Saturday 22nd July, 2017
baseball-has-given-us-some-surprises-in-2017

Baseball has given us some surprises in 2017

MLB.com - Thursday 18th May, 2017

Mike Leake gets Jeimer Candelario to strike out looking in the top of the 2nd inning

- Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for ASGWorthy players

With the season reaching the quarter pole, let's ponder Ringolsby's Believe It Or Not:

- The Rockies are winning because of their pitching, anchored by closer Greg Holland, who has returned from Tommy John surgery to convert all 17 of his save opportunities. Colorado has gone 20-0 so far this season when leading after the sixth. There's some offense, too. Mark Reynolds, who was signed to a Minor League deal in February and was given a chance to play regularly when Ian Desmond opened the season on the disabled list with a broken left hand, has responded by hitting .317 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.

Santana's scoreless gem MIN@CLE: Santana tosses seven scoreless framesErvin Santana strikes out four Indians over seven scoreless innings, scattering two hits and five walks along the way

- Ervin Santana has provided a foundation for Minnesota's rotation. In his third year with the Twins after previously pitching for the Braves, Royals and Angels, Santana is 6-1 with a 1.50 ERA. Believe it. Yes, he has a career 4.03 ERA, and in his six previous seasons he was 57-61, but he has allowed only 45 baserunners (23 hits, 21 walks, one hit batter) in 54 innings. How big an impact has he had? The rest of Minnesota's rotation is a combined 9-10 with a 4.47 ERA.

- The 6-foot-7 and 282-pound Aaron Judge gets your attention right away, and then he swings the bat. Judge's best power season in the Minors was 20 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A two years ago, but he already has 14 this year, tied for the Major League lead, to go with a .320 average and 29 RBIs. The Yankees rookie has taken a big step forward from his 122 at-bat debut last year, when he hit .179 with four home runs and 42 strikeouts in 84 at-bats.

- Eric Thames is having quite the homecoming for the Brewers, who have forced some second looks at those NL Central standings, where they are sitting in second place behind the Cardinals and ahead of the defending World Series champion Cubs. After hitting .250 with 21 home runs and 62 RBIs in two big league seasons, Thames spent 2014-16 refining his skills in Korea. Looking for a sleeper to help in its rebuilding, Milwaukee made a three-year, $16 million investment, which Thames is repaying. He is hitting .315 with 13 home runs, 25 RBIs and a 1.128 OPS.

Zimmerman's two-run double WSH@PIT: Zimmerman smacks a two-out, two-run doubleRyan Zimmerman lines a two-out, two-run double to right field to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead in the top of the 3rd inning

- The reports of Ryan Zimmerman's demise were premature. Now playing first base with the Nationals, Zimmerman is second in the Major Leagues with a .385 average, leading MLB with 38 RBIs and tied for third with 13 home runs. All of this after an injury-plagued two seasons in which he hit .243 with 31 home runs and 119 RBIs. Of course, it helps to have Bryce Harper rebounding from last year's disappointment to lead the Majors with a .388 average and rank second in MLB with 36 RBIs as Zimmerman's middle-of-the-lineup partner.

- The AL Cy Young Award winner two years ago, Dallas Keuchel struggled last season and spent time on the disabled list, bringing into question his ability to dominate anymore. He's healthy and dealing again this year, so forget about that 9-12 record, 4.55 ERA and .259 batting average allowed a year ago. Focus on Keuchel's beginning to 2017: 7-0, with a 1.84 ERA and a .186 batting average allowed. No wonder the Astros have climbed back atop the AL West, the only team in the division with a winning record.

- Since the start of the 2015 season, Bud Norris has bounced from the Orioles to the Braves to the Dodgers and now the Angels. But with Huston Street on the DL, Norris has been asked to close for the first time in his career, and he has eight saves in 10 opportunities, a 0.98 WHIP, 2.95 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. And the Halos are in second place in the AL West -- even if their record is .500 (21-21) -- despite the fact the rest of the bullpen is 4-for-11 in save situations.

- The Royals have had their problems this season, but Jason Vargas has been a bright spot. Sidelined with Tommy John surgery nine starts into the 2015 season, Vargas has returned in style after a season and a half lost. In seven starts, he is 5-1 with a 1.01 ERA, compared to the rest of the rotation, which is a combined 5-13 with a 4.36 ERA.

Leake K's Candelario looking STL@CHC: Leake strikes out Candelario in the 2ndMike Leake gets Jeimer Candelario to strike out looking in the top of the 2nd inning

- Mike Leake has found a comfort zone with the Cardinals, and nobody in St. Louis is complaining. After going a combined 31-35 with the Reds and Cards the past three seasons, the former first-round pick is 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA, averaging a team-best 6 2/3 innings a start. Leake has seven quality starts, allowing one run in one of his losses and two runs in the other, and giving up just one run in his no-decision.

- Coming off a season in which he hit .302 with 34 home runs and 91 RBIs, Freddie Freeman is hinting things will be even better in 2017. Freeman is hitting .343 with an OPS of 1.211, and he is tied for the Major League lead with 14 home runs. It doesn't hurt to have Matt Kemp (.348, six home runs and 26 RBIs) hitting behind him most games.

Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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