MLB: NL Surprises and Disappointments

Anthony CasaleCorrespondent IMay 18, 2008

The MLB season is still relatively young, with just over a quarter of the games played so far.  As always, you have the teams that are surprising the nation and the teams that are disappointing their fans. 

Below is a list of five NL teams that fit such a category, with a brief description of the team's chances to be contenders. 


1. Florida Marlins

Where they are: First Place in NL East.

The Marlins are one of MLB’s biggest surprises.  They have done so with a mediocre pitching staff at best. After Hendrickson and Olsen, there isn’t a starter with an ERA below 5.00.

They have scored 210 runs and have allowed 197, which is an improvement from April.  The power of the two young middle infielders, Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla, has kept this team moving forward.  They win on the road (11-8) and in their own division (12-5).  If those stats stay consistent, this team could head in a positive direction this season. 

Where they are headed this season:

A nice surprise for the state of Florida so far this season.  Unfortunately, two starters are not going to win enough games to compete for a playoff spot this year.  The Marlins got off to a great start, but the NL East is full of good teams that should start to play better against them.

The pitching is nothing but mediocre and I don’t see the overachieving bats keeping up the offense to win enough games.  Philly has too good of a team to let the Marlins beat them this year.  The Marlins will fall back into reality later in the season.  With Ramirez locked up, the future looks hopeful for the Marlins.


2. Colorado Rockies

Where they are at: Third place in NL West.

The Rockies are on the other side of the spectrum from the Marlins.  They are, without a doubt, one of the biggest disappointments in the MLB.

The young pitching that climbed up the charts quickly in their playoff run last year fell right back to earth.  The “ace,” Jeff Francis, has an ERA of 6.27, Ubaldo Jimenez has an ERA of 5.29, and the back two are young pitchers just getting the chance to pitch.

Aaron Cook has been the only consistent and efficient starting pitcher.  The offense struggled even before the injury to Troy Tulowitzki, who was hitting .152 before he was hurt.  Helton, Hawpe, Torrealba, and Tavares are all not living up to expectations. The second-base slot is in shambles with Nix, Baker, Herrera and Quintanilla all sharing time while Barmes fills in for Tulowitzki. 

Where they are headed this season:

Their division isn’t the hottest right now, as three teams have not reached 20 wins yet.  Los Angeles and Arizona are leading the division.  Los Angeles cannot stay consistent, and Arizona has looked more human in their last 10 games, going 6-4. 

If Colorado can live up to their expectations again, they could easily catch Los Angeles.  Arizona will have to hit a slide for Colorado to grab the division.  The looks of this team is a team that is not going to catch fire anytime soon.  Tulowitzki is out until late July. 

This team was in a similar position last year and turned it around, but the Rockies had to win 21 of 22 just to make it into the post-season.  That is highly improbable this year.  This team will be heading home in the same position they are right now: third place.


3. St. Louis Cardinals

Where they are at: Second place in NL Central.

This team was expected to be mediocre at best, with no pitching due to injuries to Mulder, Carpenter, and Clement.  That meant their mid-rotation guys would have to step up and help them win games.  So far, those guys have done a tremendous job.

AdamWainwright is currently 3-2 with an ERA of 3.25. Braden Looper was converted into a starter last year but struggled early.  This year, he had to step up and be the No. 2 guy and has done a good job.  He is 5-3 with an ERA of 4.24. 

Todd Wellemeyer is probably the biggest surprise on this staff, at 4-1 with an ERA of 3.27.  He was going to be a fifth starter at best on this team. 

The pitching has been excellent, but let’s not forget the hitting.  They lost many guys in the offseason but have managed to get guys to fill quickly.  The four-headed outfield is hitting the ball well and Troy Glaus has filled in nicely for Scott Rolen.

Where they are headed this season:

The Cardinals are a surprise, but I do not see them making a run to the end.  They have many players that do not play every day, including at second base with Adam Kennedy and Aaron Miles.  Though the platooning keeps players fresh, not getting consistent playing time will catch up to them.

The front of this rotation should return in June and July, and this doesn’t bode well for the team.  After his Cy Young effort in 2005, Carpenter hasn’t shown he can stay healthy.  Mulder has not been the Mulder of Oakland since coming to St. Louis. He is throwing slower and doesn’t have the stuff he used to.  Clement will return as well but, with his recent injuries, his strikeout total is down.  That’s how he was effective, and it may hurt him when he comes back.  I see the Cards finishing third in the Central, which is around what I thought at the beginning of the season.


4. Milwaukee Brewers

Where they are at: Sixth in the NL Central.

The Central was thought to be a two-team race between the Cubs and the Brewers.  The Cubs are at the top as expected, but the Brewers are the bottom feeders of the division.  After Ben Sheets, you cannot find another pitcher who is throwing well.  Jeff Suppan is the only pitcher after Sheets to have an ERA below 5.00, and it is nothing to cheer about at 4.78.

There are also some big underachievers in this offense.  The big one, Prince Fielder, has only five home runs and is hitting below .270 with 25 walks and 24 strikeouts.  Rickie Weeks and Mike Cameron are the top two hitters, and they can’t bat above .200.  Corey Hart and Ryan Braun have been the only two highlights of the lineup.  Braun has finally caught fire, and Hart has been the most consistent. 

Where they are headed this season:

The Brewers will climb out of the cellar of the Central.  They have too much talent to continue slumping.  The pitching is going to be bad all season long, but the offense will win games for them.  That being said, do not expect them to be in the race for the Central.

Prince Fielder doesn’t seem like he wants to play any more since Braun got the contract before him. For Milwaukee to be a factor, Fielder must be more consistent.  Their closer role is in question, with Gagne again proving to be unworthy to pitch in the ninth inning.  Salomon Torres and Guillermo Mota have not shown they are able to take over that role either, both blowing saves while replacing Gagne.  Don’t expect them to finish higher than second in the Central. I see them finishing fourth behind St. Louis.

5. San Diego Padres

Where they are at: Fifth in the NL West.

This team is here for one simple reason: they can’t score runs.  The Padres don’t have a regular player hitting above .300. With the offense just downright abysmal, scoring a league-low 148 runs to date, they need pitching to win games. 

The pitching has allowed a total of 208 runs to date.  Jake Peavy is, of course, pitching well, but he missed a game with an elbow injury. The other three regular starters, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, and Randy Wolf, do not have an ERA below 4.00 (Maddux is at 3.98).  The pitching has got to improve dramatically if they expect to win, because Adrian Gonzalez is the only offense the Padres have.  The No. 1, 2, 4, and 5 hitters have fewer home runs combined (9) than Gonzalez (10). 

Where they are headed this season:

The team should improve, barring long term injuries to Peavy.  The offense is awful, but can score enough to win.  The pitching is, without a doubt, underachieving and should turn it around to keep the Padres in the remaining games. 

Jim Edmonds is no longer burdening this team by hitting .181, so the center field position should improve.  The bottom of the lineup, with Khalil Greene and Jerry Hairston, will create runs, though not consistently.  This team will most likely finish fourth in the West, behind Colorado and ahead of San Francisco. They are one of the bigger disappointments though because many people had them winning the West.