Some early season observations that could hold true all year

If the Mets continue to get solid pitching from the likes of Matt Harvey, among others, the team will prove to be a formidable opponent all season.
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By Scott Allen

Just about every article on every site you’ll read will regurgitate the title of this article in one way or another. If you get sick of it, worry not, for its expiration date will be coming up here in less than a month. But at any rate, I want to take a look at some hard truths we’re facing as progress is made through the best season of all, baseball season.

Yeah, it’s early but … The Padres aren’t going away – San Diego’s offseason makeover was met with a heavy mixture of excitement and doubt, and with good reason. Matt Kemp’s balky hip made him a shell of the former MVP candidate he once was, Wil Myers hadn’t done anything on the baseball field in over a year due to a wrist injury, Derek Norris was a part-time catcher and Justin Upton was only under control for one more year. This came in conjunction with the fact that all these players calling card was their signature power, something which you won’t see play up in San Diego. The Padres also signed an aging James Shields to lead a rotation which didn’t need any help, and traded for Craig Kimbrel to boost a bullpen which really needed no boost. Was it smart?

Here we are, 20 games into the season and the San Diego Padres are showing they can play with anyone in baseball, most notably the dangerously expensive Dodgers and defending World Champion Giants.

Matt Kemp is hitting .350 with plenty of pop, Justin Upton is at .290 with five homeruns already, Wil Myers has six doubles, three home runs and two stolen bases, and Derek Norris is hitting .324 with 10 extra base hits in only 20 games. But it’s the others that make the Padres potentially the most dangerous team in baseball.

Yangervis Solarte has taken to the super-utility spot (as well as batting second) and has run with it by posting a .400 OBP and the ability to spray liners to all fields. Will Middlebrooks came from Boston with bust status and has three doubles and three homeruns thus far. The Amarista-Barmes timeshare at shortstop has yielded plus defense and a combined OBP near .400. The black hole at first base has been secured by a surprisingly returned-to-form Yonder Alonso, who the Padres insisted was a big part of the offense despite not coming with an extensive major league track record of success. He’s hitting .354/.442/.462 to start the season.

When you combine that offensive firepower with a rotation that includes James Shields, Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy, the result should be a lot of wins. Perhaps the most surprising of developments thus far has come in the form of Brandon Morrow. He’s always had “front-of-the-rotation” stuff, but could never put it together due to inconsistency and health. Now that he’s pitching at Petco, under the watchful eye of pitching guru Bud Black, we’ve seen Morrow transform into a potential mid-rotation starter in the early going. And if he falters, they still have Odrisamer Despaigne and his crooked hat/3.03 career ERA waiting to be inserted into the rotation.

Yeah, it’s early but …The Angels can’t score runs – The Angels parted ways with Howie Kendrick and have willingly lost Josh Hamilton. Supposedly, that wasn’t going to make a huge difference. Kendrick, solid as he may be, was a .290 hitter with around 30 doubles and 10 homeruns on an annual basis (replaceable) and Josh Hamilton wasn’t any more present last year than he is this year. But the Angels had the best offense in the American League last year, so this wasn’t supposed to be a problem. They’d just need David Freese and the newly acquired Matt Joyce to step up and if they didn’t, the Angels would probably still be fine. And there have been some promising indicators.

Mike Trout is better than he was last season, when he was better than everybody. C.J. Cron is now beginning to heat up and can pack a lot of power into the bottom of the Angels lineup. David Freese has looked good in the early showing, as has Kole Calhoun and surprisingly, Jonny Giavotella is showing the minor league numbers he put up in Kansas City my actually translate to the majors if given a long enough leash. Under all these circumstances, the Angels should be fine. Except right now, they aren’t.

Albert Pujols has reached the age where his performance can be questioned on an annual basis. And so far in his age 35 season, Pujols has hit .185. Plainly put, if he’s done, the Angels very well may be as well. Erick Aybar is hitting a buck-90, and his free-swinging ways are largely to blame. Matt Joyce was 0-for-his-last-26 before getting a single late last night. He’s batting .132, which isn’t encouraging after his performance fell off the proverbial cliff last year. Chris Iannetta, one of the better offensive catchers in baseball is hitting .106. The Angels still don’t have a leftfielder either.

