With the NBA and NHL seasons coming to an end — and the 90-degree weather forecasted this week in the District — it’s starting to feel like baseball season. If over the past few months you’ve been consumed by playoff hockey and basketball — or the start of the World Cup — and haven’t been keeping close attention to what’s going on around the diamond, don’t worry. Here are five of the biggest MLB storylines so far this year.
1. Dominant A’s — Oakland leads the AL West and has the best road record (23-14) in all of baseball. The A’s entered Tuesday’s game with a run differential of plus-126 — 72 runs better than any other team. They rank first in runs scored and first in team ERA. Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes are in the top 10 in the majors in RBIs, while Scott Kazmir, Jesse Chavez and Sonny Gray are in the top 10 in the AL in ERA.
2. Oldies but Goodies — Toronto’s Mark Buehrle and San Francisco’s Tim Hudson are having their best seasons of their long careers. Buehrle, 35, was the first pitcher in baseball to reach 10 wins this year and is fourth in the AL with a 2.28 ERA for the division-leading Blue Jays. Hudson, 38, has allowed just three earned runs in his past four starts — lowering his ERA to an MLB-best 1.81 for the NL-leading Giants.
3. Foreign Faces — Despite a stint on the disabled list, the White Sox’s Jose Abreu entered Tuesday with 19 home runs — tied for third-most in the majors. The first baseman defected from Cuba in August 2013 and signed a six-year, $68 million contract with Chicago. The Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka entered Tuesday’s start 10-1 with a 2.02 ERA. The Japanese righty signed a seven-year, $155 million contract with New York in January.
4. Triple Crown Watch — Two years ago, the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown since 1967. Last season, he nearly did it again. This year, though, Cabrera (.322, 12 HRs, 55 RBIs) isn’t near the league leaders in homers. But there could be a Triple Crown winner in the NL in 2014. The Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki (.355, 18 HRs, 45 RBIs) and the Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton (.305, 19 HRs, 56 RBIs) are in the top 10 in their league in each category.
5. A Tight NL East — Entering Tuesday, the five teams in the NL East were separated by just 5½ games — with the Nationals, Braves and Marlins within a game of each other. According to fangraphs.com, Washington has the best odds to win the division. This weekend, manager Matt Williams and the Nationals host a critical four-game series against their NL East rival Braves — a team Washington is 7-18 against since 2013.
Baseball Awards Races
As next month’s All-Star break approaches, here’s a prediction on who’s got the early edge in the 2014 MVP and Cy Young races. There are a few new guys in the running.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies — The shortstop leads the majors in batting average (.355) and WAR (5.2)
2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
3. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates
5. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers
NL Cy Young
1. Johnny Cueto, Reds — In the NL, he’s second in ERA (1.85), second in strikeouts (109) and first in WHIP (0.77).
2. Tim Hudson, Giants
3. Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
4. Zack Greinke, Dodgers
5. Julio Teheran, Braves
1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays — This year he’s got the average (.314) to go along with his power (15 HRs, 47 RBIs).
2. Josh Donaldson, A’s
3. Mike Trout, Angels
4. Nelson Cruz, Orioles
5. Victor Martinez, Tigers
AL Cy Young
1. Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees — Entering Tuesday, he hadn’t had an outing all year that was not a quality start.
2. Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays
3. Yu Darvish, Rangers
4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
5. Scott Kazmir, A’s