A quarter of the way through the baseball season, there have been both pleasant and unpleasant surprises.
FIRST, THE GOOD KIND:
Jean Segura was the prospect the Los Angeles Angels sent to the Milwaukee Brewers for pitcher Zack Greinke last summer. No doubt, the Angels, who lost Greinke to free agency over the winter, could use Segura now.
The 23-year-old shortstop is sizzling with a National League-leading .361 batting average, seven home runs, 14 stolen bases and 20 runs batted in.
Hisashi Iwakuma of the Seattle Mariners was the other Japanese pitcher who came to MLB before the 2012 season, the one who signed a one-year, US$1.5 million (Dh5.5m) guaranteed contract when Yu Darvish was joining the Texas Rangers for $60m over six years.
Iwakuma had a solid year in 2012 (9-5 record, 3.16 earned run average), but this spring, the 32-year-old right-hander has out-pitched nearly everyone. Iwakuma's 5-1 record and 1.84 ERA, as well as his 55 strikeouts versus eight walks in nine starts, is the most out-of-the-blue pitching performance of the young season.
How long can the Cleveland Indians stay with the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central? The bubble could burst today, but they have already exceeded expectations.
The team can hit, with catcher Carlos Santana and newcomer Mark Reynolds doing the heavy lifting. But it is the pitching staff's 3.95 ERA that has buoyed new manager Terry Francona's team, so far.
AND THE BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS:
It looks to be a two-bust race here - Josh Hamilton, the man the Angels are paying $25m per year, against BJ Upton, who the Atlanta Braves signed for $15m per year. Hamilton has produced a paltry five homers, 12 RBI and .215 batting average. But Upton has been as dreadful as any regular in ball with a .145 average, three homers, six RBI and 53 strikeouts in 138 at bats.
It is a bad year for reigning Cy Young winners, with David Price (1-4 record, 5.24 ERA) of the Tampa Bay Rays out-tanking RA Dickey (3-5, 4.83) of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Rays left-hander has not been close to top form, with opponents hitting .294 against him. Price will not be getting straight soon. He went on the 15-day disabled list with forearm trouble last week.
It is the battle of Los Angeles, with the Angels making life more miserable for their fans than the Dodgers. The Angels' biggest problem is not that Hamilton and Albert Pujols are not tearing it up. Nor is it the team's 4.73 ERA (28th of 30 teams). It is that the Angels are already 12 games out of first in the AL West.
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