. Young players are young players, obviously, but it’s fair to say the Mariners, who are trying to end a certain drought here, would like to get that in gear, and fast.

Rangers: Marcus Semien hasn’t shown up yet
Corey Seager has been good, and the Rangers have been bad, which is pretty much what we all expected. But how in the world is Semien, the Rangers’ other big acquisition, 5-for-39 so far?


Braves: The postseason pitching stars are faltering
Some ugly numbers here. Max Fried: 5.73 ERA. Charlie Morton: 6.10. Ian Anderson: 6.48. Heck, even Kenley Jansen, whose postseason numbers are with a different team entirely, is at 6.75. The offense has been good, even before Ronald Acuña Jr. comes back. But the pitchers need to get it going.

Marlins: The young bats are percolating

For all talk of the Marlins bringing in veteran bats to support their young pitching, those veterans bats (Jorge Soler, Avisaíl García, Jacob Stallings) are not doing much. But Jesús Sánchez is a revelation so far, and Jazz Chisholm has MVP vibes about him. The Marlins traditionally surge on the backs of young players. That is starting to happen.

Mets: The other starters have been great
Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom have combined for 11 innings this year, out of a total of 88. Scherzer, the only one who has pitched, has a 3.27 ERA: Not bad! But the Mets themselves have the third-best ERA in baseball, at 2.35, with a top three of Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Tylor Megill that has given up two runs in 33 innings. They’re all pitching like deGrom!

Nationals: Their best pitcher is a throwback.
Juan Soto has been great, Josh Bell has been a nice rebound … and just about everything else for Washington is looking rough. But how about Sean Doolittle? He has faced 14 batters so far … and gotten every single one of them out.

Phillies: The 1-2 punch atop the rotation is struggling
Even if you want to blame the defense for some of it -- and that’s probably being too charitable -- the Phillies’ vaunted rotation toppers of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler are off to a disastrous start. Wheeler has taken losses in both of his starts. Most worryingly, he’s walking guys at a rate we haven’t seen since his early days in New York.


Brewers: The Big Three is a Big One so far
Brandon Woodruff looked better in a start against St. Louis on Thursday, but he’s still at a 7.27 ERA. And Freddy Peralta has an 11.57 ERA in his two starts. While you’re here, is Devin Williams all right? He has walked six batters and given up five hits in just three innings. The Brewers’ pitching is their signature attribute: They need it not just to be better, but in fact great. (Corbin Burnes has been good, at least.)

Cardinals: Pujols is suddenly 15 years younger
OK, so let’s not get carried away: The Cardinals are smartly deploying Pujols judiciously, like the Dodgers did. But, uh, he is putting up a .333/.412/.733 line right now, and even though that’s only in 17 plate appearances, that is a frighteningly similar line to what he put up during his three MVP seasons in 2005, '07 and '08. And his homer against the Brewers on Sunday was vintage Pujols in every possible way.

Cubs: Jason Heyward looks oddly rejuvenated
Can you believe Jason Heyward is still only 32 years old? He seems like 40, right? Heyward has had some rough offensive seasons lately, but he’s looking like the ideal version of himself right now. He’s patient at the plate -- he has a .400 OBP -- and playing a surprisingly effective center field. (Which allows the joy that is Seiya Suzuki to play right field.) The power hasn’t returned, but this is the guy the Cubs thought they were getting all those years ago.

Pirates: The bullpen is incredible
The Pirates have a winning record despite being outscored and getting next-to-nothing from their starting rotation. The reason is a lockdown bullpen: Wil Crowe, Heath Hembree, David Bednar, and Anthony Banda have thrown 22 2/3 innings and given up just two runs.

Reds: Joey Votto has not been himself
It’s impossible not to love Joey Votto on social media, and, for that matter, when he’s mic’d up during a nationally televised game. But for what it’s worth, the offense has evaporated. He’s 4-for-34 on the year with no homers, with 15 strikeouts. He only has four walks! We all hope this doesn’t make him stop social media, but it’d be nice to get him back going for a team that is in a dark place right now.


D-backs: Bumgarner’s back!
The D-backs are being careful with Madison Bumgarner in the early going for good reason, but he has been, by far, their best player so far. If the D-backs are looking for a deadline deal with him, they’re well on the way to getting a lot back in return.

Dodgers: Andrew Heaney is an ace now, because of course he is
Yeah, that’s what the Dodgers needed: A guy in his 30s that no other organization could ever quite unlock suddenly becoming a superstar. Heaney’s numbers are eye-popping so far: 10 1/3 innings, 16 strikeouts, four hits, zero earned runs.

Giants: Everybody is so much better than you’d think they’d be, as always.
This shouldn’t be surprising, but still it is. Check out these guys who are all playing like All-Stars for a team that is 7-2: Logan Webb, Alex Wood, Tyler Rogers, Dominic Leone, Brandon Belt, Joey Bart and Joc Pederson. The Giants are nuts.

Padres: Eric Hosmer, hilariously, is a monster again.
We obviously all had the “Eric Hosmer will think he’s traded, like, four times during the offseason and then will start the season with a .378/.410/.514 line” storyline pegged, didn’t we?

Rockies: Everything’s going exactly the Rockies' way.
There has been a lot of mocking of the Rockies, for good reason, but just about every decision they’ve made so far -- signing Kris Bryant, extending Ryan McMahon, securing C.J. Cron, keeping their rotation together -- looks great so far. They’re playing terrific … and are still in third place, of course.