By Jordan Wevers @JordanWevers on August 6, 2014
Reflecting on the 2014 MLB season, that is, before the playoff races heat up. Here are 10 things that most likely turned some heads across the first half of the season so far.
Albert Pujols' days of being an All-Star and one of the finer hitters in the game seemed to be behind him. His AVG has continually dropped lower and lower below .300 every year since 2011, and he finished 2013 with only 17 HRs and a broken down body. This year, however, he has 21 HRs, 70 RBI and a respectable .277 AVG. He is a large reason the Los Angeles Angels are playing some of the better baseball in the league right now.
At this time last year, he was Crush Davis. Now, the once prized prospect is back to just being Chris. He led MLB in HRs and RBI last year while batting a very respectable .286. Always one to strike out lots, the peripherals would have predicted some regression for Davis in 2014. But this much? The 28 year old is currently hitting only .196, which is miles off his career .256 clip.
The Toronto Blue Jays were on fire on May, going 21-9 in the month. Edwin Encarnacion was a large part of that success, as he tied Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle for most AL home runs in the month of May with 16 and added 33 RBI to the tally.
Jose Fernandez and Matt Moore were a few of the bigger names to fall victim to the UCL tear in 2014. The notorious surgery is either becoming an epidemic, or just part of the evolution of baseball and the sports infatuation with high velocity hurlers. To date in 2014, 74 players who are in the majors or property of an MLB club have or are scheduled to undergo the procedure, and it's barely August. The count was 60 total for 2013 and 82 for 2012.
There are good days at the plate, and then there are great days. Monday, June 9 against the Texas Rangers, the Cleveland Indians' third baseman put on a clinic. Lonnie Chisenhall went 5-for-5 at the dish with three HRs and nine RBI. He raised his average an entire 20 points on the day. In the last century of MLB, he is only the fourth player to collect five hits in a game, while swatting three home runs and driving in nine runs.
Not only were there a lot of deals made in the days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, but some pretty big names were moved as well. Among them, the Red Sox said goodbye to Jon Lester and shipped him to Oakland. The Rays sent David Price to Detroit and Justin Masterson moved from Cleveland to St. Louis. Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel were also big names to change uniforms, becoming the initial blockbuster acquisition by the Athletics.
A Cuban defector and a former Nippon Professional Baseball pitcher have made playing MLB look easy in 2014 as rookies. Jose Abreu currently leads the league in HRs and RBI, while Masahiro Tanaka was knifing through AL lineups as if they were butter until elbow issues forced him to (possibly temporarily) shut things down in early July.
He no longer has ace stuff, but he is still a reliable big league pitcher. Tim Lincecum had a laborious no hitter last year against the Padres, taking him 148 pitches and four walks to achieve the feat. This time around, The Freak was much more efficient. He needed only 113 pitches and surrendered only one free pass, again against San Diego. The Dodgers' Josh Beckett deserves honorable mention here as well.
It might not be Moneyball, but it's darn good baseball. With a rotation devastated by injuries in Spring Training, the A's have been baseball's best team for a large majority of 2014. GM Billy Beane pulled off two blockbuster trades to improve an already formidable pitching staff. Add to that an insane +168 run differential, and Oakland is in prime position to capture their first AL pennant since 1990.
Mr. Padre played in 15 career Midsummer Classic's. He is one of the greatest pure hitters of all time, yet FOX couldn't even honor his legacy with a one minute monologue or a few moments of silence at this years All-Star Game broadcast. Gwynn was as great a human being off the field as he was a ball player on it. At only 54 years young, it was a tragic and untimely passing for one of the game's great players. He will be sorely missed.
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