These teams have surprised viewers thus far in the 2021 baseball season, posting win/loss records that aren’t in line with preseason predictions.
What’s going on readers! No really…what’s going on here? Who had the Reds being one of the hottest teams and the Orioles sweeping their opening series against the Red Sox on their 2021 MLB Bingo card? Who thought the Braves would begin the season by losing their first 4 games and the As would start out 1-7? Nobody. In this post, I will chronicle how the Reds, Braves, and Athletics got to their current records and explain whether I think their performance trends will continue in the same fashion for the entirety of the season.
Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have begun the season on fire offensively, averaging 9.5 runs per game, en route to a NL Central leading 5-1 record through their first 6 games of the season. Key players on offense have been top prospect 2B Jonathan India, RF Nick Castellanos (pictured above), and LF Tyler Naquin. Interestingly, Naquin was initially in the lineup just to fill in for regular LF Jesse Winker, but if Naquin continues hitting like he is (.316, 4 HRs in 19 ABs) I’d imagine the Reds will have a tough time deciding who to start in left once they are both fully healthy. The Reds have also gotten solid performances from 4 of their 5 starting pitchers through their first go-around in the rotation, with only their ace Luis Castillo (no, not the Marlins infielder from the Steve Bartman game) struggling so far this year. Now for the real question, is this sustainable? No, a team cannot average 9.5 runs per game through an entire season, as it’s the nature of the game for players to get into hitting slumps throughout the course of the season. The Reds can hope that their best hitters alternate times to go into slumps to avoid completely shutting off on offense for prolonged stretches of the season. Additionally, the team lacks proven starters in their rotation beyond ace Luis Castillo, as the rest of the rotation consists of 34-year-old Wade Miley, back of rotation starter Tyler Mahle, and 2 of the best starting pitching prospects of 2016 who’ve struggled to this point in the big leagues, Jeff Hoffman and Jose De Leon. It’s been entertaining to see the Reds showing a lot of fight to start the season (pun intended), but I still ultimately see the Cardinals winning the NL Central this season.
Atlanta Braves: Starting out the season 0-4, the Braves picked up their first 2 wins of the season on Wednesday, winning both games of a doubleheader against the Nats. The team has been shaky all around to start the season, as Ronald Acuna is the only player on offense who is not struggling to a certain extent. Top 2020 starting pitcher Max Fried has struggled in his first 2 starts of the season, and the back end of the bullpen hasn’t been a sure thing to this point either. Regardless of their struggles early on, I believe the Braves will turn their season around quickly and find themselves in the hunt for the NL East title once again, as they have so much young talent on their roster to go with several veteran players who have been on playoff-caliber teams already in their careers.
Oakland Athletics: It’s been pretty painful to watch As games thus far, as they have been quite pitiful though their first 8 games of the season, falling to a 1-7 record and landing at the bottom of the AL West division standings to start the season. Their franchise cornerstone Matts with the Bats; Matt Chapman and Olson have scuffled offensively to start the season. Additionally, the starting rotation has been awful, with nobody having an ERA lower than 5. The As have also experienced misfortune on the injury front, with offseason signee and expected closer Trevor Rosenthal having to undergo Thoracic Outlet Surgery, one of the hardest procedures to come back from (for example, Matt Harvey). The As will now have to figure out who is going to close games for them this season while also correcting their issues with starting pitching and hitting. Perhaps replacing shortstop Marcus Semien with the aging Elvis Andrus in the offseason will have a more negative impact than the organization anticipated. I predict it will be more difficult for the Athletics to right the ship than the Braves, as the Oakland squad has many more question marks at the moment. I’d expect to see them third in the AL West standings behind the Astros and Angels when it’s all said and done.
Written by: Blake Koziel
Photo Source: Red Reporter