The 100 game mark came and went last week, and so far this baseball season has been anything but ordinary. Although there are some teams and players that have performed as expected, many pre-season predictions proved to be way off base. As the season reaches the home-stretch, here's a look at some of the most surprising storylines of this year.
Pittsburgh Pirates in contention
Without question, the stellar play of the Pittsburgh Pirates is the biggest surprise of the 2012 season. Coming into the year, the Pirates had achieved one of the all-time most dubious honors in sports: they had suffered through 19 consecutive losing seasons dating back to 1993, but all that has changed.
Led by the exciting play of center fielder Andrew McCutchen (the presumptive National League MVP), the Bucs have risen to become among the best teams in the league and are challenging the Cincinnati Reds for the NL Central crown with less than 60 games to go. Whether they make the playoffs or not, it's clear the era of futility is behind these Pirates.
Young talent abounds
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made waves this offseason by signing free agent Albert Pujols, but it is someone else who has made the biggest splash. Rookie outfielder Mike Trout, just 21-years-old, is expected to not only be the American League Rookie of the Year but also the MVP. As of August 6, he was hitting .346, with 19 home runs and 58 RBI, and with his stellar defense it is hard to argue.
Trout is not the only youngster bringing his team into playoff contention. Over in the NL, Washington Nationals wunderkind Bryce Harper has been turning heads since he first burst into the league. Just 19, what Harper has brought to the Nationals is undeniable and the former bottom dwellers of the NL East have staked a commanding lead.
Good teams gone bad
At the beginning of the season, most fans assumed both the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies would be in the playoff hunt. Though both were not World Series favorites, they had enough talent to be in the conversation. However, after the 100 game mark, both these teams are nowhere near playoff contention.
Both teams have been plagued by injuries, with Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay all missing time for the Phillies while David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford sitting out for the Sox. As a result, the Phils are well below .500 and in last place while the Sox have been hovering around .500 and are well behind rival New York Yankees. Washington Nationals.