Biggest Disappointments of the 1st 50 Games of the 2014 MLB Season
During the 2014 MLB season, there has been no more discouraging development than the flood of Tommy John surgeries that has hit the league.
Unfortunately, all those elbow injuries haven't been the only bad news that baseball has dealt with in the opening 50 games of the campaign. The following rundown provides a ranking of the six biggest disappointments of the MLB season.
The ranking criteria are simple. Storylines that affect just a single club check in near the bottom of the list, while narratives that impact entire divisions or baseball in general end up right at the top.
6. Curtis Granderson's Slow Start
It's never a good sign when a player gets booed after just two games with his new club.
That's exactly the situation that Curtis Granderson found himself in with the New York Mets, per CBS New York. The Mets inked the outfielder to a four-year, $60 million deal in the offseason, and so far in 2014 he hasn't been worth anything near that price tag.
The 33-year-old owns a .214 batting average and a .384 slugging percentage. He's also piled up 49 punchouts in 44 games. However, Granderson does appear to be rounding into form as of late. In his past 10 contests, the veteran is batting .306.
5. Prince Fielder's Pain in the Neck
Prince Fielder's first season with the Texas Rangers has gone from bad to catastrophic.
After a glacial start, the first baseman totaled just three home runs and posted a .360 slugging percentage in his first 42 games. Now, it appears as though Fielder's campaign is over after the slugger suffered a herniated disk in his neck, per Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.
As Grant points out, Fielder is expected to get a second opinion, but a season-ending surgery has "tentatively" been scheduled for next Tuesday. The Rangers have endured an onslaught of injuries to key contributors in 2014, and as Grant remarks, the news on Fielder could be the "knock-out" shot.
4. Last Year's Wild-Card Winners
It's been forgettable start to the season for all four of last year's wild-card winners.
The Tampa Bay Rays are languishing in last place in the America League East and own the second-worst record in the league.
The Cleveland Indians are also sitting in the cellar and have received negligible production from some of their most important contributors. Carlos Santana is hitting just .153 on the season, and Nick Swisher checks in with a .211 average and three home runs.
Over in the National League, 2014 has not gone much better for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Manager Clint Hurdle's squad is seven games back in the division and has the fourth-worst run differential in the league, per ESPN.com.
Of the four teams, the Cincinnati Reds are off to the best start. Still, they are 5.5 games off the pace in the crowded NL Central and have a negative run differential, per ESPN.com.
3. Teams That Haven't Met Big Expectations
The 2014 season definitely hasn't been a disaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Kansas City Royals. Then again, neither team has exactly lived up to its preseason expectations either.
The Dodgers have the most exorbitant payroll in baseball and were widely predicted to run away with the NL West. Instead, the team occupies the No. 3 spot in the division and is 4.5 games behind the San Francisco Giants. It will be no easy task for Los Angeles to climb the ranks considering that the Giants and Colorado Rockies are looking like two of the most dangerous teams in the league.
Unlike Los Angeles, the Royals weren't projected to lock down the top spot in their division. However, the club did figure to be a major factor in the AL wild-card race. At 23-23 that could still happen, but so far the Royals have been underwhelming, especially at the plate. Kansas City ranks last in the AL in OPS and as a team has just 20 home runs, which is the fewest in baseball.
2. The Unimpressive AL East
The AL East was supposed to be the best division in baseball. Right now, though, that's simply not the case.
Of the five teams in the East, only the Toronto Blue Jays have a positive run differential, per ESPN.com. At 26-22 (.542), they also have the lowest winning percentage of any first-place team in MLB.
Still, no team has been more disappointing than the reigning World Series champions.
The Boston Red Sox are six games under .500 and are currently in the midst of a seven-game slide. Of course, there's still plenty of time for the landscape to shift. For now, just six games separate all five clubs.
1. The Deluge of Tommy John Surgeries
There's no surprise here.
By far the most frustrating, disappointing and alarming storyline of the 2014 season has been the unusually high frequency of pitchers requiring Tommy John surgery. The total number is now up to 36, according to Patrick Despain of WFAA.
A myriad of talented pitchers like Matt Moore, Jarrod Parker, Patrick Corbin and Kris Medlen have all undergone the dreaded procedure. Most recently, Martin Perez and Jose Fernandez were added to that list. There's no simple explanation for the drastic rise in the number of surgeries, but clearly it's an issue that baseball will need to address.
Note: All stats courtesy of MLB.com.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.