Most Overrated MLB Teams Entering Heat of 2019 Pennant Races

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2019

Most Overrated MLB Teams Entering Heat of 2019 Pennant Races

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The month of August has arrived, and that means pennant races around baseball are heating up with less than two months remaining in the regular season.

    While some teams are obvious playoff contenders and others have obviously moved into the non-contender category, there are a handful of squads still occupying the gray area in between.

    Ahead we've highlighted five MLB contenders that are overrated relative to their current odds of reaching the postseason, which come courtesy of FanGraphs.

    In other words, we're saying that these five teams should have much lower odds of reaching the postseason than they are being given.

    Let's get to it.

Boston Red Sox

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    Nathan Eovaldi
    Nathan EovaldiFrank Franklin II/Associated Press

    FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 21 percent

    John Tomase of NBC Sports Boston summed up the current state of the Boston Red Sox perfectly in a recent article for Yahoo Sports:

    "They haven't been this far out of first place since the final day of the 2015 season, when they finished 15 games out in last place. GM Ben Cherington didn't even survive August of that season, replaced by [Dave] Dombrowski.

    And this brings us back to Dombrowski's trade deadline approach. He admitted that if the team were closer to first place, he would've acted more aggressively. Now it's clear why. The Red Sox were already in the process of laying down when July 31 came and went without making a move.

    Now that they're finishing the job, they're revealing their true character, at least for 2019. And the way they're going now, no closer, middle man, or combination of secondary pieces was going to be enough to save them."

    It's harsh, but it's fair.

    This team is 1-8 in its last nine games, and even with a high-powered offense, it simply doesn't have the pitching to go on a run.

    If they want to make the playoffs, the Red Sox will need to overtake two of the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics and whoever doesn't win the American League Central between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians, and that doesn't seem possible right now.

Chicago Cubs

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    Craig Kimbrel
    Craig KimbrelDylan Buell/Getty Images

    FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 88.1 percent

    Are the Chicago Cubs the favorites to win the National League Central?

    Probably, but that speaks more to the rest of the division than anything else.

    With a slim 2.5-game lead in the NL Central and a mere two-game cushion in the wild-card standings, saying this team has an 88.1 percent chance of reaching October with its ticking time bomb of a bullpen seems generous.

    Pedro Strop and Craig Kimbrel are now both on the injured list, and neither was anything close to a lockdown option in the ninth inning before getting hurt. Manager Joe Maddon will likely go with a closer by committee for the time being, and that committee will be full of nerve-wracking options.

    The Cubs will also be without All-Star catcher Willson Contreras for four weeks after he was shelved with a hamstring injury. Backup Victor Caratini is a significant step down both offensively and defensively, and they just flipped veteran Martin Maldonado at the July 31 trade deadline.

    There's also the matter of the team's struggles away from Wrigley Field. While Chicago has gone a stellar 40-18 at home, it is a cringeworthy 21-33 on the road.

    Again, the Cubs are probably still the favorites in the NL Central, but there are enough issues to qualify them as overrated relative to those 88.1 percent odds.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Brandon Woodruff
    Brandon WoodruffQuinn Harris/Getty Images

    FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 21.9 percent

    The Milwaukee Brewers began the season with a starting rotation of Jhoulys Chacin, Freddy Peralta, Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Zach Davies.

    None of those pitchers is part of the current starting staff.

    Woodruff (strained oblique), Chacin (strained lat) and Davies (back spasms) are on the injured list. Peralta has been moved to the bullpen, and Burnes has been demoted to Triple-A.

    The team has used 11 different starting pitchers on the year, and they rank 17th in the majors in ERA (4.75) and are tied for 28th in quality starts (27).

    The Brewers reached the National League Championship Series on the strength of a dominant relief corps last season, and they rolled the dice on that approach working again when they failed to add a front-line starting pitcher during the offseason.

    This time around, a less effective bullpen has been unable to shoulder the load, and the team looks like it is destined to be a spectator in October.

    With a minus-27 run differential and a 54-60 Pythagorean win-loss record, it's a small miracle they are even in the playoff picture.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Bryce Harper
    Bryce HarperGene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 25 percent

    The Philadelphia Phillies went all-in during the offseason, signing Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson while also swinging significant trades to acquire J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura.

    Expectations soared, and they lived up to the hype in the early going, posting a 37-27 record to build a two-game lead in the NL East standings.

    However, they are just 22-26 since, and they are facing a six-game deficit in the division. They are still tied for the No. 1 wild-card spot, but they are clearly trending in the wrong direction.

    A closer look at their season reveals that they are one of just two teams with a winning record and a negative run differential (minus-17).

    The starting rotation has been in a state of flux all season. And while veteran lefties Drew Smyly (3 GS, 3.00 ERA) and Jason Vargas (1 GS, 2.84 ERA) have pitched well after replacing Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin in the rotation, their recent track records raise some questions about the sustainability of their performance.

    Meanwhile, the bullpen ranks 22nd in the majors with a 4.69 ERA, and the Phillies settled on scrapheap additions Mike Morin and Blake Parker in an effort to bolster the relief corps.

    With the Atlanta Braves looking like the team to beat in the division and the New York Mets trending upward, a fourth-place finish in the NL East looks just as likely as a playoff berth.

Washington Nationals

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    Daniel Hudson
    Daniel HudsonThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    FanGraphs Playoff Odds: 75 percent

    The Washington Nationals didn't make a splashy addition to their beleaguered bullpen at the trade deadline, but they did pick up the trio of Daniel Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland to add further depth to the relief corps.

    Assuming that group holds up, the biggest hole on the roster has at least been addressed, even if the bullpen is still not a strength.

    However, is this team really that much better than the rest of the wild-card pack?

    Entering play Tuesday, the Nationals were tied with the Phillies for the No. 1 wild-card spot, while the St. Louis Cardinals, Brewers, Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants were all within 3.5 games.

    Here's a look at the playoff odds for each of those teams:

    • WAS: 75.0 percent
    • STL: 39.9 percent
    • NYM: 34.2 percent
    • PHI: 25.0 percent
    • MIL: 21.9 percent
    • ARI: 7.9 percent
    • SF: 2.0 percent

    The Nationals are a good team, and they might even be a playoff team. But given how they're being viewed relative to the rest of the NL wild-card field, especially considering their 4-7 record in their last 11 games, the overrated label seems appropriate.

                                

    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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