Trout and Bellinger prove their worth, Rays and Mariners thrive
Among the hype of the upcoming chase for the NHL’s Stanley Cup and the NBA playoffs, which are now considered previews of coming attractions for the final NBA game of the season, baseball can be lost in the shuffle, especially when there is such a daily barrage of games that one feels forced to turn them off for the sake of sanity. However, the MLB season has provided plenty of surprises for die-hard fans and casuals alike.
Here to stay:
The Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay is the most frustrating team in baseball at the moment. On the field, the Rays are actually on top of arguably the best division in the league, the AL East. One of the main reasons for this is their dominant pitching.
The unheralded combination of Yonny Chirinos and Tyler Glasnow only gave up two runs in 23 innings of work, with 21 strikeouts. José Alvarado has developed into a top closer, accumulating four saves in as many tries, possessing a nice fastball and a ridiculous slider the resembles a wiffle-ball slider. The does not even consider the defending Cy Young winner Blake Snell and the newly acquired Charlie Morton from Houston.
Hitting is not one of the Rays’ strongest points, as evidenced by their paltry .231 team batting average and eight home runs so far. They have only scored five runs in a game once this season. However, they do enough to win.
They win with RBI singles from sluggers like Ji-Man Choi and former White Sox right fielder Avisail García, not just home runs. The Rays do not knock out opponents with one punch, like the New York Yankees. The problem with the Rays is that no one in Tampa actually cares about the team. Tropicana Field is inaccessible to the majority of fans, and is a ball-interfering, cowbell-echoing, outdated stadium.
No team that is as fun to watch with their innovation and winning as the Rays are should have to play in a terrible stadium. The team is for real this year, with enough talent in its rotation to realistically dream of playoffs.
Enjoy it while it lasts:
The Seattle Mariners
The Seattle Mariners blew it up in the offseason, successfully trading almost every player of value. James Paxton, Robinson Canó, Edwin Díaz and Jean Segura were all gone with a Thanos-like snap. The hope for 2019 was also supposed to disappear, but the Mariners are currently on top of the AL West and possess the best record in the game, as well as the most home runs, with 37, runs batted in, with 84, and hits with 108.
While this could have the long-suffering fans of Seattle baseball thinking playoffs, or at least a possibility of going that far, a closer look at the leaders of the sudden onslaught of hitting raises questions. For this bout of bashing and mashing, the Mariners are relying on Tim Beckham, who is leading the team in batting average; Domingo Santana, who leads the league in RBI’s and Jay Bruce, who has the most homers on the team.
Bruce is on the wrong side of 30, Santana is too inconsistent throughout his career to sustain this level of play and Beckham has only played over 100 games in his six-year career. The Mariners should be glad they have a great record, but should not expect it to last. They are still destined for mediocrity.
Here to stay:
Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger
Mike Trout is a baseball player. There isn’t any other way to say it. Just 10 games into this young season and Trout already has five home runs, 12 RBIs and a .393 batting average.
While some players have better totals, the most outstanding element of his game is his patience and ability to get on base. He leads the league with 11 walks and a .581 on-base percentage. He is doing all this while striking out just three times, further asserting his place as the best player in the game. For now, he is fully deserving of the AL Player of the Week award for his performances against the Mariners and the Texas Rangers, collecting all of his homers and nine RBI’s.
For all the talk about Trout, Cody Bellinger is having an even greater start to his campaign. The defending National League Player of the Week, with 10 runs scored and 10 runs batted in during his two series against the San Francisco Giants and the Colorado Rockies, respectively, leads the majors in home runs, hits and runs batted in. Bellinger is hitting the ball with incredible strength, his average exit velocity of 96 mph among the best in the league.
More importantly, he is leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to the best record in the National League, and leading the assault on all baseballs thrown at them, leading the NL with 24 home runs in 10 games.
Enjoy it while it lasts:
The Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox are not good right now. The team has the second-worst start through 10 games of any defending World Series champ in history, behind the 1998 Florida Marlins.
Unlike the Marlins, who had the excuse of selling literally every good player they had, the Red Sox have kept their talent in place. The “Killer Bs” of Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts are still there, but they aren't producing. The pitching has been putrid, the ace of the staff, Chris Sale, has only one more strikeout than home runs given up in his two starts for the Sox and the entire staff has given up the most runs in the league so far. The only reason to give them the benefit of the doubt is because they are World Series champions.
They know how to win, but they have just temporarily forgotten how to.