Published On: Sun, Apr 15th, 2018

5 burning questions through 2 unbelievable weeks in MLB

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Depending on the metric, most performances don’t stabilize until a much greater sample size than two weeks. However, that doesn’t mean every storyline from the first two weeks can simply be dismissed.

Halfway through April, a ton has already happened this season. Aside from Shohei Ohtani breaking onto the scene as a legitimate future star, the Cincinnati Reds are off to their worst start since the Great Depression, and the Boston Red Sox are on their hottest season-opening roll in franchise history.

In fact, for a season that was ushered in as one of the most predictable in recent memory, 2018 has been anything but. Of the seven projected best teams in baseball, one leads its division and at least four have been underwhelming, at best.

Let’s tackle some of the burning questions that have risen through the first 211 MLB games:

Which contender are you most concerned with after a poor start?

Los Angeles Dodgers. Through their first 13 games, the Dodgers have been truly awful and sit last in the NL West. While they’ve corrected some of their offensive miscues from very early in the season, the bats have still been held to 3.61 runs per game. On the bright side, Justin Turner is expected back in May and will likely inject some much-needed run creation into the lineup, and the starting pitching has been impressive despite the losing record. That’s because the relief crew has been shaky at best. Combine that with the fact the Diamondbacks look like a legitimate threat while the Rockies and Giants aren’t pushovers, and some alarm bells could start going off for the reigning NL champions. – Bradburn

Cleveland Indians. The Indians suffered a number of significant losses to their roster over the winter – Bryan Shaw, Carlos Santana, Jay Bruce, Joe Smith – and did little to replace them. Projected to run away with the AL Central, Cleveland finds itself 8-6 to start the season despite a soft schedule, and while the club is just a half-game back of the division-leading Twins, this doesn’t look like a World Series contender. The Indians’ offense lost two major pieces in Santana and Bruce, and ranks 21st in runs scored and 29th in OPS. Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, and Francisco Lindor will all snap out of their early-season funks eventually but the lineup has a number of holes in the bottom half and could be a cause for concern moving forward. – Wile

Which player has been the biggest surprise so far?

Shohei Ohtani. Even the most optimistic person couldn’t have imagined Ohtani getting off to the start he has in the majors – especially considering his tumultuous spring training. Not only has he shown he’s fully capable of handling the workload of a two-way player at the highest level, but he’s dominating in all areas. At the plate, he’s hitting .367/.424/.767 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in eight games. On the mound, he’s 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 0.46 WHIP, and 18 strikeouts while holding the opposition to a .093 average. We’re witnessing something incredible. – Wile

Matt Chapman. We knew Chapman was a wizard with the glove and would challenge for many Gold Gloves at the hot corner for years to come. What we didn’t know about the 24-year-old was that he could legitimately slug. Through 15 games, Chapman boasts a .351/.413/.684 slash line with five home runs and 13 runs scored. He has been the best Oakland Athletics player by far and leads the entire league in WAR (1.3). The sophomore third baseman trails only Bryce Harper and Mike Trout in home runs. Chapman is probably not this good, but there’s a rising star in Oakland. – Bradburn

Which offseason addition has had the biggest impact with their new club?

Todd Frazier. It was heralded as a sneakily good addition, but the Mets agreeing to a two-year, $17-million deal with Frazier has turned into a truly great signing. In 13 games with his new club, Frazier owns an impressive .436 OBP with a pair of home runs and four doubles, coming around to score on eight occasions already. The Mets are becoming must-watch television early in the year, and a role player like Frazier is a big reason why. Even with some regression – which “The Toddfather” is bound for – the Mets actually look good and deep enough to maintain their hot start. – Bradburn

Gerrit Cole. As if the reigning World Series champions needed any more firepower. Cole has been nothing short of incredible in his first three starts with Houston, posting a 1.29 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, and 36 strikeouts. On Friday, Cole joined Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan as the only other pitcher in history to strike out 11 or more batters in each of their first three starts of a season. Cole has always been a solid starter – an All-Star in 2015 – but no one expected him to be this good. – Wile

Which team have you been most impressed with?

Los Angeles Angels. There’s no doubt the Angels benefited from winning the Ohtani sweepstakes, but general manager Billy Eppler deserves credit for overhauling the offense this winter and finally surrounding Mike Trout with star power. Los Angeles is the first team in the majors to win 13 games and owns a 2 1/2-game lead over the Astros. It ranks first in runs, home runs, average, and OPS, while the pitching staff is ninth in ERA and fourth in strikeouts. The Angels opened as a potential wild-card contender but are playing like a team that could actually threaten the Astros in the division. – Wile

New York Mets. The Mets have the best record in the National League, and while the Angels made splashy moves, the Mets tied together some frugal signings on a shoestring budget and, somewhat unbelievably, they’re working. Whether the team can keep the division lead over the behemoth Nationals all season will remain to be seen, but a healthy rotation, strong bullpen, and deep lineup will surely put them in the postseason conversation for much of the year. – Bradburn

Which first-place team is poised to stay there?

Boston Red Sox. The AL East was slated to be the most hotly contested division during spring training, but that didn’t stop some folks from writing off the Red Sox for their third straight division title after the Yankees rebuilt their empire. Now, Boston is 12-2, largely due to its remarkable offense. After finishing 22nd in OPS last year as a team, the Red Sox are fourth this season thanks to resurgent campaigns from Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, and the now-injured Xander Bogaerts. While the record is due for some regression, there’s little reason to believe this team is worse than the 93 wins it put up last year. – Bradburn

Arizona Diamondbacks. Even without J.D. Martinez hitting in the middle of the order this season, the D-Backs possess a formidable offense, but it’s the pitching staff that will help them win their first division title since 2011. The NL West is arguably the tightest in the majors, but Arizona has already gone 9-2 against its own division – including 5-0 against the Dodgers. The most encouraging part about the D-Backs’ early-season success is that it has come with Paul Goldschmidt hitting just .235, while Zack Greinke and Robby Ray each own an ERA north of 5.00. – Wile

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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