The early weeks of the Major League Baseball season always provide us with a few surprises and this season has been no different. The New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates have all raced out of the gates to take the lead in their respective divisions after the first three weeks of the season. Now, it's still early, but each of these teams were expected to be on the fringes of the playoff race when the season began and so far they're in the driver's seat. Let's examine a few reasons why.
Mets- Prior to last night's bullpen implosion against the Washington Nationals, the Mets had jumped out to a 12-2 start thanks largely to the pitching they've gotten from their bullpen (2.28 ERA, 4th MLB) and starters (3.38 ERA, 7th MLB). In addition, the team has gotten strong starts at the plate from Asdrubal Cabrera (.356/.397/.644, 4 HR) and Todd Frazier (.313/.453/.542, 11 RBI). They've done all of this despite a slow start to the year from star outfielder Yoenis Cespedes who's slashing just .186/.262/.356 so far.
Angels- A lot of the focus has been on rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani and rightfully so. At the plate, Ohtani is slashing .367/.424/.767 with three homers and 11 RBI. He's been just as effective on the mound winning both of his starts and throwing 13 innings while allowing just four hits and three runs while striking out 18. Ohtani isn't the only one throwing well however, as the Halos bullpen ranks sixth in the league in ERA at 2.45, and has converted five of six save opportunities. Combine that with solid production from Albert Pujols (.282, 3 HR 9 RBI), Justin Upton (.291, 4 HR, 11 RBI) and Mike Trout (.266, 6 HR, 13 RBI) and it's easy to see why L.A. has jumped out to an early division lead.
Pirates- While the two teams above have gotten good performances from the bullpen, the Pirates have not, ranking 29th in the league in reliever ERA (5.98). But, that's been overshadowed by an offense that ranks fourth in batting average (.264), eighth in on-base percentage (.335), fourth in slugging (.443) and in the Top 10 in homers with 19. Corey Dickerson has been raking in the early-going with a .358/.386/.585 slash line, while Gregory Polanco has provided the power (5 HR). Starling Marte (.310), Colin Moran (.305) and Josh Bell (.305) are all also hitting above the .300 mark to start the year.
These teams may fade some when the dog days of June and July hit, but for now, it seems like they're poised to make a little more noise than what was expected from them this season. For more headlines from the week in baseball, check out the video above.
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