We're not even a month into the 2020 MLB season, but it’s already apparent which teams do and don't have a shot to make the playoffs. That’s the way it works when the season is just 60 games, even in a year where more than half the teams in the league will get a chance to play in the postseason.
The surprising part is not that some teams have already ruined their chances but rather teams like the Miami Marlins and Baltimore Orioles are not among those teams. Two of the worst teams in baseball a year ago have both managed to survive the early part of the season despite low expectations. Meanwhile, these five teams are already finished in 2020 and can only look ahead to 2021... unless there's a work stoppage.
It’s not surprising that the Pirates are the worst team in the NL Central. However, Pittsburgh has taken futility to a new level and is undoubtedly the worst team in baseball right now. The young and promising position players on the roster have thus far failed to make the most of their opportunity. To add injury to insult, versatile infielder Phillip Evans, who was having a breakout season, is done for the year after suffering a concussion and broken jaw in an ugly collision with Gregory Polanco. Sadly, that collision more or less sums up Pittsburgh’s season in 2020.
The back end of the rotation has been a disaster while the Pirates don’t seem to have many answers in the bullpen. The Pirates can already start looking ahead to the 2021 season as this is just the beginning of the team’s rebuilding effort.
Kansas City Royals
For what it’s worth, the Royals have started to find some stability after starting the season 3-10. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. With the Tigers being miraculously mediocre thus far, it’s clear that Kansas City is the worst team in the AL Central. Even with eight teams from each league making the postseason, the Royals don’t have much of a chance.
Outside of the players who Kansas City expected to perform well — most notably Whit Merrifield, Jorge Soler and Salvador Perez — the Royals haven’t gotten much consistency from anyone in their lineup. Meanwhile, the Royals have already used eight different starting pitchers, and outside of promising youngster Brad Keller, it hasn’t been pretty. If Kansas City’s rotation fails to improve, the Royals don’t have much of a chance to play meaningful games in September.
The Mariners were another team that everyone expected to be among the worst in baseball this year. Somehow, Seattle might be even worse than everyone anticipated. The Mariners have the worst run differential in the majors. Things are slowly getting better, but the first few turns through the rotation were a disaster, especially for youngsters Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield. Meanwhile, there are too many holes in the Seattle lineup. Young outfielders Kyle Lewis and Dylan Moore have shown some promise and Kyle Seager has been solid. However, it’s not nearly enough to make up for the team’s shortcomings on the mound.
There is some hope that the Mariners will be able to consider 2020 a step forward in their rebuilding process after taking several steps back over the last couple of years. But there’s no way the Mariners find a way to stay competitive in September.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are undoubtedly the most surprising team on our list. Keep in mind that they won the World Series just two years ago. If it matters, they aren’t so far behind in the standings that they couldn’t make a run during the second half of the season. Sadly, the Red Sox just don’t have the horses to make that happen. Nathan Eovaldi and Martin Perez have been decent, but there are precisely zero answers in the rest of the starting rotation, which is merely a shadow of its former self. On offense, the Red Sox aren’t scoring enough runs to give themselves a chance when their starting pitching falters.
Even without Mookie Betts, the Red Sox should have enough firepower to be a decent team. But that hasn’t been the case in 2020. Rafael Devers is hitting under .200 while J.D. Martinez has disappointed. Right now, shortstop Xander Bogaerts is Boston’s only player who is playing like a star. Even if the lineup can get on track, Boston’s starting rotation will hold the team back.
Avoiding last place in the AL East is still a possibility, but there’s no way the Red Sox will be able to catch up with the Yankees and Rays at the top of the division.
Bullpens are critical during a shortened season and the Philadelphia bullpen is the absolute worst in the majors. After 13 games, opposing hitters are batting .364 against Philadelphia relievers, who have an ERA of 9.63. For comparison, the second-highest batting average against a team’s bullpen is the Houston bullpen at .266. That’s a startling difference, and there’s no reason to believe the Phillies can turn things around. It’s not like the Phillies have good relievers who coincidentally got off to a bad start at the same time. They have mediocre and unproven pitchers in their bullpen who must be lacking in confidence at the moment.
If it matters, the Philadelphia rotation has been even better than advertised while the offense ranks in the top five in the majors in OPS thanks to a healthy dose of power from Bryce Harper and company. But there’s only so much the Phillies can do to overcome a leaky bullpen. With little hope of fixing that problem, it’s hard to envision the Phillies stringing together enough wins to make the postseason.
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