Biggest Disappointments of the 2020 MLB Season According to Fans
In this week's MLB mailbag, we asked Bleacher Report app users to pick the biggest disappointments of the 2020 MLB season.
The results gave us a good mix of teams and players who have fallen short of expectations as we come down the homestretch of this shortened 2020 MLB season.
From former MVP winners scuffling at the plate to reigning World Series champions residing in the division cellar, it's been a trying few months for the players and teams highlighted ahead.
Thanks once again to everyone who participated in this week's crowdsourcing thread on the app. Be on the lookout every Tuesday afternoon for your chance to weigh in on the newest topic.
Now let's get to it.
A few notable 2020 disappointments that didn't make the article before we get started:
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Houston Astros
- Milwaukee Brewers
- Philadelphia Phillies
- St. Louis Cardinals
- CF Shogo Akiyama, CIN
- 2B Jose Altuve, HOU
- 3B Nolan Arenado, COL
- 1B/OF Cody Bellinger, LAD
- SP Matthew Boyd, DET
- SP Madison Bumgarner, ARI
- SP Jon Gray, COL
- 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr., TOR
- UT Scott Kingery, PHI
- DH J.D. Martinez, BOS
- SS Adalberto Mondesi, KC
- RF Nomar Mazara, CWS
- SP/DH Shohei Ohtani, LAA
- SP James Paxton, NYY
- LF Joc Pederson, LAD
- LF Tommy Pham, SD
- LF Bryan Reynolds, PIT
- SP Jeff Samardzija, SF
- SS Marcus Semien, OAK
Disappointing Player: Austin Meadows, Tampa Bay Rays
User Comment: "After finishing 14th in MVP voting with a .922 OPS, Austin Meadows and his .205/.298/.385 line have not come close to meeting the lofty expectations set for him." (@nowheresacomment)
Austin Meadows was one of the breakout stars of 2019.
He slashed .291/.364/.558 for a 144 OPS+ and led a 96-win Tampa Bay Rays team in home runs (33), RBI (89) and runs scored (83). He also swiped 12 bases and earned his first career All-Star selection in a 4.0-WAR season.
The 25-year-old missed the first 10 games of the 2020 season working his way back from a positive COVID-19 test, and he has yet to hit his stride at the plate.
He's hitting .205/.298/.385 with 13 extra-base hits, and his strikeout rate has spiked from 22.2 to 33.3 percent in 141 plate appearances.
There's no reason for long-term panic as he still has the tools to be a foundational piece in Tampa Bay, but 2020 is looking like a lost season.
Disappointing Team: Los Angeles Angels
User Comment: "The Angels. Hoped this was the year they put it all together." (@tykubs22)
User Comment: "Angels have the most individual disappointments—Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton, Jo Adell, Julio Teheran." (@nowheresacomment)
Mike Trout is once again having an MVP-caliber season. Anthony Rendon has a 157 OPS+ with eight home runs and 25 RBI. Dylan Bundy has been one of the best pickups of the offseason with a 2.48 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 67 strikeouts in 58 innings.
Beyond that, it's been more of the same for the Los Angeles Angels this year.
Shohei Ohtani flopped in his return to the mound, and that has seemingly carried over to the offensive side of his game (.189 BA, 73 OPS+). David Fletcher is the only other regular beyond Trout and Rendon having a good season at the plate.
On the pitching side, Bundy has teamed with Andrew Heaney to give the starting rotation a solid one-two punch, but it's been a crapshoot behind them, and the bullpen is far from a strength.
They are 11-6 since starting the season 9-22. Perhaps over a longer season, they might be able to use that momentum to claw their way into contention.
In this year's 60-game sprint, that poor start dug them an insurmountable hole, so it's back to the drawing board this winter.
Disappointing Team: Texas Rangers
User Comment: "I'd have to say the Rangers have disappointed, especially at the deadline. They had a ton of potential to restart the process of building a young team who could grown. But instead we keep the players who hold us down (especially Rougned Odor) and keep the players who are only losing value with age (Lance Lynn this year and Mike Minor the previous year)." (@dominatepack207)
Following the additions of Corey Kluber, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles during the offseason to shore up a shaky rotation, I was among those with high hopes for the Texas Rangers in 2020.
