White Sox and Angels
Los Angeles Times
The White Sox might be the biggest surprise, since management appears to vacillate between keeping an old team together and rebuilding. 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 the White Sox are the only AL team in the top three in earned-run average for starters and relievers.
The Angels would be the biggest disappointment. They were the trendy pick to dethrone the Rangers in the AL West, yet they already are seven games behind. 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.
Orioles and Angels
Juan C. Rodriguez
The Dodgers and Nationals are off to surprisingly good starts, but the Orioles at 9-7 prompt the biggest double-take. Not sure how they're doing it with a 4.39 rotation ERA and .244 team batting average. But the Orioles own the AL's second-best relief ERA (2.26) and boast a league-leading seven saves.
The biggest disappointment has to be the Angels. By season's end, Albert Pujols' numbers will be 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 Rangers look invincible. The Angels' problems aren't all Pujols' fault; their starters entered the week with a pedestrian 4.10 ERA.
Nationals, Angels, Red Sox
The biggest surprise might be the Nationals, who jumped 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 its starting pitching, plus adding offense in Morse and another power arm in the bullpen, this team is loaded. The Phillies' Chase Utley and Ryan Howard had better come back soon or the Phillies will be out of contention before the All-Star break.
Biggest disappointment is a tie between the Angels and 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 just might be a lost season for them under Bobby Valentine.
Cardinals and Angels
You don't lose Albert Pujols, Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan at the same time if you want to remain one of the National League's best teams. You just don't.
But the Cardinals did and they are winning, thanks in part to Carlos Beltran (6th in the NL with a .964 OPS) stepping into the Pujols role. There's no bigger pleasant surprise in the majors. (The White Sox are runners-up).
The Angels have been the biggest flop out of the gate, thanks in part to Pujols, who had a .654 OPS (70th in the AL among qualifiers) and no home runs through Sunday. It's early, but they'll regret spotting the Rangers a seven-game cushion.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun