This baseball season has started off with a bang. The first week of baseball went by with some surprises (Washington Nationals at 2-5, Atlanta Braves at 6-1, Colorado Rockies at 5-2) and some expected results (Detroit Tigers at 6-1, Minnesota Twins at 1-6). But what many didn't expect was for the Kansas City Royals to start the first week off undefeated (From outta NOWHERE).
Coming off of a World Series trip which saw them nearly upend Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants, the Kansas City Royals were picked by many experts to be a .500 ball club this year. Why? Because they lost their ace in James Shields to San Diego, who went 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA, a WHIP of 1.18, and 180 strikeouts. They also lost Billy Butler to Oakland, which didn't seem to matter to them since he batted .271 with nine home runs and 66 RBIs last season. Although both Butler and Shields are having solid starts to their season, that hasn't deterred the Royals from starting off 7-0.
Remember the trio of Wade Davis (1.00 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 109 K's, 33 holds), Kelvin Herrera (1.41 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 20 holds), and Greg Holland (1.44 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 90 K's, 46 saves)? Those three fueled the Kansas City bullpen to a World Series trip that took San Francisco to the wire. Those three are back and NONE of them have allowed an earned run so far. In fact, the three have combined for just two walks and eleven strikeouts. A lot of experts believed that the bullpen would tail off this year. Believe it or not, they also acquired oft-injured Kendrys Morales to replace Billy Butler and he's been a surprise. He's batting .414 with two home runs and five RBI's and get this: He's walked five times and struck out only six times. Salvador Perez (.414, three home runs, nine RBIs) and Lorenzo Cain (.407, one home run, eight RBIs) have also been very productive. But don't think for a second that this blog is all about the Royals.
The one BIG surprise to the season so far has been the Atlanta Braves. Many experts picked the Braves to be absolutely abysmal this year. But Atlanta's performance so far has raised the eyebrows of many. This is the same Atlanta team that made major overhauls in the offseason. Out went the Upton brothers, Evan Gattis, Craig Kimbrel, Jason Heyward, and Tommy La Stella. In went Jason Grilli, Shelby Miller, Alberto Callaspo, Nick Markakis, Jonny Gomes, Jim Johnson, A.J. Pierzynski, Cameron Maybin, and Eric Young Jr., a.k.a. the guy who stepped on Tim Hudson's foot.
One acquisition that has helped out the Braves (And one that I really liked) was the addition of Shelby Miller. It might only be two starts, but Miller boasts an ERA of 0.90 and a WHIP of 1.10. Granted, he hasn't struck out a lot of batters (Only five to be exact). But that's probably not Miller's forte; his career best was in 2013 when he had 169 strikeouts for St. Louis. He's a part of Atlanta's stellar pitching, which leads the majors in team ERA at 1.86. Opponents are also batting .206 against Atlanta pitchers, which is good for sixth in the majors.
Can Atlanta keep this up while the Nationals are down? Crazier things have happened, but as long as the Braves can contribute timely hitting to go with their pitching (11th in runs scored with 32 and 7th in BA with .256), then this team could be in the playoff chase come the dog days of summer. It could also take the ease off the rebuilding process and make it much more useful for the Braves. As for the Royals, don't write them off. This team has a lot of their core players back and are hungry for more than just an appearance in the Fall Classic.