The Los Angeles Dodgers are one of several teams that were thought to be contenders in 2013.
One of the best parts about Major League Baseball is that it’s unpredictable, and even though a team has a stacked roster or has played well, it doesn’t mean much.
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to call these teams overrated.
A team can be overrated in a pair of ways: that entering the season, it was favored to go deep into the postseason and potentially win the World Series, or that a team got off to a very hot start, but has fallen off since or isn’t expected to stay hot throughout the remainder of the year.
There are five teams that really seem to fit those criteria in 2013.
Let’s analyze their current situations for those who were supposed to be good and what’s to come for those who have already played well.
*All statistics in this article were obtained via FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. All contract information was obtained via Cot’s Contracts. All injury information was obtained via Baseball Prospectus.
The Boston Red Sox finished April with an 18-8 record, the best in baseball. Boston’s great play through the first month of the season was somewhat surprising considering the team didn’t go out into the offseason and sign many stars.
Instead, Boston made a couple of clubhouse moves, got the manager it wanted and hoped that players that played poorly in 2012 would bounce back.
Everything just clicked for the Red Sox in baseball’s opening month. The pitching staff was incredible and the offense managed to support it with enough runs to win ball games.
Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe wrote with three games remaining in April that Boston looked like a team that might be able to keep its hot streak going.
Yeah, it’s April. But you have to believe at least some of this is real and sustainable. Maybe after two years of injuries and decimating this franchise, they’re due for a stretch of good health. And sometime you win because you’re the last team standing. After the last two seasons, the Red Sox would take that.
In May, however, we’re starting to see the real Red Sox.
Boston has just four wins in 12 games, the fifth-fewest in Major League Baseball. Injuries are taking a toll on what looked to be a strong bullpen, the offense has gone cold and the starting rotation hasn’t been nearly as dominant as it was a month ago.
Boston won just 69 games last season and it’s highly unlikely that the Red Sox wouldn’t be able to win at least that many in 2013. With the way they’ve played over the last week and a half, though, anything seems possible.
The Los Angeles Angels have the talent to win a World Series. I don’t think anyone is arguing against that. But a horrible start to the 2013 season has basically kept them out of the conversation for a playoff spot at the very least.
The Angels have three of the best hitters in baseball: Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, who just signed with Los Angeles over the winter.
Through the early stages of the season, only Trout has played well.
Pujols is hitting .242/.320/.416 with six home runs and 22 RBI. Hamilton is hitting .214/.266/.364 with five home runs and 12 RBI. If either of these two were playing better offensively, the Angels wouldn’t have the 21st-best offense in baseball, according to FanGraphs.
They’d likely have a spot in the top 10.
The even bigger problem for Los Angeles, though, has been the pitching. The Angels currently have the 25th-best pitching staff in the league, according to FanGraphs. And even further, the starting rotation.
Part of the reason may be because Jered Weaver, the ace of the staff, has been limited to just two starts due to a fractured elbow.
Jason Vargas is the rotation’s WAR leader and he’s only 2-3 with a 4.03 ERA. Then there are guys like Joe Blanton, who’s 0-7 with a 6.46 ERA. Weaver is a great pitcher, but I’m not sure even he can turn the Angels rotation all the way around.
Although it’s still early in the season, instead of playing for one of the spots in the playoffs, the Angels will likely be playing for a top spot in next year’s draft.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have been one of the most unpredictable teams in baseball the last couple of seasons. While they’ve improved from their days in the NL Central cellar, they’ve still yet to make the postseason since 1992.
Last season looked to be Pittsburgh’s year. In the first half of the season, the Pirates were 48-37 and were up one game in the division. But Pittsburgh had a major collapse in the second half, going 31-46 and missing the postseason.
The Pirates are off to another great start this season. They’re 22-17 through their first 39 games, which has them third in the NL Central, 3.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
But will this be déjà vu for the Pirates?
While the offense has been good—led by Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin—it’s the pitching staff that really concerns me going forward.
Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon have been fantastic late in games coming out of the bullpen.
But will they even have leads to preserve with the way the starters have been?
Pittsburgh currently has the 26th-best starting rotation in baseball in terms of WAR, according to FanGraphs. Injuries have played a factor in the Pirates’ biggest weakness, but A.J. Burnett has been the only starter that has pitched well this year.
James McDonald, for example, was one of the team’s top pitchers last season. But this season, his ERA has increased more than a full run and his walk rate has almost doubled.
Until the Pirates figure out their starting rotation—and maybe that means just getting healthy—I’m not ready to call them contenders.
Frankly, I think they’ve exceeded expectations, but are truly overrated.
Signing Zack Greinke over the winter was supposed to ensure a spot in the postseason for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Through the first month and a half of the season, though, the Dodgers have looked anything but a playoff contender.
Los Angeles is currently 16-22 on the year, which is the worst record in the NL West and the seventh-worst record in baseball. The Dodgers are actually a game better than they should be too, according to their Pythagorean win-loss record (15-23).
Injuries have played a big role in why the Dodgers haven’t been successful this season, but slumps and poor play in general have been the main factor.
The loss of Greinke to a broken collarbone has really weakened the starting rotation.
Hanley Ramirez has now made his second trip to the disabled list this year, this time with a strained hamstring. Mark Ellis is on the DL with a strained quad. Several other Dodgers have had their fair share of bumps and bruises as well.
Part of the blame needs to go in the direction of Matt Kemp as well.
Kemp, who is usually an MVP candidate, has been horrible this season and is currently tied for the worst WAR on the team, according to FanGraphs. Through 38 games, he’s hitting .276/.325/.345 with just one home run and 15 RBI.
The Dodgers went 13-13 in April, which at least kept them in the conversation, but a 3-9 start in May has severely worsened their playoff hopes.
Even the return of injured players and the ends of a few slumps may not be able to do the trick.
I’m not sure what the Colorado Rockies were feeding their players over the offseason, but whatever it was, they should keep making more of it.
The Rockies came out of nowhere to start the season, currently holding a 21-18 record.
Colorado started the year off red-hot, finishing April at 16-11 and with a one-game lead in the NL West. The Rockies haven’t played nearly as well in May (5-7), and I think that the May Rockies are likely to stick around throughout the year rather than the April Rockies making a comeback.
Both the offense and pitching staff have made the Rockies a successful team in 2013.
The starting rotation in particular has been fun to watch considering that the Rockies don’t really have an ace, and I’m not sure if any of their starters would be a No. 2 or a No. 3 on other contending teams.
Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa have been the team’s leaders, combining for seven wins and each currently posting a sub-3.00 ERA. Keep in mind, though, that Chacin has never finished a year with a positive winning percentage and de la Rosa’s career ERA is 4.85.
The odds that Chacin and de la Rosa continue to pitch the way they have are slim, in my opinion. And even if the offense continues to produce runs, the Rockies are going to have a difficult time winning games then.
Colorado has certainly played well, but until it picks up the slack in May and make positive strides back toward the top of the division, it’s fair to say that it's overstayed its welcome in the contention conversation.