Opening month full of surprises

Opening month full of surprises

Great call, those of you who thought Chris Shelton of the Detroit Tigers would have nine home runs before April was three weeks old.

And you, who predicted Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Adrian Beltre would not be among the 233 Major Leaguers with at least one homer by now, give yourself a pat on the back for believing Bonds (28 at-bats), Ramirez (54) and Beltre (60) would go a combined 142 at-bats without leaving the yard once.

All you fantasy league owners who had an idea 40-year-old Greg Maddux would go 3-0 to start the season for the first time since 1994, kudos to you as well.

The season is only about 16 games old, and over the course of a six-month season a three-week sample is often nothing more than anecdotal evidence. But even if most of these April shockers do not play out over the long season, it has unquestionably been one of the more surprising starts the sport has witnessed in recent years.

Some have been pleasant surprises -- others not -- making this an eyebrow-lifting April with unlikely heroes, unexpected slumps and stunning performances, even by baseball's unpredictable standards.

Who would have thought:

• Just two players, Shelton and Albert Pujols (10) of St. Louis, would account for more home runs than half of the 30 Major League teams, including the World Series champion Chicago White Sox (18), Texas (17), the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (16), the Chicago Cubs (14), Boston (14) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (13)?

Pujols has hit more homers and Shelton has just as many as the entire San Diego Padres roster (nine).

• Two notoriously slow-starting teams, Cleveland (9-7) and Houston (10-5), would have two of the best records in baseball?

• The New York Mets would not only have the second-best record in baseball (11-4) and the Majors' best team ERA (3.24), the rotation would also rank No. 1 with a 3.38 ERA?

• Houston's rotation, sans Roger Clemens and with No. 3 starter Brandon Backe on the disabled list, would go 7-4 with a 3.55 ERA (second only to the Mets among the 30 Major League teams) through the first 15 games while the Astros bullpen, thought to be a strength during Spring Training, would get out of the gate with an ERA over 6.00?

• Cleveland's Casey Blake, who hit .188 with 13 hits and seven RBIs in 69 at-bats last April, would be fourth in the Majors with a .412 batting average?

Blake has 21 hits in 51 at-bats and has already driven in 14 runs. He has hit safely in all but two of 15 games.

• Twenty-five-year-old Jonathan Papelbon, who failed to convert his only previous save opportunity as a rookie in 2005, would rack up seven saves in as many chances as Boston's closer?

Papelbon, who leads the Majors with seven saves, has yet to allow a run and has given up just three hits in eight appearances.

• The Mets' high-powered offense of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Paul Lo Duca and David Wright would instead see a surprising hero in right fielder Xavier Nady, who leads the team with a .364 batting average?

• The Minnesota Twins, with one of the better rotations in baseball, would have a 5.63 ERA?

The Twins bullpen, on the other hand, has been lights out.

• That 39 players would have 40 or more plate appearances with on-base plus slugging percentages greater than 1,000?

The Yankees, Mets and Indians lead the way with three players each.

• The Chicago Cubs, with Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Wade Miller on the mend, and Sean Marshall (0-1, 6.28), Glendon Rusch (1-2, 6.60), Will Ohman (1-1, 21.60) and Michael Wuertz (0-0, 6.75) off to slow starts, still have the second-best ERA (3.71) in the Major Leagues, trailing only the New York Mets?

• The best home runs-per-at-bat-ratio belongs to pitcher Bronson Arroyo of Cincinnati?

Arroyo has hit two homers in six at bats.

• Atlanta's Oscar Villareal would pitch eight innings and have a Major League-leading 4-0 record and 1.13 ERA?

Villareal had a combined total of two victories in two previous seasons.

• The starter with the best ERA on the Indians is not Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, Paul Byrd or Jake Westbrook, but fifth starter Jason Johnson (2-0, 1.83)?

• That the list of teams with ERAs over 5.00 would include Atlanta, Oakland, Philadephia, Toronto and Minnesota?

That's a lot of surprises. Even for just three weeks in April.

Makes you wonder what the next five months will bring.

Jim Molony is a writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.