We’re nearly at the quarter pole of the baseball season. What has happened so far?

The Phillies should be scaring the hell out of everyone.  They have the best record in baseball despite not having star second baseman Chase Utley in the lineup.  I hesitate to call a division race this early, but the other NL East teams really needed the Phillies to struggle out of the gate to have a chance.

The Cardinals lost co-ace Adam Wainwright for the season, Matt Holliday had an appendectomy early in the season, and Albert Pujols has been less than Pujolsian so far.  While Pujols has an OK, albeit low for him, homerun total (7), the rest of his numbers are well below his career numbers.  His .273 batting average is well below his career mark of .330 and he has just 3 doubles on the year.  He’s not walking very much, and he’s hitting into double plays at an alarming rate.  Whether it’s the pressure of his looming free agency, or something else, this is a very bad time for him to have the worst season of his career.  On the other hand, Holliday is batting .398 for the season and  free agent acquisition Lance Berkman is hitting .351 with 10 homers – and the Cardinals are in first place.

The Cleveland Indians have shocked everyone by recording the best record in the American League, and have a 4 game lead over the Tigers.  Bringing up the rear in the division are the White Sox and Twins.  Who could have predicted that?  The division also features the two hurlers to record no-hitters this year – Justin Verlander of the Tigers and Francisco Liriano of the Twins.

The Pirates and Red Sox have the same record.  If you predicted that at the beginning of the season, raise your hand, Mr. Liar.  The Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992 (sadly, that is NOT a typo).  Can Clint Hurdle push the team to 82 wins?  I really hope so.  In spite of the fact that the Rockies pushed out Hurdle in 2009, I still wish the guy the best.

My Rockies bolted out to an 11-2 record, but have faded lately and enter play on Saturday with a record of 20-16.  Still, that’s good enough for first place, in spite of the fact that we haven’t had many contributions from ace Ubaldo Jimenez, 2010 MVP runner-up Carlos Gonzalez, or third base.  Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has alternated between red hot and ice cold.  Hopefully his 3 for 5 with homer on Friday is the sign of good things to come.  Catcher Chris Iannetta has been deceptively productive.  His batting average is just .224, but his on base percentage has been near .400 recently, and his OPS has been near .900.  Ten of his 19 hits have gone for extra bases, and he has 21 walks on the year.  Overall, I’m happy to see the Rockies in first place – but I thin they’ll need more hands on deck to hold off the hated Giants.

And speaking of hated players … I’m not at all surprised to see Derek Jeter struggling this year.  He was hitting .268 after Friday’s game, but it’s a very soft .268.  He has only two homers on the year (in the same game) and only five total extra base hits.  Jeter put up the worst numbers of his career last year, and his slow start this year has many wondering if his stats are indicative of a decline rather than a mere slump.  Jeter is a shortstop who will soon turn 37, and Father Time is generally not kind to middle infielders.  Jeter, on the other hand, can laugh all the way to the bank after signing a new contract in the off-season what is paying him roughly double what he was likely to have made as a free agent (remember, he would have been a type A free agent, meaning that the signing team would have had to sacrifice a draft pick).

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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