Struggling MLB Teams That Are About to Take off
"CAUTION: Results from the first week aren't always how they appear."
Every MLB article you read over the season's first few weeks should come with that disclaimer. We're through 10 games, so it's way too early to make judgements on what we've seen over 2015's first few games. That goes for some underachieving teams, who are primed to take off as the season kicks in to high gear.
For a variety of reasons, playoff contenders have struggled out of the gates. The Washington Nationals, Chicago White Sox, Seattle Mariners and Miami Marlins still have the ability to turn slow starts into successful campaigns.
So let's dive into some of those uninspiring starts and find a silver lining for those particular clubs.
The Miami Marlins began the season with a three-game sweep at the hands of the Atlanta Braves, but the Marlins have flashed signs over the past week of improvement.
That's especially true on the offensive end. After scoring fewer than two runs in four of their first five contests, the Fish have scored at least five in four of their last five. Dee Gordon has been a spark from the leadoff spot with 15 hits and six steals, while Adeiny Hechavarria, Martin Prado and Michael Morse all enjoyed solid second weeks.
The pitching staff has also underachieved, as the Marlins rank 28th in ERA to begin 2015. The Marlins avoided a huge dilemma when Henderson Alvarez's MRI revealed that he wouldn't need season-ending surgery on his arm.
But with Alvarez slated to miss a few weeks, the rest of the rotation will need to hold down the fort.
“Hopefully, it’s just a short-term absence,” pitcher Tom Koehler told the Miami Herald's Manny Navarro. “We don’t need anybody stepping up and doing anything differently. As long as everyone does what they’re capable of doing, we should be all right.”
The responsibility now falls on Koehler, Mat Latos, Dan Haren and Jared Cosart to keep the Marlins afloat until the return of Alvarez and ultimately Jose Fernandez. With an offense poised to explode, the rotation doesn't have to be great.
But it needs to be better, and there's too much quality on that staff for the Fish to flounder for much longer.
The Seattle Mariners were a dark-horse World Series pick for many this winter but have gotten off to a poor start behind some wretched starting pitching.
After finishing 2014 with the second-best ERA in baseball, the Mariners have begun 2015 with the second-worst mark.
The biggest disappointment has been Tijaun Walker, who won a spot in the rotation in spring training. The top-rated prospect has surrendered 15 hits and 14 earned runs in just seven innings of work. Walker's biggest issue has been his control, as he's walked six batters in his two appearances.
While Walker has struggled, he's young and very talented. On the other hand, the struggles of James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma are more worrisome. But with Felix Hernandez still heading the staff, it's hard to see the Seattle rotation not turning its slow start around in the coming weeks.
But the biggest positive to take away from Seattle's sluggish start is the production of Nelson Cruz.
B/R's own Joel Reuter gave the Cruz acquisition an early-season grade of A, citing Seattle's need of production from a right-handed bat as a reason for such a high mark.
Cruz has six homers and nine RBI to begin the season, all while walking nearly as often as he's striking out. Seattle's getting exactly what it paid for with Cruz. He's the perfect complement to Robinson Cano and gives the Mariners a more explosive lineup.
Pitching was supposed to be Seattle's calling card, and it still very well may be. When it does become a strength, the Mariners should be able to generate enough run support to rattle off some victories.
Chicago White Sox
Chris Sale's health should be a concern for Chicago White Sox fans, but the southpaw's dominant return to the mound is huge for the club.
In his first start of 2015, Sale tossed six innings of one-run ball. He fanned eight opposing hitters, while allowing only one free pass.
White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper called Sale the "best pitcher he's ever coached" in a radio interview on the Mully and Hanley Show Thursday.
His return should bolster a White Sox rotation that sputtered out of the gates. Jeff Samardzija pitched better in his third start, while John Danks continues to look more and more over the hill. With Carlos Rodon lurking in the minors, Chicago's rotation could have a different look by the All-Star break.
At the plate, the sluggers are producing. Jose Abreu, Adam LaRoche and Avail Garcia have all posted wRC+ of 120 or higher to begin 2015. The issue has been with the table-setters, as Adam Eaton, Melkey Cabrera, Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson all have on-base percentages lower than .250.
Aside from Johnson, the rest of those names are proven MLB hitters. They'll turn it around and provide the middle of the Chicago lineup with RBI chances. Once that happens, the White Sox will start stringing together some winning streaks.
The Washington Nationals were considered one of the best teams in baseball after adding Max Scherzer to their already vaunted starting rotation this winter.
But the Nats haven't gotten off to a blazing start, despite a fantastic start from their newest acquisition. Scherzer has allowed just one earned run in his 13.2 innings. Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman haven't seen the same good fortune, but we know what they are capable of.
At the plate, Washington entered the season with injuries to Jayson Werth, Anthony Rendon and Denard Span, which has affected the club's lineup. The Nats rank in the middle of the league in runs scored and are flirting with the Mendoza Line as a team.
B/R's own Danny Garrison notes how much those preseason injuries have impacted the Nats offensively.
"With a patchwork lineup that includes several players who were a shoo-in for minor league assignment, the Nats would probably have better luck herding cats for nine innings than trying to put runs on the board," he said.
Werth is the first of the three injured Nationals to return from injury, and Rendon shouldn't be too far behind. The pitching is going to be elite, and Washington will be fine once it gets its full lineup back on the field.