5 Biggest Scapegoats of 2013 MLB Playoff Race Failures
The American League Wild Card race might come down to the first ever three-way tiebreaker. As exciting as the final day of the season will be for the Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers, there are plenty of other teams who just missed the cut.
For instance, teams like the New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals all had a good shot at capturing October joy at different points of the season. But due to specific lackluster performances, each of these organizations has fallen by the wayside.
Read on to see the five biggest scapegoats of the 2013 MLB playoff race.
The Kansas City Royals (85-76) were serious about competing in 2013. The Royals acquired James Shields, Ervin Santana and Jeremy Guthrie in the offseason and were banking on their young offensive core to supply run support.
And while the strategy paid off for the most part, Mike Moustakas never got the memo.
Moustakas has been abysmal all season long, posting a .233 batting average, park-adjusted 77 OPS+ and just 12 home runs over 514 plate appearances. Even light-hitting speedster Lorenzo Cain has posted a superior OPS+ (82) to Moustakas'.
If Moustakas hadn't owned the lowest wRC+ (74) among starting American League third baseman, the Royals' chances of capturing a wild-card spot would have been an achievable feat.
The Baltimore Orioles (84-77) were very active during the two trade deadlines. In an attempt to bolster their weak rotation, the Orioles acquired Bud Norris from the Houston Astros. Norris, who tossed a respectable 3.93 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 103 ERA+) for the Astros in the first half, seemed like a solid addition.
But Norris has performed at a below league-average rate in Baltimore. The 28-year-old has pitched to the tune of a 5.17 ERA (versus a 4.43 FIP), 1.62 WHIP and 2.13 K/BB in the second half.
The Orioles' general struggles in the second half mirror Norris’. Despite going 53-43 in the first half, the team’s wild-card pursuits slipped after the All-Star break, as Baltimore went 31-34.
If Norris had merely matched his first-half accolades, it’s possible the wild-card competition in the American League would have been a four-team race.
After an injury-plagued 2011 season, Adam LaRoche bounced back mightily in 2012. LaRoche posted a fruitful .271 batting average, park-adjusted 127 OPS+ and 33 home runs for the Washington Nationals last season.
But the 2012 version of Adam LaRoche has been nowhere to be found in 2013. The first baseman has witnessed his home run total be reduced 40 percent while he has posted a mere .237 batting average and 103 OPS+.
The 33-year-old was supposed to be the Nationals’ cleanup hitter, but his lacking stick forced manager Davey Johnson to drop him two spots in the order. Given LaRoche’s season-long slump, the veteran has been part of the problem—instead of the solution.
In many ways, Dan Haren epitomizes the Washington Nationals’ underachievement in 2013.
After enduring his then worst career year in 2012, the Nationals signed Haren to a critically approved one-year, $13 million deal.
But Haren was hardly the veteran rotation presence the Nationals yearned for. The 33-year-old hurled a 5.61 ERA (versus a 4.67 FIP), 1.41 WHIP and 4.67 K/BB from April to June. In fact, in April and June, opposing batters hit .349 against the right-hander.
Despite his second-half resurgence (a 3.08 ERA versus a 3.51 FIP), the veteran’s first-half production almost led to an outright release.
By the time Haren was able to channel his former self, the Atlanta Braves had already carved out a healthy lead in the east. And the three-headed beast in the central commanded the remaining playoff spots too.
It's amazing the New York Yankees performed as well as they did, in general. Without Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira for most of the season, the Yankees have still compiled an 84-77 record.
But most of those wins came in the first half, as the team has slumped to a 33-33 record post All-Star break.
A big factor in the Bombers' second-half fade is C.C. Sabathia's substandard production. Sabathia has posted a 6.08 ERA (versus 4.21 FIP), 1.37 WHIP and 2.69 K/BB. The 33-year-old also spun a career-worst park-adjusted 85 ERA+ overall in 2013.
To top it all off, Sabathia suffered a grade two hamstring sprain on September 20, which officially knocked him out for the final week of the season. Even if the Yankees had somehow managed to advance to the playoffs, the team would have been without their $23 million hurler in October.