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Which MLB teams have been most surprising so far this season?

April 23, 2012
  • Albert Pujols and the Angels are considered to be one of the biggest disappointments so far this season.
Albert Pujols and the Angels are considered to be one of the biggest disappointments… (Lisa Blumenfeld / Getty…)

Writers from around Tribune Co. discuss which Major League Baseball teams have been the most surprising in the first few weeks of the season. Check back throughout the day for more responses and join the conversation with a comment of your own.

Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times

The Chicago White Sox might be the biggest surprise, since management appears to vacillate between keeping an old team together and rebuilding, which usually ensures sustained mediocrity. The Sox won the World Series in 2005, but they have won one playoff game since then, and attendance has fallen from 3 million to 2 million. But pitching wins and, at this early stage, the White Sox are the only team in the American League in the top three in earned-run average for starters and relievers. Phil Humber's perfect game might herald a special season on the South Side, but what the Sox really need are significant contributions from three high-priced acquisitions who have been busts--pitcher Jake Peavy (2.75 ERA in three starts, with two walks and 21 strikeouts), outfielder Alex Rios (.333 BA, .907 OPS) and designated hitter Adam Dunn (three home runs, 13 RBI in 15 games).

The Angels would be the biggest disappointments. They were the trendy pick to dethrone the Texas Rangers in the American League West, yet they already are seven games behind the Rangers--the largest deficit of any team in the American League. They rank last in the league in home runs, and Albert Pujols has none. It's difficult to imagine the offense stalling all season, and even more difficult to imagine a last-place team with a rotation fronted by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and C.J. Wilson. But the Angels weren't sure whether Kendrys Morales would return from injury, and when he did, they weren't sure where to play Mark Trumbo, who hit 29 home runs last season. They still haven't figured it out, and it's getting late in the season for that. They might have to clear the logjam by releasing Bobby Abreu and eating his $9-million salary.

Juan C. Rodriguez, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

The biggest disappointment has to be the Angels. By season’s end, Albert Pujols’ numbers will be right where they’re supposed to be, but 16 games without a homer, plus a .246/.300/.354 slash line is unnerving.

Compounding the problem is that the Texas Rangers, the team the Angels are trying to dethrone, look invincible. The Angels’ problems aren’t all Pujols-based. They began the week with a pedestrian 4.10 starters’ ERA.

The Dodgers and Washington Nationals are off to surprisingly good starts, but the Baltimore Orioles at 9-7 prompt the biggest double-take. Not exactly sure how they’re doing it with a 4.39 rotation ERA and .244 team batting average. They have benefitted from excellent relief work. The Orioles’ pen owns the AL’s second-best relief ERA (2.26) and can boast a league-leading seven saves.

Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune

You don’t lose Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan all at the same time if you want to remain one of the National League’s best team. You just don’t. But the St. Louis Cardinals did and they are winning, thanks in part to Carlos Beltran (sixth in the NL with a .964 OPS) stepping into the Pujols role. There’s no bigger pleasant surprise in the majors (runner-up, White Sox).

The Angels have been the biggest flop out of the gate, thanks in part to Pujols, who has a .654 OPS (70th in the NL among qualifiers) and no home runs through Sunday. It’s early but they’ll regret spotting Texas a seven-game cushion.

[Updated at 1:10 p.m.:

Ron Fritz, Baltimore Sun

The biggest surprise might be the Washington Nationals, who jumped out to a 12-4 start and could leave the rest of the National League East in the dust when they get first baseman Mike Morse and closer Drew Storen back from injuries. With the starting pitching they already have, plus adding more offense in Morse and another power arm in the bullpen, this team is loaded. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard better come back soon or the Phillies will be out before the All-Star break. I figured the Nationals were a playoff team, but not this good.

The biggest disappointment is a tie between the Angels and Boston Red Sox. I have no doubt the Angels will figure it out and turn around their season, maybe competing for an AL wild card. But Boston is a mess. The Red Sox have some significant injuries and issues to deal with. This might just be a lost season for them under Bobby Valentine.]


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