As a current college student, I'm completely aware that you cannot judge an entire school year by looking at one quarter (see my classic 2.0/3.0/4.0 slash line from last year, I'm a late-season student). But it is very difficult to not be excited by the first fourth of this season's "rebuilding project."
I believe the number one thing we can take from our start to the season is that this is a much more well coached and scrappy team than we've had in season's past. That clubhouse swagger that we loved in the Scutaro/Swisher/Bradley era seems to be coming back. The team is gelling around solid starting pitching, a shockingly outstanding bullpen, speed and agressiveness on the basepaths, and a steady dose of the longball. Granted, this team is NOT hitting. Weeks, Pennington, Suzuki, Barton and Crisp are posting dismal lines. But despite a team batting average near the famed "Mendoza line" we are hovering around and above .500, showing that while this team lacks a murderer's row lineup, they do have the "it" factor that a winning team possesses.
Let's take a look at some surprises, disappointments, and the team's pitching and hitting MVPs so far, followed by a look ahead.
SURPRISE: Kila Ka'aihue, 1B. Okay, if you said the Kila Monster would be batting near .300, providing some clutch hitting, and even getting consistent playing time as the season started, you're definitely lying.
DISAPPOINTMENT: Coco Crisp, OF. Now, I know he's injured, and I know he's capable of being an above-average MLB outfielder. But for 7 million dollars a season, money that could've been put into additional pieces in the bullpen or corner infield, he's a massive liability. I love the way he plays, but he needs to be shipped elsewhere. Cowgill, Cespedes, Reddick, Smith and Gomes, Ramirez and Michael Taylor is fine by me.
SURPRISE: Jarrod Parker, SP. Through his first 4 starts he has looked wild at times, and still looks like he's finding himself on a major league mound. But number don't lie. His ERA is in the low 2's. He's getting out of jams like a proven vet. Along with Cook and Cowgill, the Cahill trade is looking like a classic Billy Beane special.
DISAPPOINTMENT:Tyson Ross, SP. Take his two starts against the Slegna out of the equation and he's been among the worst starting pitchers in baseball. I really hope he turns it around since he's local and seems like a great guy, but the second Peacock is ready or Braden/Anderson is healthy he's headed to Sacramento.
SURPRISE:Yoenis Cespedes, CF. Yes he's injured, and yes his average is a bit too low, but he's provided a middle of the order presence along with Josh Reddick that is scary when Jemile and Coco/Cliff get on base. Also, he hits moonshot homers and he's been a great hitter with runs on. If he gets and stays healthy, look out!
First Quarter MVP's: Ryan Cook, Josh Reddick. Josh Reddick is on pace for 35+ homers and 100 RBI's and Ryan Cook has been nothing short of perfect through 40 games. It's safe to say that without these two we'd be a good 3-5 games under .500. I'm as shocked as anyone that the Bailey and Cahill trades seem to have been won already.
Final First Quarter Report Card
Hitting: C+. There have been a few standouts and a few early disappointments. But if Jemile, Cliff and Coco can heat up, and Inge can stay healthy, this grade can improve.
Starting Pitching: B+. McCarthy has been fantastic, as has Parker, and every starter has had at least two fantastic outings. However, Colon and Ross's inconsistency and Milone's tendency to either pitch like Sandy Koufax or Jim Mecir depending on where he's playing are troubling. All in all, I'm happy.
Relief Pitching: A. Jordan Norberto, Ryan Cook, and even Brian Fuentes have been lights out. Grant Balfour has not. But based simply on the fact that at the beginning of the season I saw this group as a liability, and the fact that they're a top 5 statistical bullpen so far, this is a solid A.
Defense: B. Josh Donaldson is a bum. There, that being said, the defense has been average, at times great and at times poor. But no more Kouzmanoff error-fests and no more Mark Ellis perfect fielding percentages ensure that this unit will not be amazing and not be awful.
Coaching: A. Thank the (insert your favorite deity here) for Bob Melvin. In my opinion it's not a stretch to say he's the most competent manager here since Art Howe or even Tony LaRussa. He's a good strategist and has our beloved green and gold playing over their head. Also, he is passionate and a good players coach. Most importantly however, he is not Bob Geren. I'll leave you with that beautiful thought.