10. Matt Holliday, LF, St. Louis Cardinals
As if a struggling Albert Pujols and the loss of Adam Wainwright weren’t enough, the baseball gods decided to sideline Matt Holliday with Appendicitis. You know, with all the talk from the Cardinals about playing the game the right way, you’d think that Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols were already on the committee of the gods. Maybe they let their registration expire.
Luckily, Holliday caught the appendicitis early, and was able to avoid a DL stint. He’s already back in the lineup, and probably even a couple pounds lighter.
9. Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox
If the strained oblique was the injury of 2010, and it’s already taking its toll on players in 2011, perhaps the only thing that will give it a run for its money in 2011 is appendicitis. After Matt Holliday missed roughly a week to have his appendix removed, Adam Dunn needed to undergo the same procedure.
While it’s not entirely strange to have multiple players need their appendix removed, it is quite the coincidence that such big names would fall victim within the same week. Not only that, but the fact that they’re recovering so quickly. Holliday is already back, and Dunn returned on Tuesday. Last season, Andre Torres missed two weeks with an appendectomy, and commented later that he came back too soon. Corey Hart missed more than a month, after his surgery.
8. Cleveland Indians
In the first week of play, the AL Central was flipped on its head, with the Indians and the Royals leading the way. Cleveland overcame two poor opening outings from Fausto Carmona and Carlos Carrasco and went on to win 8 straight games, including a sweep of the Red Sox. They’ve scored 5.4 runs per game during the streak, and allowed either 0 or 1 run in 5 of the 8 wins.
The offense has exploded for 13 home runs, including 4 from shortstop, Asdrubal Cabrera. Outside of Travis Hafner, the offense hasn’t exactly come from the usual sources. Michael Brantley has a .306/.381/389 slash line, and Matt Laporta has a .241/.361/.483 line. If those two can keep it up when Shoo and Santana pick up their production, this could be quite the surprise year for the Indians.
7. Texas Rangers
Entering the season, the Rangers didn’t look too likely to repeat their AL title. Losing Cliff Lee was a huge loss. Even though guys like Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson are talented pitchers, they don’t look nearly as good when they’re filling Cy Young Award winning shoes, especially not when Dave Bush is working his way into that rotation. It’s nothing against those pitchers, but they’re not Cliff Lee.
But if you hibernated during the hot stove season, you’d have no idea that Cliff Lee was no longer around. The Rangers are on fire, getting out to a 9-1 start before losing on Tuesday. The pitching and defense have been solid, allowing 3 runs or fewer in 6 games, but the offense has been even better than expected. The Rangers have already had scores of 6, 7, 9, 12, and 13. Obviously playing in Arlington helps, but they still put up 16 runs over 3 games in Safeco.
6. Milwaukee Brewers
For the Milwaukee Brewers, 2011 has been a tale of two teams. The Brewers entered the season with injuries to key starters Zack Greinke, Corey Hart, and Jonathon Lucroy. This team is banged up, and it really showed in Cincinnati. After being swept by the division favorite Cincinnati Reds, the Brewers lost their home opener to the Braves. Things were beginning to look bleak, and the fan base was beginning to get anxious.
But then they flipped the switch. Milwaukee turned to its de-facto ace, Yovani Gallardo, and he didn’t disappoint. Gallardo pitched a complete game 2-hit gem, and scored the only run of the game, to give the Brewers their first win of the season. But the winning didn’t stop there. The next day they got a solid outing from fill-in starter, Marco Estrada. That was followed by a 6 inning, 2 run outing by newcomer, Shaun Marcum. Suddenly, the Brewers were 3-4. After dropping the first game of the weekend series to the rival Cubs, The Brewers won the next two, climbing back to an even record. After a very rough start, the Brewers got back on track, and now sit just 2.5 games back of the Reds for the NL Central lead.
5. Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise after his Brilliant 2010 campaign (3.01 ERA, 9.35 K/9) that Jered Weaver is off to a tremendous start to 2011.
In his first start on Opening Day, the Angels’ Ace pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits and 2 walks, with 6 strikeouts. His second outing was much of the same. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing 1 run on 3 hits and 3 walks, while striking out 6. And on Sunday, he pitched 7 2/3 innings, allowing just 1 run on 4 hits and 4 walks, but he struck out an incredible 15 batters. He’s a beast, and he’s probably been the best starting pitcher so far.
4. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are so confident in their talent that they decided to spot the Yankees 4 games to start the season. Boston’s pitching has been absolutely horrendous thus far. Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lackey have ERAs of 7.20, 12.86, and 15.58, respectively. The bullpen isn’t helping matters, either. Daniel Bard, Felix Doubront, Dennys Reyes, and Dan Wheeler have combined to allow 17 runs in 11 innings. That’s a combined ERA of 13.91!
Even if you have the most potent offense in the majors, which the Red Sox do, it wouldn’t matter. They can’t overcome that type of catastrophe. But the Red Sox will get better. They simply have too much talent not to. Even if Matsuzaka isn’t replaced until July, the Red Sox should be back near the top of the AL East by the All-Star break. They’re only 5 games behind Baltimore, and there are plenty of games to be played. You know, like over 100.
3. Philadelphia Phillies
From the underwhelming American League’s World Series favorite, we go to the overwhelming National League’s World Series favorite. After all the talk about the Phillies having the best rotation in the history of rotations, people’s expectations dropped down to earth when Chase Utley and Brad Lidge got sidelined. Those expectations are probably back to where they started, now. The Phillies have rode their bats to a 9-2 start, despite some pedestrian outings from Lee, Hamels, and Blanton.
Utley’s injury hasn’t hurt one bit. Ahem. It hasn’t hurt the team one bit. His replacement, Wilson Valdez, is hitting .333, and the Phillies are leading the NL in both Average and On Base Percentage, while they are 2nd in Runs per game and Slugging. Even the notoriously slow-starting Ryan Howard is getting in on the action with an OPS of 1.092.
The bullpen is delivering as well. Outside of David Herndon, there isn’t a single Philadelphia reliever that has allowed more than 1 earned run all season. It’s tough to make up an early deficit when you’re facing that staff. The Phillies don’t need to have the best rotation in the majors, which they do, if the offense and bullpen continue to perform like this.
2. Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
After going in the top 5 of most fantasy drafts, Longoria began the season by straining his oblique. He will be on the DL until at least late April. After losing Carl Crawford to free agency, and now Manny Ramirez to the fertility ward, the Rays will try to get through April on the backs of such sluggers as Ben Zobrist, Johnny Damon, Sean Rodriguez, and BJ Upton. Oh yeah, let’s not forget Felipe Lopez, Dan Johnson, and Sam Fuld. Please keep Tampa Bay in your thoughts and prayers.
1. Manny Ramirez (Retired)
Manny decided to retire early so that he could spend more time focusing on having a child. Since baseball’s intrusive anti-child policy forces players to provide a doctor’s excuse in order to use certain fertility drugs, Manny took a stand and chose to retire. Manny is leading a movement by players who think that MLB is clearly at war with the players’ desires to pass on their legacy. It isn’t yet known if the league realizes that players are trying to produce future players, or if MLB will forever use the veil of steroids to stunt population growth.