Instead, their 17-30 record is the second-worst in the American League, and their minus-73 run differential ranks 29th in the majors.
Holding on to Mike Minor at the trade deadline last year was the right move if they were going to make a run at contending this year, and there were no signs in his peripheral numbers that he was going to crater the way he has in 2020.
That said, retaining Lance Lynn this summer looks like a mistake.
It's become clear that this team is not a few pieces away, to the point that retooling is a viable alternative to rebuilding, and not selling high on Lynn in a thin market for starting pitching could be a decision they come to regret.
Their inability to contend early was disappointing, and their decision to tread water at the deadline was equally disappointing. That makes this a pivotal offseason for the organization.
Disappointing Player: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees
User Comment: "Gary Sanchez has followed up a 34-homer, .841 OPS season with a .127/.243/.322 line thus far. We know he's inconsistent, but this is ugly." (@nowheresacomment)
Even when he struggled mightily during the 2018 season, Gary Sanchez still backed his .186 batting average with a passable 89 OPS+ thanks to solid on-base skills and 18 home runs in 374 plate appearances.
This season has been a new level of bad.
The 27-year-old has the lowest batting average (.127) among the 253 players who have recorded at least 100 plate appearances this year, and his 39.7 percent strikeout rate is the worst of his career during a qualified season.
"Every attempt to remake Sanchez on one side of the plate or the other seems to leave him a worse overall player, one with less confidence and less promise that tomorrow will be better," Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote.
It's time to start asking if the Yankees front office should make a serious push to sign J.T. Realmuto in free agency.
Disappointing Team: New York Mets
User Comment: "Mets for sure. Some people looked at them as a team that could take the NL East. Meanwhile, I think they've only managed an above .500 record when they won on Opening Day." (@angt222)
I was never particularly high on the 2020 New York Mets.
There was certainly room to improve on last year's performance, but what did they really do during the offseason to improve their roster?
Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello were available on one-year deals for a reason, Dellin Betances was a wild card, and Jake Marisnick didn't exactly move the needle as the most notable position-player pickup.
When Marcus Stroman was lost for the year and Yoenis Cespedes opted out of the season, it seemed to take the wind out of the club's sails early on, and New York has been unable to recover.
Jacob deGrom might win his third straight National League Cy Young Award, and Michael Conforto is having a good enough season to show up on some NL MVP ballots, but the team as a whole just isn't good enough to contend as constructed.
They have so much money and prospect capital tied up in the current roster that the front office has felt compelled to stay the course, but it's time for a shakeup. New ownership could bring just that to a stagnant franchise.
Disappointing Players: Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
User Comment: "Javier Baez. He was in the MVP race for the past two years, and this year he is just struggling on offense." (@WHITESOX_NEWS)
User Comment: "Kris Bryant. He has four RBI on the year." (@JFlames)
The Chicago Cubs are in a prime position to claim the NL Central division title despite receiving next to nothing offensively from two of the most high-profile players on the roster.
- Javier Baez: 188 PA, 59 OPS+, .203/.239/.362, 6 HR, 19 RBI, 0.2 WAR
- Kris Bryant: 115 PA, 60 OPS+, .200/.270/.324, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 0.0 WAR
There are 253 players who have tallied at least 100 plate appearances during the 2020 season, and Bryant and Baez rank 236th and 237th in OPS+, respectively.
The fact that the Cubs have managed 4.6 runs per game and a .726 team OPS with those two ranking among the least productive hitters in baseball is a small miracle.
With free agency awaiting both players following the 2021 season, it will be interesting to see how this year's struggles factor into the Chicago front office's long-term plans.
Disappointing Team: Cincinnati Reds
User Comment: "I would say the biggest disappointment has been the Reds thus far. This offseason, everything was lining up for them to take over the NL Central, and in a longer year, they could have ended up doing that. But they just haven't been able to put it together." (@ChiTownBaby)
Despite a 75-87 record in 2019, the Cincinnati Reds entered the offseason with the belief that they were just a few pieces away from being a legitimate contender in the National League.
