MLB Superstars Who Must Step Up for Their Teams Before It's Too Late
From Andrew McCutchen to Chris Sale, some of baseball's biggest names have been big-time duds in 2015.
The good news for the Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder and the Chicago White Sox ace is that it's still early—really early. The bad news is that their teams play in two of the most competitive divisions in baseball—the type of divisions where a sideways start could be the kiss of death.
Combing through the league, McCutchen and Sale are two of the most prominent superstars who need to step up for their respective clubs before it's too late, but they're not the only ones. There's also room on the list for a Cy Young Award winner and a member of one of the most hyped rotations in recent memory.
Corey Kluber, SP, Cleveland Indians
Corey Kluber has made seven starts for the Cleveland Indians in 2015 and the American League Central squad has lost on every one of those occasions.
This was not in the script for the Tribe.
After all, Kluber is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner. This year, the 29-year-old is fooling no one. The opposition has battered the right-hander to the tune of a .290 average, as Kluber has posted an 0-5 record and a 5.04 ERA.
Kluber and the Indians are playing a dangerous game. With a 10-17 record, the squad is languishing in last place in the loaded AL Central where the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are flying along and the Minnesota Twins are wildly exceeding the club's lowly preseason expectations.
Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen has endured an awfully quiet start in 2015.
The center fielder, who is a perennial MVP contender, has been dealing with soreness in his left knee since the spring, per Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. McCutchen certainly isn't using his bum wheel as an excuse.
“I can’t sit here and say my knee is the reason or something like that," said McCutchen on May 7. "I don’t believe so. I just believe that I’m just a little off, and that’s all that it is. Just getting myself back there because I’m sick and tired of going oh for freaking four.”
The very next day, the 28-year-old went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI. It was just one big night, but it was also a promising sign for McCutchen and a Pittsburgh Pirates team that is entangled in a four-team race with the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago Cubs in the National League Central.
Chris Sale, SP, Chicago White Sox
After cruising through his first three starts, Chris Sale has run into all sorts of problems the last two times he's taken the mound for the Chicago White Sox.
The trouble started for the lefty on April 30 when he let in a career-worst nine runs against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. As Tyler Mason of Fox Sports North notes, Sale had given up just 18 earned runs in his previous 17 outings (nine starts) against the Twins.
In his next trip to the hill on May 6, Sale simply couldn't find the plate. The 26-year-old dished out five free passes on his way to giving up five runs on seven hits in 5.1 frames. Entering that start, Sale had only walked five batters all season.
Even after his back-to-back nightmare outings, Sale remains even-keeled.
“You’re going to have good ones, you’re going to have bad ones,” said Sale, via Dan Hayes of CSN Chicago. “You’re going to have a few good ones in a row, you’re going to have a few bad ones in a row. I think the most important thing is just staying true to yourself and grinding it out."
The starter has plenty of down time to figure out what's been going wrong. Sale won't pitch again until May 11, as he's currently serving a five-game ban for his part in an April brawl with the Kansas City Royals. The White Sox, who sit in fourth place in the Central with an 10-15 record, will need the vintage Sale to return when he wraps up his unpaid vacation.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Seattle Mariners
At a price tag of $24 million, Robinson Cano has been a major disappointment in 2015.
Sure, the second baseman has 10 doubles, but he's also connected on just a single home run and is sporting a .683 OPS. That's not going to cut it—especially considering that his career mark is .854. Cano has been all but useless against left-handed pitching, as he's posted a .147 average.
The vet is far from the only underachiever on a Seattle Mariners team that is wallowing in last place in the AL West with an 11-17 mark. But considering his impressive track record, he's the one player that the M's need to get going the most.
Stephen Strasburg, SP, Washington Nationals
The start of the campaign has not gone to plan for Stephen Strasburg.
The 26-year-old right-hander has run up a 4.73 ERA in his first six outings, and just when he'll take the mound again is TBD.
Strasburg left his most recent start on May 5 after just 3.1 innings "with what was described as discomfort under his right shoulder blade," per James Wagner of The Washington Post. The starter's shoulder has improved, but the Nats are still "not sure if he will make his next start," per William Ladson of MLB.com.
With Washignton staring up at the pitching-rich New York Mets and the Atlanta Braves in the NL East standings, the reigning division champs have no choice but to get Strasburg healthy and back to full strength as soon as possible.
Note: All stats courtesy of MLB.com.
If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.