September 8, 2012

September Shockers: American League Edition

By - Jaquan Murphy

Now that the "Dog Days of August" are over, the September stretch has officially begun.

While many players and organizations are doing exactly what we expected them to be doing, there are a few guys and teams turning heads due to the surprisingly good or bad season they are having.

Here are the top 3 most surprising players in the American League.

1. Mike Trout: Most 20-year-olds should be on a college campus somewhere enjoying the college life. And for the ones lucky enough to be signed, they should either be in the minors or putting up average numbers in the Bigs. Someone didn't give Mike Trout the memo. The young phenom is leading the Los Angeles Angels on a run for one of the two Wild Card spots in the AL, and he is a leading candidate for not just AL Rookie of the Year, but AL Most Valuable Player as well. Trout ranks in the top 3 in batting average in the American League and leads the Majors in stolen bases. Everyone expected him to be good, but no one expected him to be this good this fast.

Photo by: Doug Pensinger
2. Chris Sale: Chris Sale will not be a tough sell for the AL Cy Young Award. It was known that he had electric stuff, but no one expected him to emerge as a top starter in the American League this year. Sale ranks in the top 5 in wins and earned run average, and top 10 in strikeouts. Sale's emergence as the ace of the White Sox rotation has proven to be huge for the first place Sox.

3. David Murphy: It's hard to be shocked by anyone's production in the Texas Rangers lineup, but David Murphy has found a way. Murphy has quietly composed a 2012 campaign where he is on pace to set career-highs in batting average, homers, stolen bases, on base percentage and slugging percentage. Currently, his .316 average has him sitting 5th in the AL in batting. With names like Hamilton, Beltre and Young in the lineup, to have Murphy posting big time numbers is a welcome surprise for the Rangers.

Players are not the only ones turning heads in the American League. These three teams are leaving baseball fans everywhere shocked.

1. Oakland Athletics: Moneyball 2012? The forgotten team by the bay has quietly worked themselves into the 2nd Wild Card spot in the AL. Led by the bats of Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, and the arms of Tommy Milone and Jarrod Parker, the A's have managed to leave the high powered Angels on the outside looking in on the West Coast. The only question is how will the young players respond to the pressure of meaningful baseball in September knowing that American League powerhouses are hot on their trail.

2. Baltimore Orioles: In a season full of surprise teams, in a division full of surprises, the Orioles might just be the biggest shock of them all. No one predicted Baltimore would be anywhere close to where they are now. Led by star outfielder Adam Jones, the O's find themselves neck and neck with the New York Yankees for the top spot in the AL East. With a team that does not pitch overly well or put up eye-popping offensive numbers, look for Baltimore to continue to be dangerous, because they are one of those teams that finds ways to scratch and claw out wins.

3. Boston Red Sox: The fact that three of their All-Stars -- Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett, are all in Dodger Blue now, says it all about the Red Sox season. A team that was looking to have a turn around year ended up staying on the same path that they closed out last season on. Instead of shooting for an American League East crown, several players have spent the majority of the season shooting for a new manager. In short, Boston's season can not be classified as anything other than a complete disappointment.

There are several things to look forward to in the AL during the month of September.

Keep a steady eye on the AL East. The surprise isn't that the race is tight, but rather one of the teams still in the race. Yankees? Expected. Rays? Expected. Orioles? Wow. And the Red Sox being closer to the Blue Jays at the bottom of the division rather than the Yankees at the top? Shocking. It will be interesting to see how many of these teams make the postseason and what happens with Boston. Will Bobby Valentine be canned before the season ends, or will the team finally buy in and finish strong? Are the Bronx Bombers pulling a Red Sox from last year? Only time will tell.

The AL Wild Card race is showing exactly why Major League Baseball implemented the new two team system in the first place. Six teams are vying for two spots. Not only is it exciting because of the amount of teams still in the hunt, but it's exciting because of the teams involved. It is a perfect blend of clubs from totally opposite ends of the spectrum. Major market teams such as the Angels and Tigers are in it, along with small market teams such as the Orioles and Athletics. Powerhouses and Cinderellas will duel for the last two tickets to the playoff dance.

A potential major headline as we go through September is that two of the teams that made the most noise in the free agent market may not even make the postseason.

The Angels came out and signed Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson for major money in the offseason hoping to take down the Rangers and make a run at the World Series. Instead, they find themselves behind not only the Rangers in the West, but the A's as well. They also find themselves looking up at the Rays and O's in addition to Oakland in the Wild Card race.

The Detroit Tigers are another team that thought they could buy a postseason berth. They gave a huge contract to first baseman Prince Fielder, and in return, currently find themselves sitting 6th in the Wild Card race.

This is definitely a disappointment for both teams, and if neither makes the playoffs, it will certainly be interesting to see the firestorm that will follow in the offseason.

The one thing that is clear in the American League is that nothing is really clear, and these final few weeks of the season are sure to be packed full of more surprises and shockers.


  1. Baltimore is by far the biggest surprise in baseball this year. Talent wise, on paper, they should be about 25 games back of the Yankees. If they make the playoffs it will be amazing.