Three weeks into the season, it’s far too early to crown divisional champions or to eliminate teams from contention, but with roughly one-tenth of the MLB season complete, several trends are starting to take shape and attract notice.

Optimism reigns for teams such as the Rangers, Nationals and Dodgers, which all boasted records of 12-4 or better through Sunday. Yet, traditional powers like the Red Sox, Angels and Phillies have staggered out of the gate and find themselves at the bottom of their respective divisions.

But while fans are already calling for their incumbent managers’ heads, is such enthusiastic panic warranted just three weeks into a grueling six-month season?

In Los Angeles, the Angels expected to quickly rise to the top of the American League but currently find themselves in the basement of a relatively weak AL West division. Even with some competition from the Rangers, the Angels still have an easy schedule compared to league counterparts.

Despite Albert Pujols’ struggles, the Angels’ offense has actually been one of the best in the league and figures to improve once Pujols and outfielders Torii Hunter and Peter Bourjos get past their lackluster starts.

The pitching staff, particularly the bullpen, remains a concern as closer Jordan Walden enters his sophomore campaign. Yet with three bona fide aces in their rotation ­— Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and newcomer C.J. Wilson — the staff should need only slight tinkering along the way. The club might think about adding another reliever or a fifth starter to replace Jerome Williams as the team progresses through the year. Fans of the Angels should remain calm that this team is still a legitimate championship contender.

Moving closer to the East Coast, anxiety levels should be more closely monitored. Although expecting another 100-win campaign would be preposterous, another 90 victory year is certainly reasonable for the five-time defending National League East champion Phillies. Unlike the Angels, however, the team’s 7-9 start will not be as easy to overcome in a division that now has four legitimate contenders for the division title, with the Nationals leading the way at 12-4.

Still, the Phillies have issues that should fix themselves during the rest of the season. The pitching staff, headed by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels and anchored by newly acquired closer Jonathan Papelbon, are in solid shape with the second-best earned run average in the league. The offense, though, is a concern since the lineup is hitting a collective .239 and has the second fewest runs scored in the league (a mere 42 thus far). With two of their best bats on the disabled list in Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, the team will have to tread water for another few weeks, but fortunately for Philadelphia, the squad does not have to make major roster moves. Overall, they are in fine shape heading forward.

But in Boston, it’s time to panic.

The best offense in the league last year has failed to replicate that same status thus far and does not figure to improve, while outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford remain sidelined. The Sox have received little production from the likes of catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and third baseman Kevin Youkilis has been a disaster thus far.

But the offense is light-years ahead of the pitching staff, which has been horrible. With a collective earned run average at a whopping 6.68, the staff is by far the worst in the league, almost a whole run and a half worse than the Twins. The bullpen especially — the team’s biggest weakness entering the year — doesn’t have a single pitcher with respectable numbers thus far.

So what should the Sox do? The team started by adding outfielder Marlon Byrd from the Cubs. He represents a decent upgrade from journeymen Darnell McDonald and Jason Repko, but must make drastic moves to the pitching staff to succeed. The Red Sox have surely noticed that veteran Roy Oswalt remains on the market. Adding him and pushing former set-up man Daniel Bard to the closer spot would not only improve the rotation but would also give Boston the dynamic arm in the bullpen that it drastically needs.

Even these changes might not salvage the season for a team that began as a borderline playoff contender. But fortunately for the Sox, as well as for the Phillies and Angels, there’s still plenty of ball to be played.

Preston Barclay is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. TURNING TWO IN THE 202 appears every Tuesday.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *