Hey, it’s June!
At some point, we have to — I’d actually phrase it “get to” because I find it to be a chore — stop saying “it’s early, but” in the Major League Baseball season. A good point to do so — while also acknowledging just how much season is left — is when the calendar turns to June. While there’s still obviously more than half the season remaining, a sample of roughly 60 games isn’t near small enough to just scoff at what we’ve seen to this point. More than a third of the games this season are banked and those results can’t be changed. It’s a significant chunk.
Runs will happen. Collapses will happen. Teams will suffer major injuries, teams will get important players back from injury. Trades will happen. Yada, yada, yada. We know all this. Drawing a definitive conclusion now would still be folly, but we’ve got a lot of baseball to go on.
With this in mind, I have picked out the six expected contenders who I would consider the most disappointing in baseball from the perspective of preseason expectations versus their status heading into June. We’ll take a look at what kind of shape each team is to turn things around, or if they’ve already started to, and how the prospects look moving forward.
Since we’ve experience the ride, we know where the Red Sox sit right now isn’t really that problematic. Go back to mid-March and tell the fans of the defending champs they’d be 9 1/2 games back of the Yankees after a loss in the Bronx on June 1. I can’t imagine the reaction would have been anything we’d love to witness.
Big picture, though, the Red Sox went 16-11 in June after a brutal start and they still sit in the playoff mix in the AL. With so many games remaining and so much talent on this team, it’s hard to be overly concerned.
Then again, they have lost four of five, so maybe let’s freak out again.
Seriously, though, it would be shocking if they weren’t contending come September.
The three-time defending AL Central champions won the AL pennant in 2016 and 102 games in 2017. They entered the season in a division with what looked like three bottom-feeding teams and a marginal-at-best one. Ownership cried poor and the team got actively worse in the offseason. Meanwhile, the Twins got better and are playing like world-beaters at the moment. Team that with key injuries and whatever happened to Jose Ramirez and the Indians are already 11 1/2 games back. They are tied with the White Sox.
Press the proverbial panic button. Again, I wouldn’t say anything definitive, but it’s hard to like the Indians’ chances at a fourth-straight Central title, much less any sort of deep playoff run. They might even end up sellers in July.
The lowest level of confidence here without giving up.
Some might think including them is a stretch, but the Mets hired a new GM — and refused to hire candidates who wanted to rebuild — then had a noisy offseason. Or at least half of one. They didn’t go all the way and have been left with mediocrity. They are 29-31, Robinson Cano might have finally hit his age limit and Edwin Diaz isn’t near what he was last year for the Mariners. I’m not sure I like the upward mobility here. In fact, they feel more likely a fourth-place team.
Despite losing Bryce Harper, the Nationals made some splashes in the offseason and who wouldn’t love a rotation with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin at the top? A good number of people predicted the Nats to take the division. Instead, they were a lot closer to the Marlins than first place just last weekend.
Now, the Nats have won seven of their last nine and could be turning a corner. They have a host of winnable, non-gimme games before hosting the Phillies for four (June 17-20) and Braves for three (June 21-23) in what could be a huge week this month. If they do make a big dent there, their next four series come against the Marlins, Tigers, Marlins and Royals.
Don’t sleep on these guys.
The Cardinals started 20-10 and then were abysmal for weeks. Given preseason expectations, I can’t imagine Cardinals Nation would have been pleased back in March if you said, “you’re going to have to win a game on May 31 to enter June at exactly .500.” Yet that’s what happened as they closed down a 9-18 month.
This weekend, however, the Cardinals swept the Cubs and did so with a youthful exuberance throughout. It seemed like it was the Cubs whole stole their mojo with a sweep in Wrigley nearly a month ago, so maybe this got it back. The schedule here in the next several weeks is a lot softer than it was in May and the Cardinals were, frankly, a lot better than they were playing.
I’m going with a contender here. They just weathered a terrible month. It happens.
Two years in a row, the Rockies were in the wild card. This year they started 3-12. Come May 28, they still hadn’t gotten to .500 since that awful start, even with a few different hot streaks of varying degrees.
I’d say even entering June with a 29-27 record might’ve been a bit disappointing to Rockies fans if we told them back in March. Lukewarm, perhaps, but certainly not excitement.
At present, though, the Rockies have won nine games in a row. They sit just a half-game out of playoff position.
