“You can’t win your division in April, but you can lose it.” -Unknown
There have been winners so far, but there have been more notable losers. There are different causes for these slumps such as injuries, pitching issues, and more. This list doesn’t include teams everyone knew would stink this year, but rather the flunking teams with high expectations. There are four squads that really stand out in their failures so far.
New York Yankees: Let’s start with the Yankees. You really can’t blame their shortcomings on anyone. They’ve been ravaged by injuries in March and April. In March, OF Aaron Hicks, pitcher Luis Severino, SS Didi Gregorious, and relief pitcher Dellin Betances were all placed on the 10-Day IL. Since then, 3B Miguel Andujar, OF Giancarlo Stanton, C Gary Sanchez, 1B Greg Bird, and SS Troy Tulowitzki have all suffered injury. Additionally, Gregorious was moved to the 60-Day IL this month in his recovery from right elbow surgery. Their starting lineup features Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit with not much other pop. The Yanks have gotten off to a subpar 9-10 start. The good news is their James Paxton was great against the Red Sox last week and CC Sabathia is back. Furthermore, most of the injured players mentioned will be back within the next month. So, the Bronx Bombers will return to full strength eventually, but it has been a rough start to this season for NY.
Chicago Cubs: The 2016 World Champions haven’t since returned to their former glory. They started their season off by losing a series to the Rangers. Then, the Braves swept them easily. After, they lost a series against Milwaukee 2-1. What happened to this team since their World Series victory? Javier Baez, Wilson Contreras, and Jason Heyward have looked pretty sharp so far. However, Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, who were two key figures in the championship run, are batting .169 and .235 respectively. Those two stars need to prove their worth down the stretch, as well as Yu Darvish, who looks nothing like his former, prolific self. The bright side? The Cubs pitching has been good. Jon Lester and Cole Hamels have been solid and Kyle Hendricks was nasty (7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 11 K) in his last outing against the Diamondbacks.
Colorado Rockies: This team starts and ends with 3B Nolan Arenado. He’s their stud. However, he hasn’t been his usual self at the plate so far. He’s batting .247 with 3 homers in 20 games, on pace for about 25 homers. That’s not a lot for his standards. There aren’t many players to pick up the slack after Nolan. Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story are there, but neither have hit very well either. Arenado has already produced some incredible plays from the hot corner, but he has to become the plate presence we know he can be. The Rockies got off to the worst start of any team at 3-12, but now, they’re on a 5 game win streak. It seems like they’re finally on the right track.
Boston Red Sox: The defending champs go last. Everyone saw a regression coming for Beantown, but not like this. A few nights ago, I was listening to the radio in the car. Every Boston sports channel was talking about the Celtics or ripping apart the Sox. They’ve started 7-13, second worst in the American League. Pitching has been the main problem, from the starters to the relievers. Here’s a little graphic of the Boston starting pitchers’ stats:
As you can see, they aren’t doing so hot. On top of that, Eovaldi is now on the 10-Day IL. Added onto their troubles on the mound, the reigning MVP, Mookie Betts, hasn’t been his usual self. Here’s a graphic comparing Mookie’s stats from last year with a projection of his numbers over 140 games (he played 136 last season) this year based on his performance so far:
So, if he continues at this pace, he’ll be worse in every stat than his MVP season. They need his production badly to win. He’s the spark and his teammates feed off that electricity. This season could end up being a massive failure, but there’s always hope. If they bounce back, then it could be viewed as one of their most successful years. So, the question is, how will Cora and his guys handle their early failure?
All of these teams have the potential to make this season positive, but their early downfalls have certainly aroused alarm. I’d bet we’ll see at least 2 bounce back and make the postseason. Then again, there are real reasons these squads are slumping. Anyhow, for the next week I’ll be focusing on the NFL Draft, one of my favorite events in sports. Stay tuned for my final mock in the coming days.