When play concluded on April 30, 2012, the Tampa Bay Rays sat in first place in the American League East, the Cleveland Indians in first in the Central, and the Los Angeles Dodgers were atop the National League West. None of those teams made the playoffs.
Which is to say, a month into this baseball season, nothing has been determined. But it is worth exploring the potential for those teams off to quick starts – and determine whether they’re potentially frauds.
(Stats are through Thursday’s games.)
BOSTON (18-8 in April, first in AL East): Coming off a disastrous 69-win 2012, expectations at Fenway were the lowest they have been in a decade. But free agent first baseman Mike Napoli leads all of baseball with 31 RBI, and designated hitter David Ortiz has returned from injury to post a 1.049 OPS through his first 10 games.
Start is fraudulent: The Red Sox already have problems at the back end of the bullpen, where former National Joel Hanrahan returned after two weeks with a hamstring problem only to find Andrew Bailey in his job. Stability?
Start is real: Starters Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have combined to go 10-0 with a 1.97 ERA. This year’s Pedro Martinez/Curt Schilling?
COLORADO (16-11 in April, first in NL West): After winning 64 games in 2012, the Rockies appeared to be a mess – in need of a new manager and a new philosophy after trying a four-man rotation, and failing with it.
Start is fraudulent: Center fielder Dexter Fowler is second in all of baseball in WAR (wins over replacement) and has a 1.016 OPS. Fowler is coming off a sterling 2012 (.863 OPS), but can he sustain this?
Start is real: Jhoulys Chacin might be developing into the ace the Rockies have so rarely had. Due to return Sunday from back spasms, he is 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in his four starts, with six walks and 16 Ks in 24-2/3 innings. The Rockies have also had SS Troy Tulowitzki and 1B Todd Helton miss time, and are still afloat.
KANSAS CITY (14-11 in April, second in AL Central): This is a franchise with one winning season – and 12 with 90 losses – since 1994, so tread carefully. But General Manager Dayton Moore made his case that now is the time by trading top prospect Wil Myers to Tampa for top-of-the-rotation starter James Shields, and the early returns are promising.
Start is fraudulent: Do they have enough pop? Only the Marlins have hit fewer home runs than the Royals’ 16. Only LF Alex Gordon has at least 10 extra-base hits.
Start is real: Kansas City’s 3.49 ERA trails only Texas and Boston in the AL, and the top three starters – Shields, Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana – have combined to go 8-3 with a 2.69 ERA.