"The goal for us now, all we're talking about is the postseason," team president Dick Williams told reporters in October. "That's what matters. That's the goal next year. It's not taking incremental steps in a rebuild. It's about the postseason."
With Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray returning to anchor the starting rotation, the focus during the offseason was on improving the offense, and they appeared to do just that with the additions of Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama.
On paper, it looked like they were ready to push toward their first playoff appearance since 2013.
Instead, they sit two games under. 500. And while that still puts them within striking distance of a playoff spot in a wide-open National League, it's well short of expectations.
The bullpen has struggled to protect leads with six blown saves in 13 opportunities, and the offense has failed to provide them more than a .720 OPS (21st in MLB) and just 3.98 runs per game.
Disappointing Player: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
User Comment: "Gotta be Christian Yelich, right? Last couple of years I considered him to be a top three player." (@bobbyturley)
Christian Yelich was a popular answer, and rightfully so.
The 28-year-old hit .327/.415/.631 for a 172 OPS+ and 14.3 WAR during his first two seasons in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform. He won the NL batting title both years, took home NL MVP honors in 2018 and finished runner-up in the balloting while slugging a career-high 44 home runs a year ago.
He was arguably the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout entering 2020.
However, a brutal 1-for-27 showing to kick off the shortened season dug him a significant statistical hole, and his middling production since has been unable to erase those early struggles.
He has an .844 OPS with eight home runs in 161 plate appearances since that ugly start, but he's still hitting under .200 on the year.
He might have been able to recover from that slow start over a full 162-game season, but his 2020 campaign was destined for disappointment within the first couple of weeks.
Disappointing Team: Washington Nationals
User Comment: "Literally no one is talking about how bad the Nationals are this season. They only lost [Anthony] Rendon and [Stephen] Strasburg from last year, so you would think they would at least be in wild card contention." (@SeriousFan120)
The Washington Nationals rebounded from a 19-31 start to the 2019 season to claim a wild-card spot, and they went on to win the World Series.
Could this year's club recover from its current 17-28 record?
FanGraphs gives them a 1.3 percent chance to make the playoffs in this year's abridged 60-game season, so it doesn't look like they'll have a chance to defend their title in October.
The departure of Anthony Rendon in free agency was bound to hurt, and losing Stephen Strasburg for the season with a carpal tunnel issue after just two starts was a second big blow. But there was still enough talent on the roster to make a run at a playoff berth.
Juan Soto (.354 BA, 1.217 OPS, 11 HR, 31 RBI) and Trea Turner (.348 BA, 1.016 OPS, 9 HR, 28 RBI) are having fantastic offensive seasons, but the entire rest of the roster is producing below expectations.
That includes Max Scherzer (4-3, 4.04 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) and Patrick Corbin (2-5, 4.10 ERA, 1.44 WHIP), who have failed to pick up the slack since Strasburg went down, and the shaky rotation behind them.
Few expected them to repeat as World Series champions, but the Nationals have still fallen well short of expectations.
Disappointing Team: New York Yankees
User Comment: "Yankees easy. I had high hopes for this team." (@gleyber28)
The New York Yankees started the 2020 season as heavy favorites to win the American League pennant, and they were right alongside the Los Angeles Dodgers as favorites to hoist the World Series trophy.
So, what happened?
Injuries have once again decimated the Yankees roster. After a 16-6 start to the season, they stumbled to a 5-15 record over their next 20 games.
They are currently riding a five-game winning streak that includes a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles, but that still leaves them in third place in the AL East standings and reliant on a wild-card berth to reach the postseason.
Assuming they do make the playoffs, they will likely be handing the ball to J.A. Happ in Game 3 of a playoff series, with Jordan Montgomery or rookie Deivi Garcia filling the No. 4 starter slot if they advance out of the first round.
Meanwhile, outside of Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu and Clint Frazier, the offense has fallen well short of expectations, and Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have played a combined 32 games.
Anything short of a trip to the Fall Classic was going to be deemed a disappointment for these Yankees, and they face quite the uphill battle in the weeks to come.