October is here and so are the playoffs. It’s baseball’s most exciting time of year, unless you root for one of the 20 teams who aren’t invited. In that case, it’s a bittersweet reminder of what could have been. What follows is a postmortem for those teams who are no longer with us.
Milwaukee Brewers, 86-76: The Brewers hold the unfortunate distinction of having the best record in baseball among non-playoff teams. They mashed 224 home runs and stole 128 bases, both of which led the National League. They surprised many by leading the NL Central through much of the season. But they struggled after the All-Star Break, finishing only 36-35 in the second half. In spite of their prolific power and speed they failed to score enough runs, and were no better than tenth in the league in runs scored and OPS.
St. Louis Cardinals, 83-79: As late as September 22, the Cardinals were in a good position to make the playoffs. Then they dropped seven of their last nine games, getting outscored 56-30 in the process. The Cardinals’ starting lineup actually produced very well when they played. The problem is they didn’t play enough. Only three Cardinals played more than 128 games, and only Tommy Pham, Matt Carpenter, and Yadier Molina had enough PA to qualify for the batting title.
Kansas City Royals, 80-82: The Royals finished July at 55-49 and very much in the playoff race. Then the wheels fell off and they limped to a 25-33 record the rest of the way. Truthfully they were lucky to even win 80 games; opponents outscored them by 89 runs and they had a Pythagorean W-L of 72-90. Shortstop Alcides Escobar played all 162 games for the third time in four years, but with only a .272 OBP and 62 wRC+ one would wonder why he was allowed to play every day. Perhaps a bigger problem is Alex Gordon matching Escobar with a 62 wRC+ after signing a big multi-year contract.
Los Angeles Angels, 80-82: Mike Trout was once again the best player in baseball, slashing .306/.442/.629. He led the league in OBP and SLG. In spite of this, we finally discovered the one thing he doesn’t do well: slide. He hurt his thumb sliding headfirst on May 28 and didn’t return to the field until July 14. Trout’s thumb isn’t the only culprit for the Angels subpar season; nominal ace Garrett Richards was limited to only six starts for the second year in a row. More troubling is Albert Pujols, who has four years and $114 million remaining on his contract, finishing with a MLB worst -2.0 fWAR.
Tampa Bay Rays, 80-82: The Rays allowed 4.35 runs/game and 704 on the season, fifth best in the American League. Unfortunately they scored only 694 themselves, only one run more than the lowest total in the league. Eighteen Rays had more than 100 PA. Eight of them hit below .240.
Seattle Mariners, 78-84: Not a single Mariners pitcher threw enough innings to qualify for rate stats. Seventeen different pitchers started games for the team. Nine of those “starters” had an ERA north of 5.00, and 11 had a FIP over 5.00. James Paxton was excellent in his 24 starts, but their other starters who threw at least 50 IP had FIPs of 5.73, 5.53, 5.02, 6.11, 4.71, 5.65, and 5.82.
Texas Rangers, 78-84: Every single Ranger who had at least 400 PA also had at least 100 strikeouts. Rougned Odor managed to play all 162 games despite posting a .252 OBP and 61 wRC+. Run prevention was an even bigger problem. While Alex Claudio posted stellar numbers in the bullpen, the rest of the relief corp was substandard. Other than Claudio, the only Rangers relievers to throw at least 40 IP were Tony Barnette (1.500 WHIP), Matt Bush (1.452 WHIP), Jose Leclerc (1.380 WHIP), and Jeremy Jeffress (1.672 WHIP)
Miami Marlins, 77-85: If you care enough about baseball to read this article, you surely know Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 HR and may possibly win the NL MVP. Scoring runs wasn’t the problem for the Marlins, but the pitching staff had trouble putting opposing batters away. They finished last in the league in strikeouts. The team suffered through 306.2 IP from Adam Conley (6.14 ERA), Tim Koehler (7.92 ERA), Vance Worley (6.91 ERA), Brian Ellington (7.25 ERA), and Jeff Locke (8.16 ERA).
Toronto Blue Jays, 76-86: The Blue Jays finished last in the AL with only 693 runs scored. As a team they slashed .240/.312/.412. It’s not terribly surprising that Ryan Goins and Darwin Barney had an OPS lower than .700. It’s much more disconcerting that Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Bautista did as well.
Baltimore Orioles, 75-87: Most times it’s a good thing when a team has consistency and durability from the starting rotation. Other times it just means they couldn’t find anyone better. Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Wade Miley, Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman, and Jeremy Hellickson accounted for 148 starts. Their FIPs were, in order: 4.48, 4.38, 5.27, 5.54, 6.93, and 6.33. No wonder they finished second worst in the league in runs allowed.
Oakland Athletics, 75-87: The only starting pitcher for the A’s with an ERA below 4.37 was Sonny Gray, who was traded away at the deadline. Part of the reason was the -47 defensive runs saved, second to last in the AL. 22 players contributed individual DRS scores in the negatives, with Khris Davis’ -13 being the worst offender (or is it worst defender?).
