Winners and losers from first week of MLB season

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB season is one week old. For some teams, it’s been a smooth start to a long journey. Others have hit a great deal of turbulence.

Coming into the year, most power rankings would have had the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, and New York Yankees at the top in some order. But one week in, that’s been anything but the case. But teams like the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers also came into the season with high expectations that thus far, have been met.

The first week of the 2019 MLB seasons produced its share of winners and losers. These were the most notable among them.

Winner: Strong early returns for Phillies on Bryce Harper signing

While it’s a long season, the last thing that anyone associated with the Phillies wanted was for Bryce Harper, the offseason’s biggest prize, to get off to a bad start. That hasn’t happened. He is hitting .500/.652/1.188 with three home runs (including a towering shot in his return to Washington). It’s also come with a lot of team success, as the Phillies are 4-1. Wednesday’s frustrating loss aside, this was pretty much an idyllic opening week of the 2019 season for the Phillies.

Loser: Red Sox feeling championship hangover

Entering Wednesday’s action, Boston’s starting pitchers had posted a 9.00 ERA — the worst total in the league. It hasn’t exactly been a picnic for the offense, either. The Red Sox were shut out twice in their first six games. J.D. Martinez is hitting well. But guys like Mookie Betts (.222/.250/.370, one home run) and Andrew Benintendi (.150/.250/.150, no extra-base hits) have struggled. Time will tell if this is just a bump on the road or something more serious. But the Red Sox would no doubt like to hit the reset button on the season’s first week.

Winner: Pitching carries Brewers to hot start

Coming into the season, starting pitching loomed as the biggest question for the Brewers. But through seven games, Milwaukee starters have a 4.17 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a 12.3 K/9 rate. If we eliminate one rough outing, then the starters have a 3.48 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9. The overall numbers are decent. And in six of seven outings, the starters have been well above average — easily good enough to compliment the team’s incredible bullpen (2.73 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.2 K/9). The Brewers being 6-1 is good. How they’ve achieved that record, though, is especially notable.

Loser: Injury riddled Yankees struggle out of the gate

New York is 2-4 despite starting the year with consecutive home series against the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers, who were 47-115 and 64-98 in 2018, respectively. But that’s not the big problem. The big problem is that in one week, the Yankees have been rocked by injuries. Miguel Andujar could be out for the season. Giancarlo Stanton is likely out until late-April. The always injury-prone Troy Tulowitzki was hurt in Wednesday’s game. This is on top of Didi Gregorius (out until June) and Luis Severino (out until May). That’s a nightmare start for a team generally considered to be one of MLB’s best.

Winner: Mariners ride dominant bats to great start

The Seattle Mariners had a nice head start on the rest of the league when they swept two games from the Oakland Athletics in Japan. They’ve carried that momentum home. The Mariners are 7-1 and have averaged seven runs a game. Nine Seattle players have at least one home run, five have multiple homers, while Tim Beckham, Jay Bruce, and Domingo Santana all have three. This looked to be a rebuilding season for the Mariners coming into the year. It could still end up that way. But the way Seattle is swinging right now, this looks like anything but a rebuild.

Loser: Nats doomed by familiar problem in slow start

While it’s nothing to brag about, the 2-3 start isn’t what’s alarming for the Washington Nationals. The performance of the bullpen, though, is downright frigtening. Nats relievers have an 11.02 ERA and 2.39 WHIP. Both are the worst totals in MLB by comfortable margins. What’s really troubling is that we can’t just dismiss this as a rough week. Yes, those numbers will eventually come down. But a poor bullpen has been Washington’s Achilles heel for years. A slow start is one thing. A slow start that shows that the team’s weaknesses are as bad (if not worse) than previously assumed is far more troubling.

Winner: With AL East superpowers slumping, Rays start strong

While the Tampa Bay Rays opened with four against the Astros and three with the Colorado Rockies (both playoff teams from 2017 and 2018), they’re 5-2. Even better is that after a 5-1 loss in Opening Day, Tampa has allowed no more than two runs in a game. In fact, since a 4-2 win in the second game, the Rays have allowed no more than one run in any game. Chances are that the Red Sox and Yankees are going to get things turned around. That makes it extra important for the Tampa Bay Rays to get some separation on them while they’re slumping. Thanks to some brilliant pitching, Tampa has done just that.

Loser: Lack of offense dooms Angels

While pitching was the biggest question for the Los Angeles Angels entering the season, it’s actually help up okay through the first week. The offense has been another story. Not only are the Halos 1-5, but they’ve been held to two runs or fewer in four of their five losses. The one victory was the only game in which the Angels scored more than three times. On one hand, it’s easy to think that the bats will eventually come around and to actually be encouraged by the pitching holding up. But the offensive woes aren’t just a matter of one or two guys struggling. It’s a team wide thing. That is anything but encouraging.

Winner: Red hot bats have Twins in first place

After splitting two pitcher’s duels with the Cleveland Indians to open the season, the Minnesota Twins turned a corner. Minnesota earned a series win with a 9-3 victory over Cleveland. Then the Twins swept the Kansas City Royals with 5-4 and 7-6 wins. It’s easy to be excited about Minnesota, especially when we remember that Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario have not started especially well. Also, Minnesota has hit only one homer. But guys like Willians Astudillo (.667/.636/1.000), Nelson Cruz (.333/.500/.611), Byron Buxton (.308/.357/.538), C.J. Cron (.333/.333/.467), and Jorge Polanco (.286/.375/.476) have more than picked up the slack.

Loser: Astros scuffle through first week

The Astros did get to Blake Snell on Opening Day. Since then, it’s been a struggle. Over the next four games, Houston scored a combined six runs. Not coincidentally, the Astros were 1-3 in that stretch. The bats came alive on Tuesday, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a rare shaky outing from Justin Verlander. As is the case with all of these struggling teams, there’s plenty of time to turn things around. But through six games, the Astros have looked like anything but MLB’s best team.