7 ways Week 1 of the 2024 MLB season exposed experts' spring misjudgments

Apr 1, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Reds outfielder Spencer Steer (7) reacts in
Apr 1, 2024; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Cincinnati Reds outfielder Spencer Steer (7) reacts in / Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The season’s only one week along, and already MLB teams are exposing several bad preseason judgments made by the game’s pundit class.

Whether it be player assessments, judgments about teams or assessments of the strength and weakness of divisions, the first week of games has done a lot to demonstrate how little those who think they know a lot actually know.

Granted, one week is too early to establish season-long trends. But it’s not too soon to assess where our forecasts may be in need of a course correction.

Based on that first week of games, here are seven instances where ‘expert’ opinion has fallen behind reality.

7 expert MLB opinions about 2024 season that already seem wrong

  1. The lackluster state of the NL Central. In company with its AL counterpart, the NL Central was almost unanimously viewed entering the season as one of the game’s weakest. Wrong. So far, the exact opposite has been the case.

Collectively, NL Central teams are 10 games above .500 in matchups against teams from other divisions. And it’s not like Central teams have opened against stiffs. The Milwaukee Brewers played the Twins, the Chicago Cubs faced the world champion Rangers in Arlington, the Cardinals took on the Dodgers in LA, and the Cincinnati Reds played the Phillies. All of those opponents were preseason favorites to play October baseball.

At this early date, no other division has piled up a double-digit advantage against out-of-division foes. No other division can claim four above-.500 teams among its five members.

Why? Improvement. The upswing some predicted in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh appears to have taken hold, while the Brewers under new manager Pat Murphy haven’t yet shown signs of a feared decline.

2.       The NL East is a powerhouse division. Wrong. Turns out it’s more of a dumpster fire.

Granted, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies are very good. That being said, it seems likely that experts vastly overestimated the depth of the NL East.

One week into the season, it appears likely that the East may have two and possibly three of baseball’s worst teams. The Marlins have been the big disappointments, going winless through their first seven games. And that’s coming off a 2023 postseason berth.

The Mets aren’t much better. They’re 0-4, the saving grace being a pair of rainouts. Washington, last season’s divisional cellar-dweller, is performing as expected, sitting at 2-4.

NL East teams are already a collective 13 games under .500, the Braves (3-2) being the only team fighting that trend.

3.       The Detroit Tigers don’t have enough pitching. Wrong.

A questionable mound staff was supposed to be the issue holding back Detroit’s maturity this season. Not so far.

Through four games – all of which they’ve won – the Tigers have a staff 1.89 ERA, having allowed just two runs per game. That keeps company with Boston as the game’s best.

The Tigers’ first three starters, Tarik Skubal, Jack Flaherty and Reese Olson, have allowed a total of just one run. Tiger relievers have allowed just one more.

You can certainly argue that the schedule makers – who determined that Detroit should open the season against the White Sox and Mets – deserve some credit for the team’s pitching excellence. But until proven otherwise, leave open the possibility that Tiger pitchers actually have improved.

4.       The Cleveland Guardians can’t hit. Wrong.

The pre-season judgment was strong that the Cleveland Guardians will be plagued by a chronic inability to score runs. Not so far.

Through seven games, Guardians hitters are tied for fourth in runs scored per game (6.57), fifth in batting average (.283) and fifth in OPS+ (128).  

What’s going on? Well, opening with four games against the Oakland A’s didn’t hurt. But the Guardians are getting intriguing production from Andrés Giménez (.346/.438/.577), Steven Kwan (.353/.371/.471) and rookie shortstop Brayan Rocchio (.304/.360/.478).  

5.       The best Reds youngster is Elly De La Cruz. Wrong.

De La Cruz and fellow middle infielder Matt McLain were supposed to be the keys to Cincinnati’s 2024 renaissance. But McLain suffered a shoulder injury and De La Cruz is off to pedestrian .250/280/417 start.

Into that apparent breech has flown Spencer Steer, a 26-year-old easy-to-overlook second-year outfielder. One week into the season Steer is batting .435 with a 1.219 OPS that is fifth best in MLB. He’s already driven in eight runs, putting Steer on a 185 RBI pace for the season.

6.       MLB has four two-team cities. Wrong.

Geographically, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco-Oakland qualify as two-team cities. So far in 2024, the reality is far different.

In New York, the Yanks are 6-1, having triumphed through a daunting Houston-Phoenix road swing. The Mets, meanwhile, are winless in four embarrassing home games.

In Chicago, the schedule maker threw the Cubs and White Sox against one another in opening week series on opposite sides of town. In rain and biting cold, the contrasts could hardly have been more apparent. An average of 27,000 paid to see the Cubs sweep Colorado. At the same time, an average of just 12,500 paid to see the White Sox lose twice to the Braves, the third game being postponed by weather.

The Bay Area situation hardly requires elaboration, but for the record, the A’s played seven home games, for which a total of 45,000 tickets were purchased. That’s a handful more than what the Giants expect to draw to their home opener Friday afternoon against the Padres.

7. The Orioles are sure bets to repeat as AL East champs. Wrong.

The O’s, who enjoyed a 4-2 first week, certainly look capable of repeating their 101-61 record of a year ago. But don’t look past those Bronx Bombers.

When Gerrit Cole went down for at least two months in preseason, many dismissed the Yanks as serious contenders. Then they knocked off AL West champions Houston four straight in their place, and took down the NL champion Diamondbacks twice in Phoenix.

And Aaron Judge and Juan Soto haven’t even hit their stride yet. But shortstop Anthony Volpe has; he’s batting .409 with a 1.182 OPS and reaching base literally half the time. Third baseman Oswaldo Cabrera has seven RBI.

Meanwhile the four key Yankee relievers – Clay Holmes, Ian Hamilton, Jonathan Loaisiga and Caleb Ferguson – have allowed zero earned runs in 17 innings of work.

Who here took the Yankees for granted? Don’t do that.

Oakland A's best-case and worst-case scenarios for 2024 season (calltothepen.com)