You didn't see it coming, did you, not any of it: the power outage in the West (Albert Pujols), the competence in Flushing (Johan Santana) or an old gunslinger (Davey Johnson), somehow reinventing himself to become the perfect handler for a teenaged star like Bryce Harper. There've been enough surprises in April and May to keep you invested for the rest of the summer. Therein lies the beauty of those preseason predictions, which were guaranteed only to go up in flames when taken to a match. After all, who would've thought the Cardinals had it in them to be in first place in the NL Central? Or that the Indians would arrive from some alternate universe to step over the Tigers? Here are the Top 10 reasons your eyebrows have been raised in a permanent arch:
Once the majors' most feared hitter, Pujols needed 111 at-bats to hit his first home run with the Angels, and hasn't gone deep since then. That's one HR in 146 at-bats.
It's not just that Pujols can't reach the fences, he can't get on base, period. Even after a three-hit night against the A's on Tuesday, he's still more than 100 points off his career .326 average. That makes the Cardinals feel awfully good about his replacement, Carlos Beltran.
The Angels were supposed to be in a death match with the Rangers, but Pujols' under-performance instead has made it a race with the Mariners - for the AL West's basement.
This was supposed to be a hang-over summer for the world champs, who had every reason to take the year off. They lost Pujols, their legendary manager, Tony La Russa, and the equally irreplaceable pitching coach, Dave Duncan.
There was only one place to go in the NL Central and that was down. But thanks to Beltran, the Cardinals are in first place and leading the league in runs, slugging percentage and OPS.
Beltran, in particular, is enjoying a mini-renaissance, leading the NL in home runs (13) and second in RBI (32). GM John Mozeliak gave Beltran a wide berth in spring training, saying, "no one player could replace Pujols." So far that's been a surprising white lie.
Here's a manager whose leadership skills were honed in the politically incorrect '80s, way before it was protocol to Watch What You Say (think: Joe Girardi). Johnson's methods were a great fit for the likes of Keith Hernandez and Darryl Strawberry, and not the overhandled Stephen Strasburg.
Except that the Nationals have a throwback of their own - his name is Bryce Harper, who would've assimilated nicely with Mex and Straw and Nails. And it looks like he'll be better than all of them. Johnson is perfect for Harper in that he'll encourage the rookie to act and feel the superstar he is.
"Davey was the kind of manager who worked around a player's personality instead of the reverse," said former Met Ron Darling. "He learned how to make young players comfortable so their talent could flow."
The Nationals have run into a streak of injuries, including a devastating one to Jayson Werth. But scouts say there's enough talent for at least a wild-card spot. And Davey has plenty of experience there, too.
You can say what you want about the Wilpons' decision not to offer Jose Reyes a contract. The Madoff bankruptcy trial was looming; an unfavorable verdict could've cleaned them out. And, scandal aside, plenty of baseball people believed the Mets were right in choosing not to invest in the oft-injured Reyes.
But why wasn't there enough money for Capuano, who only made $1.5 mullion last year? The Mets chose to sit on the sidelines while the left-hander was scooped up by the Dodgers for $5 million per through 2013. All Capuano has done is win his first five decisions and post a crisp 2.06 ERA - ranking him ninth in the National League. Don't think the Mets aren't regretting letting Capuano leave town.
Whatever happened to the clash of titans in the AL West? The Rangers are so good, their plus-75 run differential could make history. As noted by ESPN the other day, Texas is crushing opponents in a way that rivals the 1998 Yankees (who had a plus-309) and the 1939 Yankees, who set the record with a plus-375.
There've been plenty of reasons for the lopsided performance, including Josh Hamilton, who with a .402 average and 18 homers has been everything that Pujols has not. But don't underestimate the dividend Yu Darvish is paying with a 5-1 record. He's striking out more than a batter an inning, as the AL struggles to identify any of his seven pitches.
Maybe you thought it was a fluke, the way the O's finished up last season. They won 14 of their last 22 games, including the season finale that knocked the Red Sox out of the wild-card race. But here it is, six weeks into the 2012 season and the Orioles are still at it. They beat CC Sabathia, 5-2, Tuesday night, keeping a hold on first place in the AL East.
Can it last? Buck Showalter has convinced his players no one is invincible in the division - not the Yankees, not without Mariano Rivera, and obviously not the Red Sox. The confidence is boosted by the bullpen, currently the best in the East with a 2.28 ERA.
Obviously, Jeter is not young. In fact, only two shortstops in their age-38 seasons (Honus Wagner and Luke Appling) have ever fashioned an OPS better than .800. But Jeter is defying the odds with a .938 OPS, not to mention a .366 average that's second only to Hamilton's .402.
We've discussed this before, how Jeter is enjoying a private laugh on those who think he's too old to keep going. But get this: He wants to play into his 40s, and if we've learned anything about the captain, it's that betting against him usually doesn't work in your favor. If nothing else, Jeter is making it easier for Mark Teixeira to gasp his way through another slow start, while Alex Rodriguez regresses into a 20-homer threat.
The last time Lowe pitched in the American League, 2004, he was battered to the tune of a 5.42 ERA. The right-hander wisely got out of Boston, signed with the Dodgers and became a relatively serviceable National League pitcher for the next seven seasons.
Lowe, going into his age-39 season, appeared to be setting himself up for a forced retirement when he signed with the Indians during the off-season. But talk about unforeseen success: Lowe ran his record to 6-1 after a 5-0 shutout of the Twins on Tuesday that was sealed by 22 ground ball outs. Thanks to Lowe, the Indians are atop the AL Central. Crazy world we live in.
You wouldn't have been alone thinking Valentine's unique brand of genius was exactly what the Red Sox needed after Terry Francona's reign crashed and burned last September. Valentine was the right guy to heal the Sox and their dysfunctional clubhouse.
But nothing close to what has happened. The Sox are in last place, Valentine is unpopular in the clubhouse, the fans either don't get him or don't like him, and the war with Josh Beckett rages. Valentine has backed down on several occasions when he could've confronted the players. Now it looks like he's just trying to survive the summer, nevermind the two years on his contract.
You don't dominate hitters with an 88-mph fastball without brains and guts, both of which are still Santana's most precious currencies. His arm has been rebuilt by surgeons, who couldn't restore the left-hander's 94-mph heater of his prime. Still, Santana is so good, he's averaging more than a strikeout an inning. It's hard to believe Santana was on the DL for the entire 2011 season.
Put it this way: The 2.92 ERA isn't just surprising, it's magic.