We have gotten through the first month of the 2012 season. Every season will have its surprises. These are my Top 5 Surprises of 2012 thus far, starting from Number 5 and moving toward what I think is the biggest surprise:
#5 The Kansas City Royals. After finishing 2011 strong, and the young talent that they brought up to the Majors having the success they had, I myself thought they would be a team that would be toward the top of the AL Central. Not a half-game out of last in the division through the first month. Young teams have to learn to win together and weather bad streaks. They had a 12-game losing streak in April, but I had the chance to talk to Eric Hosmer and they are still a positive bunch.
#4 The Baltimore Orioles were 14-9 in the month of April and sit in second place in the very tough AL East. Buck Showalter has them playing good baseball. The big question with this team is whether they can pitch well enough over the next five months to stay in the race. But right now they are ahead of both New York and Boston.
#3 the Los Angeles Dodgers. They were 16-7 in April and sit atop the NL West with a four-game lead in the division. This is a surprise because no one thought they would have enough pitching to compete with Arizona. This has a lot to do with two of their big bats getting off to great starts. Matt Kemp has picked up where he left off last year. I am not a big believer in batting average, unless there is damage as a result of that average. Well Kemp is hitting .409, has scored 25 runs, driven in 25 runs, hit 12 home runs and has a .485 OBP. In 88 at-bats. The only bad thing is, he only has two stolen bases. The really scary part of all of this offense in LA is that the guy hitting behind Kemp in the order — Andre Ethier — has six home runs. Ethier is only hitting .289 and he has 27 RBI already. That is hard to do, have guys that hitting next to each other in the lineup and they are 1-2 in the league in RBI.
#2 the Los Angeles Angels. One of the two teams in the off season that spent a ton of money, they landed the biggest free agent out there this winter and probably the best free agent pitcher (C.J. Wilson). Yet they sit in last place in the AL West. A big part of this is the fact that their bullpen has had nine save opportunities and has blown six of them. I expect they will be very active at the Trade Deadline to find a closer, if they don’t do it sooner. Many people picked them to win the AL West this year. I still felt the Rangers were the best team in that division. Through the month of April, the Angels sat eight games behind Texas.
This leads me right to the biggest surprise in all of baseball:
#1 Albert Pujols does not have a home run yet. This is mind-blowing to me. I know its a new league and there is an adjustment period. But anyone that knows this game at all would have figured that The King would have run into at least one during the first month. He is hitting .209 with eight doubles and 5 RBI! If we look at Prince Fielder, he is not off to a great start with his new team, the Tigers. He is hitting .294 with three home runs and 12 RBI, but he is hitting behind Miguel Cabrera, who has 21 RBI. So Cabrera is driving in runs, limiting Prince’s RBI chances. Let’s put this in terms of how significant Pujols’ start is. You think of power and RBI guys from the National League the last few years, and you think Pujols, Fielder and Ryan Howard. Albert has five more RBI than Howard, the same amount of home runs (zero), and Ryan Howard hasn’t played a game or had an at-bat yet in Philly, due to injury. Will this last for The King? No, it won’t. But hands down it is the biggest surprise in all of baseball through the month of April!