MLB’s surprise teams at the start of the 2022 season

Ranking can be daunting at first sight. It can take your breath away when you look up and see that your team has lost more than they have won, that there are already more games out of the first one than you thought, that you have the impression that it is already getting late early. This is especially true if not much was expected of your team during the offseason: it can feel like a stasis, as if your place in the standings was already destined.

But if you take a closer look, there are reasons for hope. For five teams that are 0.500 or lower — five teams that many people expected to finish under 0.500, and possibly at the bottom of their divisions — there are signs of life, reason to believe in them. Maybe not for this season, but for the future. They may have a lot of teams ahead of them in the standings. But these teams are a little better than it looks. Listed below in order of early season surprise factor.

1. D-back
We’re all still a bit confused as to what was going on with Madison Bumgarner and this referee like you. (Bumgarner, considering how feisty he can be, handled the situation about 85% more calmly than expected — or how we might have handled it.) But if you haven’t looked at Bumgarner’s stats lately, you won’t. you may not have noticed that he looks much more like the Bumgarner you remember.

Bumgarner has a 1.50 ERA in six starts, and while that number is a bit lower than it probably should be (his FIP is 4.85), it’s a sign of the overall strength of the game. team of these D-backs: their starting pitch. Merrill Kelly has a 1.27 ERA in five starts, and Zac Gallen looks like the pitcher we all thought he was a few years ago, hitting a 1.27 ERA in four starts. (Even Zach Davies and Humberto Castellanos were perfectly decent).

The offense still has its issues outside of Pavin Smith and an emerging Daulton Varsho, but when you look at this rotation, it’s no wonder the D-backs are at 13-13. That’s the good news. The bad? Well, Arizona is in National League West, so 13-13 has them in last place.

2. Marlins
The Marlins, like everyone else in eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, are watching the Mets, who have become the early favorites. But taking into account that we’re all waiting for Atlanta to make a run, Miami could become the best of these non-Mets teams by the end of the year. One of the main reasons is the starting pitch, we were all excited to start the season, although that excellence is taking a different form than we might have expected.

Sandy Alcantara was as solid as he always was, and Jesús Luzardo seems to have found his footing after struggling in Oakland. But the real star has been Pablo López, who has emerged as a Cy Young level ace thus far.

If the Marlins can get Trevor Rogers and Elieser Hernandez started, it could still be the best rotation in the division. But they have a new ace in the hole offensively: Jazz Chisholm Jr., who has been a sneaky NL MVP Award contender thus far, with an incredible .324/.373/.635 line. He has five doubles, three triples, four homers, six stolen bases and the heart of every budding Marlins fan. He’s becoming the kind of offensive player you can build a whole roster around…and just what Miami needed. Keep an eye on this team moving forward.

3. Pirates
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Pirates so far is that they’re third in NL Central… and haven’t even faced the Reds yet! (They finally have four with them this weekend.) Pittsburgh was expected to be right down the division with Cincinnati this year, and it could end there. The Pirates’ run-to-run ratio is that of an 8-16 team, rather than 10-14.

But there are some good signs here. Ke’Bryan Hayes didn’t hit for much power, but he steps up on base like a star and plays his transcendent defense at third base. Daniel Vogelbach is showing the world exactly what an NL designated hitter can look like.

The Pirates’ greatest strength has been their closed bullpen, led by David Bednar, but also Dillon Peters (16 2/3 scoreless innings so far) and Wil Crowe. Manager Derek Shelton has been surprisingly fluid and flexible in how he uses this bullpen, often without defined roles. Pittsburgh needs to win its close games, and this bullpen is why it does it.

4. Rangers
Five days ago we might not have considered putting Rangers on this list. They were 6-14, in last place in the American League West and trying to figure out exactly why their two big star free agents (Corey Seager and Marcus Semien) had forgotten how to hit. They still haven’t figured out the Semien part — it’s downright weird to see the perpetual MVP contender hitting .242 — but they’ve just come off a four-game winning streak (against the Braves and Phillies, no less) that makes you want to keep an eye on them.

Texas is a team that’s just looking for pieces that will keep going, or help them bring in someone who will, and they might have one in Martín Pérez, who’s been great so far and has matched the pitch of Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler on Wednesday. night.

Even more encouraging was Dane Dunning, who increased his strikeout rate, lowered his walk rate and reaped the benefits. Even with the additions of Seager, Semien, Kole Calhoun and Mitch Garver, their best hitter might be catcher Jonah Heim, who has 1.153 OPS in 42 plate appearances. Rangers have a lot to figure out, but you can see flashes of the future here… and awesome flashes right here in the present as well.

5. Cubs
A recent slip-up dropped the Cubs to 9-15 and fourth place in the NL Central, and it looks like this split will be a two-team race between the Brewers and Cardinals. But there are plenty of reasons to think the Cubs will not only climb to third place, but also show faster improvement over the next two seasons than many might have expected.

First and foremost, Seiya Suzuki already looks like one of the best free agent signings of the offseason. Even though he returned to Earth after a torrid start, he still hits .475 and charms every Wrigley fan he meets. But this offense has more than him.

Patrick Wisdom has kept most of his winnings from last year – he could hit 35 homers this season – and Nico Hoerner looks like a useful piece for many years to come. Nick Madrigal and Frank Schwindel have yet to start, but Ian Happ, after years of inconsistency, looks like an All-Star in the making. Pitching still has issues, but the Cubs, for the first time in a long time, seem headed in the right direction.

Neal T. Doss