2018 MLB Season Early Analysis
Spring has been in session for a few weeks now, and that can only mean one thing; baseball season is here. Many rosters have been shaken up a bit over the offseason, some for the better and some for the worse, but we will still have to wait and see how all of the new faces will adjust to their new team and setting throughout the rest of the season, which still has a ways to go before its finale in October. With teams having played only about fifteen games so far, leaving them with over 140 more to go, it is difficult to assess which teams are legitimate contenders, good teams starting slow, and bad teams with beginners luck.
The teams with the best records so far in the American League are the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and the Toronto Blue Jays. While Boston and Huston were expected to have above average seasons, the LA Angels are playing better than expected while sitting just above Houston in the AL West thanks to newly acquired Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who is both pitching and hitting better than anyone could have expected in his debut MLB season. Although the Angels are off to a hot start with Ohtani and Mike Trout leading the way, they are expected to fall off a bit later down the stretch due to how little depth the roster has. Two great players cannot carry a team all the way to the championship in a game where every player needs to hold their own in order for the team to succeed, but they have at least carried LA to the top of their division early on in the season. The defending World Series champions, the Houston Astros, are playing good baseball early on, but they aren’t quite playing as dominantly as most expected, as evident by them only having the third best conference record and second best division record with nine wins and four losses, but there is no reason yet to expect Houston to have a disappointing season. However, for the defending champions, anything short of a trip back to the World Series is disappointing, and they will have to play steadily good baseball for many more months to prove that they are still as powerful as before and to remain the league champions. With so much time and so many games left to go in the season, I expect Houston to jump back to the top of their division soon enough and to finish the regular season as a serious contender. The Boston Red Sox are sitting atop their division and the entire American League Conference with a 10-2 record, playing better than we have seen them in years with a deep, updated roster that now includes slugger J.D. Martinez, and I fully expect Boston to continue winning games and finish the season sitting comfortably alone at the top of their division, possibly even the entire conference. The Yankees and Blue Jays, both from the AL East division with the Red Sox, are solid teams that could very well cause some trouble for the Sox (after all, a brawl did ensue among the Sox and Yankees in their first series of the year, reviving the stale rivalry), Boston may just be too complete of a team for them to compete with, especially since New York is currently not living up to their expectations. The Minnesota Twins are playing well in the AL Central division, but I do not think they are quite on the same level as teams like Boston, Houston, and LA, leading me to believe they will either barely miss the playoffs or suffer a disappointing first or second round exit in October. The Cleveland Indians are just behind Minnesota in the division standings, but they are an overall better team, and I expect them to take the division later down the stretch.
Over in the National Conference, we have the New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Pittsburgh Pirates leading the way, each team currently leading their division. The NY Mets are the big story right now, having only lost one game of the eleven they have played. The Mets are surprising just about everyone with their incredible start due to an outstanding bullpen and a healthy roster; something this Mets team has not had the luxury of in recent seasons. Their 10-1 start is the best for any Mets team in the history of baseball, and I do not see them slowing down any time soon (unless they become plagued by injuries, of course). The Arizona Diamondbacks are off to a hot start as well, having won nine of twelve games, but they are doing it in a rather unexpected way. Arizona is known for being fantastic hitters, but this year they are winning games thanks to good overall roster depth and stellar run prevention on defense, not just by slugging the ball around the park. This new Diamondbacks team can be a serious contender if they continue their current success but they could use, ironically, a little help from their top hitters who have been underperforming. In the NL Central Division, the Pittsburgh Pirates are comfortably standing at the top above the Brewers and Cubs. The Cubs are disappointing fans with a 6-6 start, as they began the season as favorites and are in danger of falling off in the division. The Pirates are playing better than anyone could have expected, but with so much time left in the season, it is hard to tell how things will play out in this division. The Washington Nationals and LA Dodgers are underperforming so far in the season as well, but they could easily turn that around with the stacked rosters they have.
The National League looks a bit harder to figure out, but I really like the Boston Red Sox in the American League. There is still PLENTY of baseball to be played this spring, summer, and fall, so grab a hotdog or two and enjoy watching the games this season!