I expect they’ll be pretty up and down all season but will certainly stay in or at least close to contention. The 3-12 start is but a distant memory (also, since that start, the Dodgers are the only NL team with a better record).
|Truth be told, I fully expected the Astros to lose the top spot this week. They were facing the Cubs and formerly red-hot A’s this week without Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa. They went 5-1 and are winning precisely 2/3 of their games. Juggernaut.||—||40-20|
|Now that Corey Seager is hitting again, this is an absolutely relentless offense. Even role player David Freese (.294/.423/.576) is scary. Juggernaut.||—||41-19|
|The Yankees have gone 20-6 since May 4.||1||38-20|
|Here’s how good the Big Four are right now. The Twins went 4-2 this week, including taking three of four from the No. 5 team, and I had to drop them a spot.||1||40-18|
|The Rays had won eight of their last nine, but then the Twins took three in a row to end the four-game series.||1||35-22|
|The day Keston Hiura was summoned to the bigs, a scout told me the ball just explodes off Hiura’s bat. Boy, he wasn’t lying. “Explode” might not even do it justice.||3||34-26|
|In sticking with the theme from the intro … I know there have been some disappointments, but to be where they are through June 2 is a big success for the Phillies so far. They can’t collapse again like last year, but the personnel is better this time.||—||33-26|
|The Cubs have lost eight of 10 and it would behoove them to figure things out here quickly. After a makeup game against the Angels Monday, they face a daunting stretch of vs. Rockies (3), vs. Cardinals (3), at Rockies (3) and at Rockies (4).||3||31-26|
|I’m sure a lot of people back in March had Chris Sale going 1-7 through May (yes, yes, I know W-L isn’t a good way to judge overall performance, but it’s pretty remarkable).||1||30-29|
|Mike Soroka had his worst start of the year this past week and it came against the lowly Tigers. Baseball is fun! (Also, it raised his ERA all the way to 1.41).||—||32-27|
|Joey Gallo being hurt is a triple-whammy: Rangers miss him; he could miss his first All-Star Game; we could miss seeing him in the Home Run Derby. This is unacceptable, Baseball Gods.||2||30-27|
|How about this one? Adam Wainwright on Sunday worked eight scoreless innings on 126 pitches. He only gave up two hits. He struck out eight and walked seven. That’s a line you don’t see these days.||3||30-28|
|One question they need to answer after this streak: Can it continue on the road? The Rockies are 18-12 at home and 13-15 on the road. They get six (3 at Cubs; 3 at Mets) to prove themselves this week.||6||31-27|
|Before last season, Ketel Marte had eight career homers in 968 plate appearances. Last season, he had 14 homers in 580 plate appearances. This season? 14 homers in 257.||—||30-30|
|Hunter Renfroe has 17 homers; Franmil Reyes 16. The only other teams with two players having more than 15 homers are the Brewers (Yelich, Moustakas), Dodgers (Bellinger, Pederson) and Astros (Bregman, Springer). That’s some company.||4||30-29|
|The Angels have won seven of their last nine games, but now have to fly from Seattle for one game in Chicago (makeup in Wrigley) before flying home to face the A’s on Tuesday. That’s a rough turnaround followed by a rough turnaround.||5||29-30|
|A’s win 10 in a row: “Here they come!” And now they’ve lost five in a row. What gives?||5||29-30|
|Well lookie what we have here! A 6-1 week included taking three of four from the formerly-vaunted Tribe.||4||29-30|
|Didn’t anyone listen to Mike Ehrmantraut? A half-measure doesn’t work. That offseason might not have even been a half-measure. A quarter-measure? Get outta here. You reap what you sow.||3||29-30|
|They were actually really close to a great trip out West, but gut punch losses on Wednesday (especially that one) and Saturday meant 2-5 instead of 4-3.||3||28-31|
|The most underrated player in baseball is now hitting .331/.436/.650. He’s 29 and has never even been an All-Star.||2||26-33|
|Derek Dietrich, Official Power Rankings Approved.||4||27-32|
|Of the 15 NL teams, the Pirates rank 12th runs scored and have allowed the most to score against them. Somehow, they are only two games below .500.||3||28-30|
|And the Blue Light Special is underway!||3||25-37|
|Can we grab an arbitrary endpoint here? Of course, these are my rankings and I do it all the time! Since May 14, the Marlins are 11-5. Only the Dodgers have a better record since then among NL teams.||3||21-36|
|Jeff Samardzija is making $19.8 million a season and only signed through next year. Sure, the Giants will have to eat some money, but he might be pitching his way onto the trading block. He’ll have to string together several more starts and they’ll have to come against better teams than the Orioles, but there’s a shot.||2||24-34|
|A 3-3 week and now another high draft pick coming. Not half bad (man, what a low bar to clear, eh?).||2||22-34|
|So long as he keeps throwing like this, Ken Giles is gonna net them a nice return this July. He’s under team control through 2020 and right now has a 1.19 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 37 strikeouts against four unintentional walks in 22 2/3 innings.||3||21-38|
|My preseason prediction of Adalberto Mondesi leading the league in steals is looking good.||3||19-40|
|The draft is Monday and the Orioles have the No. 1 overall pick. Get excited!||—||18-41|