The first month of the Major League season saw some real surprises. The season started on April 5th this year, so I took a look at the standings on May 5, exactly one month later.
On May 5, 2014, the Houston Astros were in last place in the American League West with a record of 10 wins and 21 losses, 9 games out of first. They finished the season in fourth place with a dismal 70-92 record, in fourth place, 28 games out of first. This year, the Astros were in first place by six games on Cinco De Mayo with a record of 18 wins and 9 losses.
By contrast, last year, on May 5, the Oakland Athletics, with a record of 19-13, were in first place in the AL West, 2 games ahead of everybody. This year, they are in third, 6 ½ games back, with a 12-16 record.
On May 5, 2014, the New York Mets had a record of 16 wins and 15 losses and were in third place in the National League East. They finished the season in third place, 17 games out of first, with a 79-83 record. This year, they are 17-10 and in first place by four games.
Last year’s National League East leader, the Washington Nationals, who added Free Agent Max Scherzer, from the Tigers, to what was already one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, are in fourth place, 4 ½ back at 13-15. Last year, without Scherzer, they were 18-14.
What makes the Mets so much better than last year at this time? I am the one that always says, Pitching is 95 percent of the game. Matt Harvey, the Mets Ace, who was
9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 2013 and missed all of last year with Tommy John Surgery, is
5-0 this year with a 2.41 ERA. Forty-two year old Bartolo Colon, who had been in the Majors 18 years and has won 209 and lost 142, has started out 5-1 with a 2.90 ERA and 25 year old right handed closer Jeurys Familia, who blew 5 of 10 save tries last year has had 11 saves in 11 tries.
The Mets, who have been missing slugger David Wright since he suffered a hamstring pull on April 15, without Harvey’s 5-0 and Colon’s 5-1, would be 8-8 on the season. Can they continue to win at the rate they have? Not without some more help from their the rest of their pitching staff, but right now they are the class of the National League East.
The Astros, in their third year in the American League since coming over from the National League in 2013, when they finished in last place, winning only 51 while losing 111, have been led by 28 year old Collin McHugh, a right handed starter who is 4-0 in 5 starts with a 3.41 ERA. McHugh was just 11-9 last year but posted a 2.73 ERA. Dallas Keuchel, their 27 year old, lefty starter, who led the AL with 5 complete games last year, is off to a 3-0 start, averaging 7 ½ innings per start with an 0.80 ERA.
Their closer, Luke Gregerson, who, prior to this year, had blown 32 of 51 save attempts in his career, is 6 of 7 so far this year. In addition, Jose Altuve, their 5’6” second baseman, who looks like a clone of Dustin Pedroia, who led the AL in average, .341, hits, 225, and stolen bases, 56, last year is hitting .348 with 3 homers and 19 RBI’s while center fielder Jake Marisnick is hitting .351 and also has 3 homers and third baseman Luis Valbuena, picked up from the Cubs, although only hitting .211, has 7 homers.
Can the Astros continue their pace and go from last place in 2013 with 51 wins, to fourth place with 70 wins in 2014 to the 90 plus wins it will take to win the division? They do not appear to have the depth to do so, either on the mound or at the plate.
On the other hand you might ask, what were the Yankees doing in first place? As of the 5th of May, they were in first place by 3 games with a 17-10 record. Last year at this time, they were in second place, 1 percentage point out of first, with a 16-15 record. So far this year, C. C. Sabathia, their aging Ace is 0-4, Ivan Nova still has not come back from Tommy John surgery and Masahiro Tanaka and Chris Capuano are on the disabled list. The bright spot, Michael Pineda, is 4-0 with a 2.97 ERA. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are sharing the closer role and have not given up an earned run between them in 29 innings.
Although he is only hitting .205, Mark Teixeira has 10 homers and 22 RBI’s and leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .358 with 11 stolen bases while Brett Gardner, batting second, is at .309. Can the Yankees hold on to the lead? If they could figure a way to have their starters get them until the eighth inning with a lead regularly so Betances and Miller could save it, they might, but don’t hold your breath.
As for the Red Sox, they were 15-17 last year and are 13-14 this year. Pitching is the name of the game and they have five starting pitchers who have proven they can win in the Majors. If the other four can remember how that works, like Porcello did, they can come back. If not, there will be no sequel for my book ‘From Beer To Beards’.