Toronto’s fifth starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi (pictured) is a perfect 5-0 to kick off the season. Photo credit: Getty Images/G Fiume
While most all-around sports fans are engulfed in the NHL and NBA playoffs, it may be hard to believe, but the major league baseball (MLB) season is already a quarter over as of this upcoming weekend.
And if I were to tell you the Toronto Blue Jays would be a first-place team in two of the six divisions in baseball right now would you believe me?
The Blue Jays (as of Thursday night) sitting at (22-16) on the season would be in top spot in both the American League and National League Central divisions.
Instead, the Jays occupy fourth place in the ultra-competitive AL East.
And it’s not the usual suspects in the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox leading the division, it’s the Tampa Bay Rays (22-9) and Baltimore Orioles (24-13) holding down first and second place.
Boston is in third, while the Yankees are currently in last place.
Leading the AL Central is the Minnesota Twins, while the Texas Rangers lead the AL West.
In the National League, Atlanta leads the NL East, the Pittsburgh Pirates the NL Central and the Los Angeles Dodgers the NL West.
As for hitters and pitchers, the Blue Jays feature players in both categories near the top across the major leagues.
Matt Chapman is first in doubles with 17, and third in batting average at .338, while Kevin Gausman is tied for the major league lead in strikeouts at 67 – again as of Thursday evening.
And this may surprise some but Yusei Kikuchi, the Jays fifth starter, is a perfect (5-0) to start the campaign, and also leads the club’s starters in ERA at 3.35.
At the other end of the spectrum, Jays brass and their fans have to be concerned with Alek Manoah’s (1-3) record, 4.05 earned run average and 23 walks to start the season. That to go along with just 29 strikeouts.
Dubbed as Toronto’s number one starter, Manoah is coming off a season in which he was third in American League Cy Young Award voting with a (16-7) record 2.24 ERA and 180 strikeouts with just 51 base on balls.
Meantime, the Blue Jays top paid player George Springer, and his six-year $150-million contract, is hitting just .209. The usual leadoff hitter has been battling an illness this week, and seems to be always battling some sort of ailment or injury.
As for the rest of the leaders across the majors, Miami Marlin Luis Arraez leads the way in batting average at .398, the Mets Pete Alonso in home runs with 13, and Texas Ranger Adolos Garcia with 36 runs batted in (RBI)
On the mound, Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan is a perfect (7-0), Minnesota’s Sonny Gray tops the ERA list at 1.36, and Cleveland’s Emmanuel Clase is the saves leader with 13 on the campaign.
The Blue Jays open an important 10-game homestand Friday night against Atlanta (three games) followed by four straight against the Yankees and three in a row against Baltimore.
Rod Mawhood is a lifelong Niagara native who has had the pleasure of working in all three mediums – Radio, Print and TV – for over 20 years. His first announcing gig was with the then St. Catharines Stompers. Since then he’s worked in radio and TV in Toronto, and currently is the announcer for the Niagara IceDogs and Niagara River Lions.
Rod also covers the Buffalo Bills for FOX Sports and the Buffalo Sabres for NBC Sports.