Some say end of April, others Memorial Day; but the first truly agreed upon milestone in the grueling 162-game Major League Baseball season is the quarter mark (40.5 games). At some point this week every big-league team will cross over the quarter mark. We've now seen enough baseball to determine some realistic trends and find out what can truly be expected for the remaining three quarters of the season. Speaking of expectations, FOX Sports South looked back over the first month and a half of the season and found 10 welcomed surprises.
Shelby Miller -- Pitching like an All-Star
When Shelby Miller came to Atlanta as part of the Jason Heyward trade, the Braves knew they were getting a solid young pitcher that broke out during his rookie campaign, but hit some hard times in 2014, his sophomore season. He showed some promise in the last seven starts of 2014, sporting a 2.08 ERA after discovering a sinker. The Braves hoped he'd continue to develop that pitch and success would follow. What the Braves got was one of the best pitchers in the National League. His ERA (1.33), WHIP (0.83) and average against (.156) are all top marks in the majors. If he struck out more batters, he'd be a shoo-in for NL starter at the All-Star Game.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Houston Astros -- The new AL powerhouse
Recent history has been pretty grim in Houston. Over the last four seasons the Astros have lost 92, 111, 107 and 106 games, counting back from 2014 to 2011, and have only been able to muster two winning seasons since being swept in the World Series in 2005 by the Chicago White Sox. But forward-thinking trades and Houston's farm system finally brought fruit to its barren landscape. The every-day roster is littered with 28-year-old players and younger (including three starters --Jose Altuve, Jake Marisnick and George Springer -- 25 or younger). They're not only young, they're fast and powerful. The Astros lead the majors in home runs (60) are second in stolen bases (39) and no one in baseball has more wins (26).
New York Mets -- Pitching their way to the top
With apologies to the Nationals, the New York Mets entered spring training with a starting rotation that had the potential to be the best in the business. But Zack Wheeler went down before the season and needed not only Tommy John surgery, but had to have his flexor pronator repaired too. Dillon Gee stepped in and has a 3.86 ERA in five starts. But it's the front four in the Mets' rotation that are sparkling. Matt Harvey is 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA and a 7.0 (56-to-8) strikeout-to-walk ratio. Bartolo Colon is 6-2 with a 3.86 ERA and Jon Niese and Jacob deGrom both have ERA+ figures at 100 or above. The Mets, at 3.08 as a team, are second in the majors in team ERA and are in first place in the NL East.
Alex Rodriguez -- He's back with a vengeance
Alex Rodriguez has played more than 100 games in a season only once since 2010, and was suspended for the entire 2014 campaign. At 39 years old (he'll turn 40 in July) he could have hung up his cleats and not subjected himself to the scrutiny of returning to Major League Baseball. He chose to play, however, and is greatly helping the Yankees on their climb to the top of the AL East. Rodriguez has blasted 10 home runs in 37 games and has driven in 22 (both marks are second on the club to Mark Teixeira). Rodriguez' 0.9 WAR stands as a far cry from the days when he was looking at numbers like 10 and 9.2 (2002, 2003), but if you raise your hand and say you expected this kind of output from the slugger, you'd be lying.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsBrad Penner
Freddy Galvis -- Emerging as a top hitter
In three seasons with the Phillies as a part-time player, Freddy Galvis hit .218 with an OPS of .621 in 514 at-bats. As a utility player he not only manned shortstop, but three other positions as well (second base, third base and left field). In his seven seasons in the minors, Galvis hit .246 with a .625 OPS. Sudden mastery of the at-bat wasn't expected when Galvis was handed the starting job at shortstop in 2015, but that's kind of what the Phillies have gotten. Through 38 games Galvis is hitting .336 and sports a .399 on-base percentage, and is eighth in the majors in hitting. No longer is Galvis an all-glove spare part in Philadelphia. He's a hitting machine that happens to be a regular on the base paths.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY SportsBill Streicher
Dee Gordon -- More than just a base stealer
When the Marlins traded for Dee Gordon, they hoped they were acquiring a guy who could replicate his league-leading 64 stolen bases from last season and come close to his breakout season at bat. While Gordon was still a seldom-walk, free-swinging hitter with little plate discipline, he'd managed to hit .289 in 2014. What Miami got was a great threat on the bases (he's on pace to reach at least 50 stolen bases) and a hitter in control of what he wanted to accomplish at the plate. His strikeout rate has dropped dramatically (down to 11.8 percent from 16.5) and he's leading the majors with a .403 batting average.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
Dallas Keuchel -- Potential ace material to unhittable
Last season Dallas Keuchel enjoyed a breakout campaign where he won 12 games (his first season in double digits), won a Gold Glove and sported a 2.93 ERA. If the 27-year-old southpaw could stay close to those numbers in 2015, the Astros were prepared to be very happy. He's far exceeded expectations. Keuchel is 5-0 with a best-in-the-American-League 1.87 ERA. He also ranks third in the majors with a .182 batting average against and is seventh with a 0.95 WHIP. Keuchel's ground ball rate is fantastic at 64 percent and he's only allowed one home run this season. The bats have come alive in Houston, but Keuchel's arm might be the strongest piece the Astros currently have.
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY SportsTroy Taormina
Kansas City Royals -- Not homering their way to greatness
The Kansas City Royals are in first place but have only hit 29 home runs this season. Why's that important? Because most of the other division leaders (the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Nationals) sit among the top 10 in team dingers. Kansas City leads the AL Central and with 25 wins is third to only St. Louis and Houston (26). How are the Royals so good while ranked 24th in the league in long balls? Kansas City leads the majors in hits (391), doubles (85), batting average (.287) and is second in triples (14). The Royals' run differential (+58) is also tops in the bigs. This team is more than just a small-ball phenomenon.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY SportsKevin Jairaj
Joc Pederson -- NL Rookie of the Year?
With names like Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler, not only were the Cubs expected to be really good in 2015, it was a mathematical near-certainty that the Rookie of the Year race in the National League would be spearheaded by someone from Chicago. Joc Pederson had a different idea. Pederson leads all NL rookies with 10 home runs and is far and away the leader in WAR with a 2.0. He's a Three True Outcome hitter with an almost 20 percent walk rate, an almost 30 percent strikeout rate to go with those 10 bombs, and once this season had seven hits strung out over nine games that were consecutive home runs.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY SportsGary A. Vasquez
Nelson Cruz -- The power traveled to the Northwest
Nelson Cruz led the majors last season with 40 home runs and averaged 27 per season in the five years prior. But he hit those in home-run friendly Globe Life Park in Arlington (2009-2013) and Oriole Park at Camden Yards (last season). When Cruz signed with the Seattle Mariners in the offseason, no one expected that his home run frequency would translate to the 24th-ranked home run park in Safeco Field from third-ranked Camden. But the power numbers haven't fallen off for Cruz. He leads the majors with 16 right now and is on pace for 68.