We're ten days into the 2021 Major League Baseball Regular season. While some of the results we've seen have been predictable, such as the Los Angeles Dodgers in first-place and looking like the best team in baseball once again, there have also been a few surprises.
Here's a look and a list of the things we did not expect, so far:
(1) The Cincinnati Reds have the best record in baseball – The Reds have bolted out to a 6-2 start. Part of that success can be attributed to playing three games versus the struggling Pittsburgh Pirates, but Cincinnati has been slugging the ball with reckless abandon whoever they play. The Reds own the most potent offense in baseball at the moment and are scoring an average of 8.6 runs per game. Those figures won't continue, of course, so let Cincinnati enjoy it while they can.
(2) Credit the Philadelphia Phillies with a 5-3 start – The Phillies were forecasted to be an improved team, but the class of the NL East was expected to be (in no particular order) – Atlanta, NY Mets, and Washington. Meanwhile, Philadelphia had their own ideas about making an early move into first place, by taking the opening three games from the Braves, then winning 2 of 3 against the hyped-up Mets. If the Phillies play their division rivals with equal toughness the rest of the season, the NL East will be a wide open race, with Philadelphia very much in the hunt.
(3) Washington Nationals in last place at 1-4 – What's wrong with the Washington Nationals? The 2019 World Series champs are off to a terrible start. They had no control over the first three games being postponed due to COVID protocols. However, the Nationals lost three straight against the Braves and have been shut out in 2 of their 5 games.
(4) There's no dominant breakout team in the American League – The NY Yankees, Houston Astros, and Chicago White Sox were among the trio of teams expected to contend for the top spots in each division. But currently, the Yanks are in last place and the White Sox are at .500. Only the Astros have lived up to their billing, tied with the LA Angels with 6-3 records in first place in the AL West. Yes, it's early. But judging by so many teams playing close to the .500 mark, just about everyone looks to still be in contention. Teams might not win championships in April, but a terible start usually means a long season and missing the playoffs, speaking of which...
(5) The Oakland A's have been terrible – Oakland always seems to be that scrappy team that gets little attention but is there in the fall at playoff time. But this year the A's got off to a horrible 3-7 start. It didn't help their cause losing the first five games, each by 4 runs or more. However, Oakland stopped the bleeding for now and won two straight. Don't count the A's out so early, but the margins of error narrow when teams go on repeated losing streaks and look so inept in defeat.
In team and player stats categories, there have also been a few surprises:
(6) Brewers, Marlins, Athletics at the bottom of every offensive category – Team batting, on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage are led by the predictiable contending teams including the Dodgers, Astros, and White Sox. Also, credit the Reds as the only team in the majors batting at such a high level (.312 as a team through eight games!). Meanwhile, the woefully weak Brewers, Marlins, and A's are all struggling at the plate around the .200 mark.
(7) The Padres pitching is tops – San Diego was forecasted as one of the NL's top teams. Unfortunately, they play in the same division as the Dodgers, who are stacked with great pitching. But so far it's been the Padres who are hurling fire from the mound. With a team ERA of just 1.83, San Diego pitching leads the majors. Their ranking was boosted earlier this week when Joe Musgrove became the first Padres' pitcher in the team's five-decade history to toss a no-hitter.
(8) Two Minnesota Twins lead the majors in batting, Byron Buxton and Nelson Cruz – What a pair of Twins! Buxton and Cruz are killing it at the plate. Both are hitting well above .400. Both have 4 home runs each in just 24 at-bats. And both also have 10+ hits. That's a potent offense! Nonetheless...
(9) Right now, Tyler Naquin is the league MVP – The Cincinnati left-fielder is the hottest and most productive hitter in the major leagues at the moment. He's batting .333 and also leads all hitters with 5 homers and 14 RBIs.
(10) Finally, limited attendance at most ballparks seems to be working – Aside from the Texas Rangers which are allowing full capacity (but hey, who wants to watch the awful Rangers!) teams are limiting the number of live spectators at ballparks. The compromise appears to be working. There's enough fans to make noise and create excitement, without much risk to attendees. For those lucky enough to get tickets to games, it must be nice with all that extra space to spread out. And, there's no lines at the beer stand. Sign me up! I'll even watch the Rangers play the A's!