MLB: Which Sub-.500 Team Will Bounce Back?
With every new season there comes hope. Hope that a team can build on the success of the previous season and hope that youth will continue to develop. There are six teams in particular (the Yankees, Indians, Tigers, Braves, Rockies, Padres), entering this year’s major league baseball season looking rebound from a slow start.
Of these six teams, who will bounce back from a shaky start and make a push for the playoffs? The smart money is usually placed on the New York Yankees, who won Saturday to move to 16-16. They have the biggest payroll and arguably the best lineup in baseball.
The biggest question mark is the youth movement. Chien-Ming Wang has been unbeatable and Andy Pettitte has pitched well, but the three through five spots in the rotation leave much to be desired.
Mike Mussina, Ian Kennedy, and Phil Hughes are a combined 4-9 with 84 innings pitched, 105 hits and 62 earned runs given up. Something's got to give for the Bronx Bombers to make the post season.
While there's still a lot of baseball left in the season it doesn't help that Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriquez are on the DL.
What about the Indians and their record of 96-66 a year ago? They have stumbled out of the gate with a 14-15 record and a few question marks.
One main question is whether No. 1 pitcher C.C. Sabathia will rebound for his torrid start. Sabathia is 1-4 with a 7.88 ERA, not exactly numbers you want from the big lefty making $11 million this year.
While C.C. is struggling, Cliff Lee is showing signs of life with a 5-0 start. Lee has been a question mark for several seasons now ever since his 18-5 record in 2005.
DH and MVP candidate Travis Hafner is hitting like he's still in spring training. The half project and half donkey, Pronk, as he's called, has the lowest on-base, slugging and batting average of his career and is a big key to the future success of Cleveland.
During the offseason, the Tigers traded for Edgar Renteria, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis, creating very high expectations. Now boasting the second highest payroll in baseball, the Tigers started off losing their first seven games but have slowly climbed out of their slump.
The Tigers haven't been without the injury bug with newly acquired Willis and relief pitchers Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya on the DL.
Gary Sheffield and Placido Polanco are off to unbelievably slow starts and team firecracker Curtis Granderson just came back from injury. But the only way Detroit can win the division is if team ace Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson all bounce back. The trio has a combined ERA of over 6.50.
Currently Atlanta sits three games out of first, but with team ace and leader John Smoltz on the DL, the Braves will have to look at other team veterans for leadership.
Also throw in the fact that when Smoltz returns he will more than likely come out of the bullpen, Chipper Jones is day-to-day with back spasms, Rafael Soriano is on the shelf with elbow soreness, Mike Hampton is still out with a torn pectoral, Mike Gonzales is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Tom Glavine can't get any run support.
If the pitching holds up and the injured players return without further damage, they can make a run at the division. Chipper Jones is playing like a 25-year-old and as a team they are No. 1 in runs allowed, home runs allowed and ERA.
They are also No. 4 in batting average and No. 2 in opponent’s team batting average. Only time will tell if the Braves can keep it up.
It appears as if the Rockies are one-hit wonders after last season’s magical run to the World Series.
They've fallen out of the starting gate to an 11-18 record and are No. 15 in the National League in runs allowed and ERA.
The injury to Troy Tulowitzki didn't help either as he's expected to miss six weeks or more with a lengthy healing process. The biggest problem the reigning National League champs face is an inability to finish games. Closer Manny Corpas was demoted after blowing four saves and getting hammered for an 8.62 ERA.
Promoted closer Brian Fuentes seems to have calmed the bullpen down recording his second save in as many chances, but even he has two blown saves already this year.
Add it all up and the Rockies may have to go on an unbeaten streak just to catch up with the best team in baseball in the Arizona Diamondbacks.
San Diego lost in the one-game playoff a year ago to the Rockies and seemed poised to make a return trip to the playoffs. But an 11-19 start has the team questioning if it has enough in the tank this early in the season to make a push out of the cellar.
It's no surprise that newly acquired pitcher Mark Prior is on the DL and center field has become the black hole. CF's Jim Edmonds and Scott Hairston are both hitting below .200 and the rest of the team is a combined .225 at the plate, with one exception. That exception is Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the team in batting average, home runs, RBI, runs and OPS (on-base plus slugging).
On the mound, they've had consistent efforts from Jake Peavy, Randy Wolf, Chris Young, and Greg Maddux. But if you can't score runs then great pitching only goes but so far. Nine of the team’s 11 wins have come from the starting rotation but Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman has looked like an aging superstar in his last season. Without a strong closer it will be difficult for the Padres to turn it around.
My pick for a resurgence is the Detroit Tigers.
They seemingly have the best starting lineup in the game and once the D-train comes off the DL they should be primed for a division title. However, anything could happen but I see the Yankees falling short of a playoff birth for the first time since 1993 and the youth movement taking one more year to improve.
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