Pittsburgh Pirates, 75-87: Andrew McCutchen had a resurgent season, posting a .279/.363/.486 slash line and a 122 wRC+. Sadly, that batting average was a team high, and only Josh Bell and Josh Harrison joined McCutchen in putting up a wRC+ greater than 100. As a whole, the Pirates scored only 668 runs, the third lowest total in baseball. An 80-game suspension served by Starling Marte for PEDs didn’t help matters, though he underperformed upon his return.
Atlanta Braves, 72-90: Dansby Swanson was the preseason favorite to win the Rookie of the Year. He was sent down midseason and finished with a 66 wRC+. Freddie Freeman is a perennial All-Star and candidate to win an MVP someday. He broke his wrist in May. Julio Teheran looked to build off a fantastic 2016 and become an ace at age 26. He gave up 31 HR and regressed to a 4.95 FIP. The Braves opened brand new SunTrust Park in April. They had middling attendance and sold an average of 10,000 tickets less than capacity per game. The worst may even be yet to come as GM John Coppolella was recently forced to resign amid controversy and several alleged MLB rule violations.
San Diego Padres, 71-91: The Padres became just the 23rd team since 1970 to finish with a team OBP below .300. (The last team to do it? The 2016 Padres, of course.) The bench was the primary cause of anemic offense. All 11 of the players with between 50 and 300 PA had a batting average of .228 or lower, and five of them were south of the Mendoza Line.
New York Mets, 70-92: In 1970, Angels manager Lefty Phillips said of his team, “Our phenoms aren’t phenominating!” This is just as applicable to the 2017 Mets. The team has been lauded in recent years for a star-studded young rotation that led them to the World Series in 2015 and a playoff appearance in 2016. Jacob deGrom pitched okay (3.50 FIP, 201.1 IP), but the rest of the young pitching talent crumbled. Noah Syndergaard was limited to seven starts, albeit with great success. Matt Harvey (6.37 FIP, 92.2 IP), Zach Wheeler (5.03 FIP, 86.1 IP), Steven Matz (5.05 FIP, 66.2 IP), and Robert Gsellman (4.89 FIP, 119.2 IP) all succumbed to injuries and/or ineffectiveness.
Cincinnati Reds, 68-94: The following partial list of Reds starting pitchers is rated PG13:
Homer Bailey, 18 GS, 6.43 ERA
Bronson Arroyo, 14 GS 7.35 ERA
Amir Garrett, 14 GS, 7.39 ERA
Asher Wojciechowski, 8 GS, 6.50 ERA
Rookie Davis, 6 GS, 8.63 ERA
Lisalverto Bonilla, 4 GS, 8.10 ERA
Chicago White Sox, 67-95: Perhaps the best explanation of why the White Sox were 28 games below .500 has to do with players who are no longer with the team. Since the end of the 2016 season the following players have been traded away: Peter Bourjos, Melky Cabrera, Adam Eaton, Todd Frazier, Miguel Gonzalez, Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle, Jose Quintana, Ryan Raburn, David Robertson, Chris Sale, and Anthony Swarzak.
Philadelphia Phillies, 66-96: The Phillies have been in rebuilding mode for several years now, so a last place finish was no surprise. In many ways this season could actually be considered successful. Youngsters Jorge Alfaro, Aaron Altherr, and Aaron Nola continued to develop. Rookies Rhys Hoskins, Andrew Knapp, and Nick Williams debuted with aplomb. Top prospect J.P. Crawford had a brief taste of the major leagues as well.
Detroit Tigers, 64-98: A few years ago, the Tigers signed several aging stars to long-term contracts in an attempt to win a championship. They never accomplished their goal, and now those contracts have turned sour. Miguel Cabrera ceased to be unstoppable at the plate and slashed only .249/.329/.399. Victor Martinez contributed a paltry OPS of .697. Anibal Sanchez and Jordan Zimmermann both had ERAs north of 6.00. Those four players earned a combined $80.8 million in 2017 and are owed another $281 million over the remainder of their contracts. The team waved goodbye to other expensive (yet still productive) veterans J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, and Justin Verlander at the trade deadline. It may be a long time before a championship becomes a realistic goal once again.
San Francisco Giants, 64-98: Sometimes everything just seems to go wrong. In 2016, the Giants finished 87-75 and made the playoffs. This year, in a record-setting season for home runs across the sport, no Giant finished with more than 18, and the team scored the second fewest runs in baseball. Madison Bumgarner missed half the season due to a dirt bike injury. The five starters with the most innings pitched all had ERAs higher than 4.42. Adding insult to injury, Pablo Sandoval’s walk-off home run in the last game of the season cost the team the top overall pick in the 2018 draft.Next post: Clayton’s Dad
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