It’s still early, but if Matt Joyce and Albert Pujols can’t produce, the Angels have no middle of the order, and without that, they can’t win, even if their pitching staff minus Jered Weaver has been nothing but excellent.

Yeah, it’s early but … The Red Sox rotation might be the worst in baseball – The Red Sox spent a lot of money this winter. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez will bloat your payroll, that’s for sure. But adding those along with Mookie Betts to an already potent group of hitters in a bandbox of a ballpark will result in a lot of high scoring contests. But the problem with high scoring contests is, you have to pitch just slightly better than the other team to win. The Red Sox, can’t do that, yet.

Their best starter thus far is Clay Buchholz and his 4.84 ERA. Typically, that sort of performance in the early going when hitters are still getting their timing back would be enough to call into question your spot in the rotation. But wait, this nightmare gets worse. The newly acquired Justin Masterson has a 5.16 ERA. The newly expensive Rick Porcello has a 6.48 ERA. And that other guy they traded for, Wade Miley, an ERA of 8.62.

In order to right this ship, a lot needs to happen. Joe Kelly is going to need to be even better than he was in St. Louis. Rick Porcello will need to recreate the magic from Detroit, Justin Masterson will need to figure out what actually made him good for a year and a half, four seasons ago, and Clay Buchholz will need to discover a time machine.

The good news for the Red Sox is that their bullpen has shaped up nicely, and they have all the money in the world to spend at the trade deadline. But the biggest issue with that is, unless they start pitching a lot better, this team may be too far out of it by July for the inevitable Cole Hamels trade to make the least bit of difference.

Yeah, it’s early but … The Seattle Mariners bullpen isn’t nearly as good as advertised – Seattle was the popular pick to win the AL West coming into the season and with good reason. Nelson Cruz makes their offense better, they have a good rotation and great bullpen. Except the bullpen might have been a flash in the pan in 2014. The Mariners were on the verge of the playoffs and boasted the second best crop of relievers in baseball, which took a lot of stress of their starters, who were bound to get even better in 2015. But as it turns out, the Mariners bullpen can be scored on.

We’ll start with closer Fernando Rodney. After a late career-resurrection, Rodney came to Seattle for a lot of money and put up a lot of zeroes. But now Rodney is 38 years old, and looks every bit that age in the early going. He’s missing the strike zone as he has his whole career, and isn’t missing bats due to getting too much of the plate in the early going.   His velocity has trended in the wrong direction and his movements on the mound have grown sluggish. Add to Rodney, the underwhelming performances of Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Dominic Leone and Tom Wilhelmsen, and suddenly no lead is safe in Seattle.

Chances are, they’ll get better in the bullpen. Carson Smith is filthy and while the rest of them are overrated, they aren’t downright awful like this. But Seattle still has other things to worry about, like their two young guns Paxton and Walker getting rocked, Iwakuma losing all remnants of effectiveness and anyone outside Seager, Cano and Cruz hitting the ball.

Yeah, it’s early but … The Mets are really good at throwing baseballs – Right now, the Mets are looking to take a page out of the Oakland A’s model for upsetting the large market teams and stealing the division, pitching, Pitching, PITCHING.

Bartolo Colon is old, shouldn’t be allowed to hit or run, probably used illegal methods to rebuild his throwing arm and is OLD. But he also throws a lot of strikes, makes his pitches dance all around the strike zone and is resilient. That’s enough to be a major leaguer. But Matt Harvey and Justin DeGrom are the ones that have stolen the show. They’re young, awesome and effective. Jon Niese is enjoying a quietly productive career and there is a ton of help on the way for this Mets ball club.

They may have enough pitching to upset the balance of power in the East. And if they don’t this year, it’s evident they will soon thereafter.

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