BY DREW DUFF | Ball State Sports Link
The start of the 2017 Major League Baseball season has been thrilling to say the least. From the prominence of Yankees youngster Aaron Judge to the surging Washington Nationals, there are many story lines to pay attention to moving forward.
Specifically, three teams have made big waves already this season. The rest of the league will need to keep an eye out for these teams, as all are poised to make a playoff push.
When I said this team was surging, I absolutely meant it. The Nationals have become a nightmare for opposing pitchers. As the best offensive team in baseball, the team leads the league in batting average by more than 20 points (.295). They averaged nearly seven runs per game in April, and the top three leaders in RBI play in our nation’s capitol (Ryan Zimmermann, Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy). The club has put up some unbelievable numbers already this season.
The Nationals finish April with 170 runs – 10th most all time. The other 9 all played in the Juiced Era (1993-2008).
— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) April 30, 2017
To go along with the heavy hitting, Washington’s starting rotation is deadly.
With Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez in the 1-2-3 positions, opposing teams have their backs against the wall at the plate. Given how dominant Scherzer has been over the years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him make his case for another Cy Young Award.
Given their disappointing tumble in last year’s NLDS to the Dodgers, look for the Nationals to be a threat moving into October.
I know, I’m as surprised as you are to see this team on my list. Colorado currently sits at second place in the NL West behind the Diamondbacks, and they are currently on pace for 99 wins (previous franchise high was 92 in 2009).
A team that typically flies under the radar, the Rockies’ specialty this season has been the ability to close out games. The team signed closer Greg Holland in the offseason, which has proven to be an underrated signing.
Holland is 11 for 11 in save opportunities this season, sporting a 1.50 ERA and allowing a run in only one of his 12 appearances.
Colorado has also been great offensively so far, ranking fifth in home runs and eighth in batting average.
If they can keep finishing games and keep the long balls flying, don’t be surprised if this team makes a deep run in the playoffs.
Houston’s 2016 season was underwhelming to say the least. After going 7-17 in April, the team recovered well, but went 4-9 at home in September and fell out of contention.
The Astros have started this year as one of the most well rounded teams in baseball, placing second in batting average and ERA.
Ace Dallas Keuchel has no doubt returned to form after a turbulent 2016 campaign. He sports a 5-0 record, with hitters batting just .168 against him. Much of that can be attributed to his ball placement. Notice on the graphic below how many pitches are on the outside corner or on the inside part of the plate.
— #Statcast (@statcast) April 26, 2017
He is backed up by a strong line up with second baseman Jose Altuve and catcher Evan Gattis, who are both hitting north of .320. If the Astros can continue their hot streak, they should have no problem winning the AL West this season.
Opponents must tread lightly when facing these three teams, or they could be in for quite a surprise.