All of the major-league teams have completed between nine and 11 games. The clubs in the latter category are 6.8 percent finished with their season, while the teams in the former group are 5.6 percent done.
So while many early results, tied to both teams and individuals, are surprising, only some are confusing in that they defy some greater expectation than just a slump or hot streak. Let's offer "Confusion ratings" on some of the most notable surprises.
1. Jason Bay. His return has been delayed, as his rib-cage strain is taking longer than hoped to heal. He didn't play after July 25 of last year, due to the concussion he suffered on July 23.
This from a guy who played 145 or more games every year from 2005 through 2009.
You can't point to the concussion from last year and use it as an example of how Bay is falling apart physically. That was an unfortunate accident that occurred because of Bay's hustle. This rib-cage injury, though, ensures that it'll be another injury-shortened season for Bay. Who's to say that he'll definitely be back on April 26th?
When you include Bay's subpar performance last year prior to the concussion, I'd label Bay's entire stay with the Mets as significantly confusing.
2. Pedro Feliciano. He'll get more tests today, because he didn't feel right yesterday after playing catch. Not a good development at all for the Yankees, who already are paying lefty specialist Damaso Marte $4 million this year to not pitch for them.
Feliciano was remarkably durable for the Mets these past few years, as we've discussed extensively, so Brian Cashman obviously subscribed to the "Why shouldn't he just keep being durable?" philosophy when giving him $8 million for two years. Cashman should have considered the "Time bomb" philosophy. After all, he saw what eventually happened to Scott Proctor after years of Joe Torre's "abuse."
Feliciano's problem is not at all confusing.
3. Albert Pujols. He's off to a positively dreadful start for the Cardinals. As we know, this is his walk year, which adds some intrigue.
Nevertheless, Pujols' track record is too vast and too impressive to make a federal case - or even a municipal one - over such a tiny sample size. Let's call it curious, but not confusing.
4. The Red Sox. They lost their second straight to Tampa Bay last night, and they now own a 2-9 record, worst in the major leagues. As you can see in the linked story, last night's game wasn't horrible in and of itself. It's just that Boston hasn't consistently put together good, full games.
There's so much talent on this team that we have to label their poor start as mildly confusing.
5. The Giants. They beat the Dodgers last night, a nice comeback victory, and now their record is 5-6. No big deal, except that predictable trends are already forming. The Giants are pitching well (a team ERA+ of 119) and hitting below average (a team OPS+ of 90). I'm not sure how they get dramatically better on the offensive side throughout the course of the season.
The Giants' results are not only not confusing, they're to be expected.
--Discussion of Phil Hughes' velocity issues persists, understandably. I and a couple of other reporters chatted briefly last night with a scout from a National League team who shrugged and said that this could simply be a matter of a pitcher not having his velocity early in the season, the precise idea that the Yankees have floated.
--Anthony Rieber writes about the extra wild-card slot. I'd be surprised if this were not in place for next season. The big debate among teams will be whether to make that "Wild-card round" a one-and-done or a best-of-three. The former will allow the playoff schedule to pretty much remain intact and add a nice amount of excitement, but it might constitute too dramatic of an alteration for some clubs.
Either way, adding the second wild-card will keep more teams alive in September, it will blunt the Yankees/Red Sox economic dominance in the AL East and it will increase the incentive to win the division. The tradeoff? Not too bad, IMO. Last year's second wild-cards would've been Boston and San Diego. I don't think that would've watered down October in any significant way.
--Daniel Murphy should get more starts at second base, David Lennon contends. Sure, why not? It seems like Terry Collins agrees. Murphy has looked pretty good there defensively, while Brad Emaus has done very little offensively.
--Josh Hamilton will be out for an extended period due to a risky baserunning play that backfired. Even Hamilton regretted the decision by his third-base coach, Dave Anderson. Did you see the replay? Seems like Brandon Inge and Victor Martinez recovered pretty quickly from Brad Penny's failure to cover home plate. It didn't require that much effort. Not a very good call by Anderson, IMO.
--Have a great day. Due to some schedule rejiggering, the plan now calls for giveaway contests tomorrow and Friday.