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Fair or Foul: Six surprising early-season trends

Two weeks into the 2022 season, certain teams are performing as expected and some are not in one direction or the other. The same goes for individual players — some are swinging it out of the gate and others seemingly cannot hit at all. Here are six trends from the start of the season that are the most surprising

The 2022 Yankees are extremes of the 2021 Yankees

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

Last season, the Yankees were defined by solid starting pitching, elite bullpen arms and very streaky hitting. All three traits continue into 2022 but to greater degrees. The rotation, aside from a struggling Gerrit Cole, looks elite. Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon and Nestor Cortes are dominating. In the bullpen, there are too many quality arms to count right now and all that leads to the Yankees having the American League’s best team ERA at 2.48. 

However, the inconsistency at the plate has carried over in a big way into 2022. Aaron Hicks and DJ Lemahieu are hitting over .300 and Anthony Rizzo’s OPS is almost .900, but after that there are six everyday players with an OPS under .700, and Aaron Judge’s is only .733. Simply put, the Yankees are not hitting. Without their outstanding hurlers, this team’s offensive ineptitude would have them in last place through eleven games.

The Rangers are off to a 2-8 start

The Rangers’ offseason was defined by money spent and trades made. With over $500 million spent on Jon Gray, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, plus the acquisition of Mitch Garver, Texas seemed poised for a big leap in the American League West. The pitching is as awful as advertised with Gray struggling greatly and the rest of the pitching doing the lackluster jobs they have done in the past.

In the lineup, Nathaniel Lowe and Seager are the only hitters with respectable batting averages, while the best OPSs come from bench players in Brad Miller and Jonah Heim. With all of the money spent, and the Athletics tanking, it is shocking that Texas’ start is as bad as it is. Things need to turn on at the plate and on the mound for this team or they are already doomed.

The Rockies are 8-3 through 11 games 

The Rockies and Rangers both had awful 2021 seasons. While Texas spent big to try and correct the course, the Rockies lost Trevor Story and brought in an older player and defensive liability in Kris Bryant to fill his spot in the lineup. And yet, the team that tried to fix things is 2-8, and the team running it back with a very similar losing squad in the Rockies is 8-3.

Colorado is batting .280 as a team so far with five starters batting over .300. On the mound, the bullpen is dominating while the rotation struggles. While this trend may not continue, given how loaded the NL West is, this start is as stunning as any for 2022

The NL West has four winning teams, and the NL East has four losing teams

Everyone expected the Dodgers to play well. The Giants decided to run it back with a veteran-led team that won 107 games last season. This move was risky but had the chance to pay off again. The Padres could not possibly play that far below expectations again like 2021. The Rockies joining the winning parade in the NL West is the cherry on top of this division’s insane start. Three teams already have eight wins, and the Giants are 7-4. This is high-intensity drama of the highest order if it keeps up all season.

Meanwhile across the country, the NL East is led by the New York Mets and no other team is playing up to par out of the gate. Despite having arguably the best offensive outfield in baseball, plus other sluggers, the Phillies’ pitching starting slow and the defense being abhorrent has led to a worse start as the lowly Miami Marlins. The Braves have gotten solid hitting production, especially from new first-baseman Matt Olson, but the pitching has been very iffy and they have the same 6-7 record as the lowly Washington Nationals.  If the Mets keep rolling with the talent they have, everyone else’s slow starts may already do themselves in.

Four starters 33 and older are dominating right away

Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw were the faces of baseball pitchers a decade ago. Out of the gate in 2022, they look like they still are.

Verlander has not pitched since Opening Day of 2020, but surrendered just one run in his first two starts. Despite being 39, Verlander still looks like Verlander and keeps leading the Astros staff. 

Scherzer signed the highest average-annual-value contract for any player in MLB history before 2022. He makes over $40 million per year, which divides into over $1 million per game played, and he only has a 2.50 ERA and leads the NL in strikeouts through his first three starts.

Kershaw re-signed with the Dodgers for another season out west. The 34 year-old lefty kicked off his 15th season with seven perfect innings and 13 strikeouts. Kershaw has a 0.500 WHIP, 20 strikeouts and zero walks allowed through two starts.

Lastly, 33-year-old righty Chris Bassitt keeps rolling after a Cy Young-caliber season got cut short by a horrific head injury. With just five hits and one run allowed over two starts, Bassitt keeps rolling. The trio of Bassitt, Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, who is set to return later this season, makes this Mets’ staff look terrifying.

Seiya Suzuki fits like a glove with the Cubs

Suzuki was the prized international free agent of the 2021 offseason. The Cubs may be preparing for a rebuild, but that did not stop Suzuki from signing there and that move looks like the right one right away. Suzuki already has 12 hits, six of which are extra-base hits (two doubles and four home runs), and is batting over .400 to start the season. This is an incredible way to start a rookie of the year campaign, and if Suzuki keeps up the offense then the hype surrounding him will be worth it.

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