HOUSTON — Sure, it’s a month into the season. The sample size is way too small. But when has that stopped people from overanalyzing who is hot and who is not in baseball less than 30 games into the season? We live in the over-reactionary world of Twitter now. It’s what we do.
Milwaukee Brewers: Come on, you didn’t expect the Brewers to have the best record in baseball (21-9) and leading the National League Central by six games over perennial favorite St. Louis. No one did. Most analysts picked the Brewers to finish barely above the moribund Cubs this season. They finished last season 74-88 with Aramis Ramirez looking old and Ryan Braun suspended.
So how the heck are they doing it? Beer and brats and cheese curds? Not exactly.
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Their starting rotation has posted a 2.92 earned-run average, which helps considerably. And that’s with prized free-agent addition Matt Garza struggling (1-3, 5.00 ERA in six starts). But Yovani Gallardo, who had a subpar season last year, has bounced back and combined with Kyle Lohse, Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada to go 12-3 with a collective 2.44 ERA.
The offense is significantly improved by having Braun and Ramirez back on a daily basis. Braun played in just 61 games last season before being suspended for his connection to the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal. He’s returned this year and hit .318 with six homers, 18 runs batted in and a .952 on-base plus slugging percentage despite a nagging thumb injury.
Ramirez is also healthy for the moment and, while he’s hitting just .252, he has driven in 19 runs. Add them with the mercurial Carlos Gomez, who is hitting .293 with seven homers, 19 RBI and a .919 OPS, and you’ve got some offense to go with the pitching.
There is also the renaissance of Francisco Rodriguez. The one-time All-Star closer had been relegated to a setup man the past few seasons. But he won the job in spring and has been outstanding, saving 14 games and allowing just seven hits and no runs with 24 strikeouts in 17 innings pitched.
Jose Abreu, White Sox: There were some questions surrounding the Cuban slugger during the offseason. Would his power and offensive prowess adapt to major-league baseball? He seems to have answered that with a torrid first month that included a .267 batting average, a .956 OPS and a major-league-leading 11 homers and 33 RBI.
Charlie Blackmon and Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: They are an odd 1-2 punch in Denver. Tulowitzki is a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate. And he’s putting up those type of numbers. In 30 games, he’s hitting .385 with a ridiculous .487 on-base percentage and a .729 slugging percentage — all of which lead the NL.
Blackmon is the bigger surprise. A 27-year-old journeyman who played in 151 big-league games over three seasons going into this year, he is hitting .380 with a 1.080 OPS — second only to Tulowitzki. He’s tied for the NL lead in hits with 41 and has scored 26 runs.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Somebody might be getting fired in Phoenix; whether it’s general manager Kevin Towers or manager Kirk Gibson is unclear. But the team is a mess. The Diamondbacks are 10-22 and there are no signs of getting better. They’ve got a miserable 3-15 record at home.
Arizona’s starting pitching is atrocious. Gibson has had seven different pitchers make starts, and they’ve combined for a 6-18 record and 6.04 ERA while giving up 28 homers — the most in baseball.
Then there is the quibbling about not calling up top pitching prospect Archie Bradley. His agent, Jay Franklin, accused Towers of not making the move because of service-time concerns. That argument is now moot with Bradley on the disabled list with a forearm strain.
The offense wasn’t abysmal, but the loss of Mark Trumbo for six weeks due to a stress fracture hasn’t helped. Paul Goldschmidt is still hitting .320 with four homers and 18 RBI, but it’s not enough.
Prince Fielder, Rangers: It was supposed to be a perfect fit when they acquired him from Detroit — Fielder playing 81 games in the hitter-friendly confines of Globe Life Park in Arlington. It would make paying $138 million over the next seven years worth it.
But it hasn’t worked out well so far. Fielder is hitting .208 with just seven extra-base hits — five doubles and two homers — while driving in just nine runs. His .311 slugging percentage is lower than that of second baseman Josh Wilson (.327).