Two weeks doesn’t equal a season, and what’s looking top of the line now could end up looking middle of the pack or worse by the time the stretch drive arrives. Still, you can’t help noticing a few things, in no particular order:
* WRINGING BULLS—The Mets’ bullpen was under a heavy burden before that sixteen-inning marathon against the Marlins to open a four-game set. Then both teams emptied the pens and benches and the Mets came away with the win. The Mets pen was gassed the rest of the weekend, costing Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, and Matt Harvey despite their solid enough pitching. That’s why Jeurys Familia will be welcomed back with Roman candles later this week.
* CUTCH HITTING—Andrew McCutchen opened 3-for-20, then started coming back alive a bit. Good news for the Pirates, for whom David Freese has been the only power supply thus far. They’ll need a couple of other drivers and signs of life from the bullpen, though.
* CROWNED ROYALS—The Royals aren’t the team who won the 2015 World Series anymore, but there was nothing like a weekend spanking of the Angels to make them feel like one after opening 2-6. Danny Duffy’s been a pleasant surprise, but their lineup needs to start lining and driving, especially with about half of them (so it seems) in their walk years.
* PHILADELPHIA CREAMED CHEESE—That seventeen-run nuking they laid on the Nationals over a week ago disguised the Phillies averaging 3.5 runs per game. The sweep by the Mets last week disguised that the Phillies’ starting pitching is decent but the bullpen is still a mess and their bats aren’t exactly lethal weapons.
* SOUTH SIDE SURPRISE—The White Sox are a game over .500 at this writing, including a three-game winning streak during which only six runs scored against them. The big surprise: the bullpen. The bigger surprise: Avisail Garcia, hitting safely in every game but one thus far.
* ST. LOUIS SWAMP—The National League’s lowest OPS among outfielders. The worst defense in the outfield. One of the Show’s most arson-prone bullpens. Cardinal Nation may be seeing the wrong kind of red for awhle.
* BUMMED OUT—What does it say for the Giants that Madison Bumgarner is striking out 10.3 batters per nine innings, hasn’t surrendered more than three earned runs in any start this season, but the Giants are 0-3 in his starts? Including a blown save on an Opening Day during which Bumgarner hit two home runs while he was at it?
* OFF THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS—The longer it takes Albert Pujols to get his bat into full gear, the longer the other guys are going to spend pitching around Mike Trout—who has, somehow, managed to reach base safely in eighteen straight dating back to last season. The starting rotation isn’t exactly a powerhouse but they’ve got to start pitching better than just thinking about holding fort until Garret Richards returns from the DL.
* WHO ARE THESE GUYS?—Which starting rotation has a 2.66 ERA to open 2017 while its bullpen has a 2.11 ERA? If you said the Twins, you should be a regular at the Las Vegas sports books, you’ll make a fortune. And you’ll need it for the post-coronary treatment, since nobody expected anything even remotely like this from the Twins this year at any time. Their pitching has only allowed thirty runs through this writing—lowest in Show.
* TRIBAL COUNSEL—Memo to: Defending AL Champion Indians. The starting pitching needs to get off the proverbial schneid. The bats need to connect. Sorry to disappoint you, but your bullpen can’t put runs on the board for you.
* PORTSIDE BLUES—Memo to: Defending NL West champion Dodgers. I don’t care what anyone says, sooner or later you’re going to have to figure out how to hit lefthanded pitching.
* BEAR MARKET FACTS—Memo to: Defending world champion Cubs. It’s not good when Kris Bryant waits to his eleventh game before hitting one out. It’s less than that when Jake Arrieta surrenders three bombs in two starts and throws a fastball on which you can read the commissioner’s signature, figuratively speaking.
* HAVE THEY FOUND ZACH BRITTON YET?—Uh, yes they have . . . on the disabled list. Forearm soreness. And the back end of the Orioles bullpen that doesn’t have his name isn’t exactly in his league. That 8-4 season opening may come to seem like a pleasant memory if the Orioles’ pen doesn’t step it up.
* CAPITAL RUMBLING—Bryce Harper looks like his 2015 MVP self again. (Hope the neck and shoulder cooperate.) The rest of the offense should get a bump when Trea Turner gets back from the DL. The schedule won’t be kind to them regarding the road trip starting this week: ten games in ten days, a cross country flight from New York to Denver, and the Mets at least won’t be pushovers in between the Nats’ gigs with the Braves and the Rockies.
* SPEAKING OF THE ROCKIES—As their bullpens have gone, so have gone the Rockies in the past. This year so far the bullpen looks delicious: 2.68 ERA, .207 batting average against them.
* BRONX CHEER—For CC Sabathia. First three starts: 1.47 ERA. Big difference: He knows he can’t just bust it past everyone anymore so he decided to start pitching with his brain alone. If he keeps that up and if the Baby Bombers continue pulling into full shape, the Yankees are going to be a big pain in the AL East.
* BOSTON BEAGLE—Craig Kimbrel: three saves in three tries. Andrew Benitendi: Bopped a second-inning two-run double with two outs and later swatted a go-ahead two-run single, helping the Red Sox to their third straight in four against the Rays. An 8-5 season start sits just fine in the Fens.
* NO WAY, JOSE!—Jose Altuve: reaching base in eleven straight plate appearances. Back-to-back 3-for-3 with two walks games. A lot more of that and the Astros will have no complaints.