As the MLB season creeps toward the end of April, all 30 teams have now played approximately 20 games each, and while there were certainly some surprises at the start, the expected cream is starting to rise to the top, while the expected bottom feeders, with some exceptions, are trending toward the bottom of the pack.
The Cleveland Indians, one of the early surprises, were swept in a shortened two-game series over the weekend by the Minnesota Twins, and their starting pitching, which carried them through the first three weeks of the season, is starting to show signs of struggles, as Carlos Carrasco was forced to leave Sunday’s game after experiencing tightness in his right elbow. Carrasco joins Mitch Talbot, who was placed on the disabled list last week with right elbow issues as well.
The Kansas City Royals, who had surprisingly joined the Indians atop the American League Central standings, were also swept over the weekend by the surging Texas Rangers. The Rangers, despite missing Josh Hamilton, scored 22 runs and have been led by Michael Young with a 14-game hitting streak, and new acquisition Adrian Beltre, who now has seven home runs and 20 runs batted in on the young season.
The Boston Red Sox, who got off to their worst start since 1945, have suddenly turned things around, sweeping their four-games series with the Los Angeles Angels, the first time the Sox swept a four-game series in Anaheim since June 1980.
Sox starting pitchers have now gone nine games in which starters have gone at least five innings while giving up less than three runs, the longest such streak since 1946. Sox starters have logged a 0.88 ERA during the current span.
In the National League, the Phillies, despite the absence of second baseman Chase Utley and closer Brad Lidge, have rallied to the top of the National League East riding a five-game winning streak, and largely on the strength of their vaunted starting rotation. The Phillies recently received bad news once again however, as current closer Jose Contreras was placed on the 15-day DL with a right elbow injury following Sunday’s win over the San Diego Padres.
The Florida Marlins are once again hanging around the top of the NL East despite payroll challenges, and also based largely on the strength of their starting rotation. Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are doing their level best to keep the Marlins in the hunt.
So, after approximately 13 percent of games have been played, teams now can get a feel of where their strengths are, and where potential gaps may need to be addressed.
We will take a look at each team’s biggest weakness, and which particular problem needs to be addressed above all else.
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