The Seattle Mariners and the Colorado Rockies shocked a lot of people last year.
On one hand, Seattle was among the leaders until the middle of September when they just couldn't keep it together, going 3-15 during one stretch late. On the other hand, Colorado won 14 of their last 15 games and shocked the San Diego Padres by beating Jake Peavy in a one game playoff and taking the NL West.
The Rockies continued that run by sweeping through the Philadelphia Phillies and Arizona Diamondbacks before facing a reality check by the Boston Red Sox.
Both teams had high hopes coming into this year. Seattle added ace Eric Bedard from Baltimore, while Colorado hoped their youth would continue to mature and build off a World Series appearance. Instead, both teams sit at 20-34 with the worst records in baseball, and without a lot of hope to improve.
What has gone wrong?
With Colorado, an old problem recurred as the staff's 4.94 ERA is second worst in baseball. Outside of Aaron Cook (7-3, 2.82), the starting pitching has been terrible. Ubaldo Jimenez (1-5, 5.37) and Jeff Francis (1-5, 6.12) have been disappointments, and none of the other starters have done anything positive.
The relief pitching has also been a problem. In his first full season at closer, Manny Corpas blew four of his first eight save opportunities and was quickly replaced by Brian Fuentes. Fuentes has stabilized the bullpen a bit, but the struggles of the starters have often rendered it useless.
The offense has been a little better, but they are 22nd in runs scored as a team, a category that a Coors Field' team (even with the humidor) should be higher in.
Last year's rookie sensation Troy Tulowitzki struggled mightily before tearing a tendon in his left quadricep. Their best hitters last season have struggled getting hits with runners in scoring position, but injuries to Tulowitzki and outfielders Brad Hawpe and Matt Holliday have not improved matters.
Seattle has suffered through a similarly bad year, as they have the worst team on base percentage in baseball. Only one regular, Ichiro, has an OBP of above .350 (.351). As a team, they are also near the bottom of the league in slugging percentage as well.
This has led to an anemic offensive performance, second to last in the American league to Kansas City in runs scored, with only Raul Ibanez having either an OPS over .760 (.768) or 30 or more RBIs (34).
Seattle is also second to last in the AL in ERA. JJ Putz has not been nearly as dominant as he was last season. His ERA is only 3.94, but a 1.81 WHIP shows that his ERA is likely to go up.
Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez have done decent enough jobs heading the rotation. However for Seattle to have any success, both need to step up their games, fast.
Out of the six pitchers who have pitched the most innings this year, four have ERAs over five. Even the pitchers with average ERAs like Putz and Mark Lowe have abnormally high WHIP's.
Can they turn it around?
It's very unlikely either team can turn it around to make the playoffs. Fourteen games below .500 is a steep hill to climb. Also both teams are over ten games out of their divisions, with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Arizona Diamondbacks being very difficult teams to come from behind against.
Seattle has a great one-two punch in Bedard and Hernandez, but the rest of their rotation is suspect, and the offense severely lacks firepower. Ichiro can set the table, but there isn't a whole lot of depth in the lineup, the rotation, or the bullpen. The Bedard trade really sapped them of a lot of talent.
Colorado has the youth and the depth where they are more likely to come back and after last season it's hard to count them out. But their pitching prowess may have been a mirage last season, and their offense is very banged up. They have a better chance than Seattle, but right now, they are a mess.
The Rockies might not be able to stay afloat long enough to wait for Tulowitzki to come back, and the defending National League champions look close to dead.
Again, it still is only May, but both teams have dug craters for themselves to get out of. It's hard to see either team being able to climb all the way out.