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Indians overachievers in MLB; who are the fails?

In 2010, the San Diego Padres surprised everyone by leading the NL West for most of the year despite being predicted to finish fourth or fifth. While the Padres eventually fell short, teams picked to finish near the bottom of the division would love to be this year’s surprise team.

That team so far has been the Cleveland Indians. Despite dropping two in a row, the Indians have the best record in baseball (30-17) despite being picked to finish fourth or fifth in the division by just about everyone.

The Indians are fourth in the MLB in OPS, a huge surprise for a questionable offense heading into the season. Travis Hafner has been terrific (.345/.409/.549) but the biggest surprise is Asdrubal Cabrera. In the past, Cabrera has been a solid hitter; but nobody expected him to be leading the team with 10 homeruns (his previous career high was 6).

Pitching wise, Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson have performed well over expectations thus far. With ERAs of 2.41 and 2.50 (respectively), they have stepped up while Fausto Carmona has struggled and the fifth starter spot has been a revolving door.

The Indians currently have the largest division lead in baseball and will look to make their first playoff appearance since 2007.

The Indians division rival, the Minnesota Twins is on the opposite side of the spectrum. Despite having a pair of recent MVP winners and a solid pitching staff heading into the season, Minnesota has the worst record (16-32) in baseball.

Joe Mauer has played in only nine games this year due to injury and Justin Morneau is hitting just .230, leaving the Twins with a huge hole in the middle of their order. No player on the team has more than five homeruns and Jason Kubel is the only regular with a slugging percentage above .400.

On the other side of the ball, Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have been tremendous disappointments after both posting sub-4.00 ERAs last year. Liriano even managed to look bad while throwing a no-hitter (less than half his pitches were strikes) and has walked 32 batters in just 48.2 innings.

The National League hasn’t had the tremendous surprises that the American League has, but some teams are playing better than expected.

The St. Louis Cardinals were expected to play well, but having the second best record in the NL is a surprise given some of the performances they have received.

Stud pitcher Adam Wainwright was lost for the season before it began and Chris Carpenter has looked nothing like an ace. Additionally, Albert Pujols is hitting just .267 and went a month without hitting a homerun.

The Cardinals have held off the Reds and Brewers thus far thanks to the terrific pitching of Jaime Garcia and strong offensive seasons from outfielders Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have also been somewhat surprising this year. After finishing fifth in their division last year, the team is .500 right now and is improving faster than expected. Their revamped bullpen has shown huge improvements and new closer J.J. Putz is 13-13 in save opportunities.

No team in the National League has been a huge disappointment, but the Colorado Rockies have been playing well below their potential. After surging to the best start in the NL, the team sits just one game above .500 despite a strong young core of players.

Ubaldo Jiminez (5.44 ERA) has struggled when he’s been healthy enough to play. Additionally, Carlos Gonzalez (.251 BA) and Troy Tulowitski (.241) aren’t living up to their lengthy extensions.

With four months still remaining in the 2011 season, there is time for all the underachievers to improve and the surprise winners to fall back to earth. Only time will tell which teams will still be alive in October.

Used with permission of the author.

Along with contributing to Sports Climax, Brett Kettyle is the Atlanta Braves Community Leader on Bleacher Report and maintains a Braves column for MTR Media. Follow Brett on Twitter.

Copyright ©2011 Sports Climax, LLC

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