As seems to so often be the case in baseball, things feel like they are upside down early in the season. Teams like the Blue Jays, Cardinals and Rangers came into the season with high expectations and have been horrible. They find themselves at the bottom of the standings. On the flip side, three squads - the Reds, Rockies and Yankees - have jumped out to starts far beyond what was reasonable to expect for them. It's those latter teams that are the focus for today. They have surprised observers and rewarded bettors so far. But do they have the capability to maintain this pace and continue producing profits in the short or medium term? Or is this just a flash in the pan, and they'll be returning to expectations soon? Let's take a look at each in turn:
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Cincinnati Reds: The season win total for this team was set at a dismal 73.5 - only six teams had lower numbers. They are in full rebuilding mode, and while it seems to be going well it's not going to be an easy process. You wouldn't know it by what we have seen so far, though. The team has the second-best run differential in the National League, they are 8-5, and they are leading the very tough NL Central - with a two-game cushion the all-World Cubs.
They lost three of their last four to divisional rivals the Brewers - also a big surprise so far this year - to kill some of the momentum, but they still have won three of four series, so far, including over divisional rivals the Cardinals and Pirates. Zack Cozart, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett have been spectacular at the plate, and that has really helped. And rookie starter Amir Garrett has been fantastic in the first two starts of his career.
It has been a solid start, but it feels like there has been a lot of overachieving going on so far, and some of the players we mentioned are sure fall back to earth to some extent. And their next two series are the toughest they have seen - the Orioles are off to a good start, and the Cubs are much better than their record so far. It wouldn't be that surprising to see this team dip below .500 soon, and their chances of remaining relevant for any real amount of time are very dim.
I've enjoyed this start, but I frankly find it impossible to have any faith in their ability to keep it up. I don't see any reason to trust them with my money in the short term, either.
Colorado Rockies: The NL West was supposed to be a battle between the Dodgers and the Giants. It quite likely still will be, but so far it's the Rockies and the Diamondbacks which are tied for the lead at 9-5. And they have done it right, too - they have series wins against the Dodgers and the Giants. Bizarrely, the only team they haven't beaten in a series so far is the awful Padres.
We'll get a sense soon if this is for real at all - they play series against the Dodgers, Giants and Nationals in the next 10 days, so it would be easy for the bottom to fall out of things. That being said, I like this team as they sit now a lot more than I like Cincinnati. Nolan Arenado is a confirmed superstar, Mark Reynolds has been excellent, and they aren't the only solid bats. The rotation is quietly solid, and aside from Tyler Anderson they are off to a good but reasonably sustainable start.
I'll check in on this team again in 10 days, but to this point I have liked what I have seen. I was optimistic coming into the season, quite liking them "over" their 79.5 season win total. That hasn't changed. If anything, I like them more.
New York Yankees: The AL East was supposed to be all about the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Well, Toronto is off to the worst start in baseball with no relief in sight. The Red Sox have been solid, but they sit in third, a game behind the reasonably-surprising Orioles and, to me, the particularly-surprising Yankees.
After opening at 1-4, they have won eight straight. Now, those wins have come against Tampa Bay, the struggling Cardinals and the awful White Sox, so it's not massively impressive, but it's still beyond what I expected for this squad. Their run differential of +23 is the best in all of baseball. Guys like Chase Headley, Starlin Castro and Jacoby Ellsbury have been very strong at the plate, and it's been a long time since CC Sabathia or Michael Pineda have been any better than they are now. It hasn't all been rosy, though - Masahiro Tanaka has been a trainwreck so far on the mound, and Gary Sanchez is struggling under the weight of the massive expectations he faced coming into the season and is now out for as much as a month.
All in all, I find it really hard to trust this team. Too many guys are playing better than expected and better than they can reasonably be expected to sustain - especially Headley and Sabathia. They play at both Boston and the Cubs in the next three weeks, so things get much tougher for them, too. I am not a believer long term.
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