Ten Games In: AL

I forget exactly who said it, but someone once posited that you can tell a lot about a team by their record after the first 10 games.  Similar to Bill James' Pythagorean theorem, generally speaking it works out to be true.  It doesn't mean that a team will finish with the same winning percentage that it had after 10 games, just that the reasons the team is winning or losing to this point often continue throughout the season.  With that in mind, here's a cursory look at what's happened so far from a pitching standpoint:

AL East
It's been a surprising race so far in that a) it's basically a dead heat at the top of the standings, and b) the Blue Jays aren't in part of that tie.  Before the season, the Jays received a lot of praise regarding their moves to bolster their rotation, but the new pitchers - Ted Lilly, Miguel Batista and Pat Hentgen - have been downright awful.  They will improve as the season progresses, but those who are looking for these three to turn things around and become the saviors of the Jays will be disappointed.  Toronto still has enough talent to push for third in the division, but they could be in for a struggle with the Orioles and Devil Rays.  The Orioles look like they may have a terrific bullpen, but like the Jays, they might be a little short on starting pitching.  Matt Riley has been solid so far and looks like he's gaining confidence quickly.  I was impressed by Erik Bedard's composure in a start in which he didn't have any command.  It may take him a while to get started, but he should finish with a decent season.  If the O's can get Ainsworth going, they really do stand a chance to compete in the division.  BJ Ryan is possibly the most under-rated reliever in the game.  Take out 2 outings from last May and from the beginning of last year to the present: 78 games, 56.1 innings pitched, 2.24 ERA, 72 Ks vs 27 walks.  Only using the run differential to this point, the O's are by far the best team in the division.  However, Boston should still be considered the favorite.  Once they get Nomar and Nixon back, their offense will get going and make things much easier for their pitching staff.  ByungHyun Kim getting healthy will also be a big boost.  Whoa, such insight there, eh?  The Yankees have some help on the way with Lieber rehabbing already, and Contreras should improve.  But despite getting two wins, Mussina hasn't pitched well at all.  I'm not saying it's time to panic with Moose, but he is usually a fast starter: 2.66 April ERA the last 2 years, 3.56 the rest of the year.  The Devil Rays are still weak when it comes to starting pitching, but their bullpen and offense has more talent than people give them credit for and Paul Abbott has a record of pitching reasonably well for Lou Pinella.  He won't continue to pitch brilliantly, but he could still be a decent starter this year.

AL Central

The Royals are proving early just how fluky their success was last year.  Neither Darrell May or Brian Anderson are as bad as they've looked so far, but neither are they nearly as good as they looked last year.  For the top of the rotation, that isn't good.  Affeldt has talent, but he still has basically only one season's experience in the majors, so he might struggle with the learning curve this year.  They may not be able to wait very long on Zack Greinke if they hope to stay competitive.  The depth of the Twins pitching is a question mark, but they will have solutions with the return of Grant Balfour, and from AAA once they promote Pete Munro, Brent Schoening and Matt Guerrier who have been lights out so far, combining for 31 innings pitched, 29 Ks against 2 walks while posting a 1.45 ERA.  Jesse Crain is also on the near-term horizon.  The White Sox have similar answers in AAA to their pitching questions: Felix Diaz, Jon Rauch and Jason Grilli have thrown a combined 35.2 innings, striking out 30 batters vs 7 walks with an ERA of 1.51.  There's no guarantee that any of these pitchers will end up in their respective rotations, but they are all good bets to be called up before the Break or shortly thereafter and pitch well.  Cleveland's staff is still very young and other than Kyle Denney, don't appear to have much help in their immediate future.  They will simply have to make do and hope that their struggling bullpen shapes up soon. The surprise of the season is obviously the Tigers with their hot start.  While they don't have any of the top tier pitching talent the other teams in the division have, they are a serviceable enough corps for this team to win 60-65 games. 

AL West
Which team has the best run differential in the AL West?  If you said the Texas Rangers, give yourself a Lone Star, you're right.  Even more surprising is that they are not doing it with smoke and mirrors.  Chan Ho Park is a semblance of his old LA self and Kenny Rogers is pitching the way he did in 2002.  But the biggest reason for their success is the performances of Jay Powell, Ron Mahay, Ryan Drese, Carlos Almanzar and Erasmo Ramirez, who've allowed 2 earned runs in 19.2 innings of relief, striking out 20 batters while walking only five.  Once Jeff Nelson and Francisco Cordero get going, the Rangers could have - and it's hard to believe I'm saying this - a dominating bullpen.  Colby Lewis has enough talent to be a star, but is still struggling with confidence and might all season.  But the Rangers have a couple of solid reinforcements in AAA (Ricardo Rodriguez and Juan Dominguez) who should be helping out before the Break.  The reason the A's haven't won more games than they have is their bullpen.  The starting pitching has been as good as expected and Arthur Rhodes has done well in the closer's role, but with the exception of Jim Mecir, the A's have had a real problem getting to the end of the game.  I've never been a big fan of Chris Hammond, Ricardo Rincon or Chad Bradford so it wouldn't surprise me to see this problem continue.  Hammond and Rincon simply aren't as talented as their recent ERAs and Bradford is one of the more over-rated relievers.  I realize it's just my perception, but every time I see him pitch he's allowing inherited runners to score.  After getting caught up in the hoopla over their offseason acquisitions, reality has set in with the Angels.  Yes, Colon and Escobar are very good.  The problem is that Lackey, Sele, Ortiz and Washburn haven't been.  Mind you, they aren't bad; Washburn is the best of that group, Ortiz a close second, but the sooner the Angels figure out how to get Scot Shields into the rotation, the better off they'll be.  Which leaves the Mariners.  The day would come when Jamie Moyer can no longer fool hitters with slow stuff and from the early returns, that day may have already passed.  The last two years he's given up 9 home runs in 12 April starts but he's almost half way there after 2 starts this season.  I have no idea what's wrong with Joel Piniero, but whatever it is, it's ugly.  Maybe he's trying too hard to justify the 3-year deal he signed this offseason.  Ryan Franklin continues to astound me with his high wire act, but the rest of the staff looks pretty solid, especially when Rafael Soriano gets healthy.  But can they be competitive with three question marks - Franklin, Moyer and Piniero - in the rotation?  Probably not.