Every MLB season brings us no shortage of pleasant surprises… and frustrating disappointments. Now about a quarter of the way through the 2016 campaign, many of those surprises and disappointments are beginning to look like season-long trends.
In particular, there are five teams in the majors whose fan bases should be very concerned that the poor starts their clubs are off to will turn into season-long slumps. So with that in mind, here are the five most disappointing teams in the majors thus far this season.
1) Houston Astros
After nearly winning the AL West last season, expectations were high in Houston coming into this year. Unfortunately for Astros fans, the team has failed miserably to live up the lofty expectations.
Along with having the worst team batting average in the American League, 2015 AL Cy Young award winner Dallas Keuchel looks lost on the mound. The 28-year-old southpaw is 2-6 with a 5.92 ERA in 10 stars this season for the Astros. In fact, no Houston starter has an ERA under four.
A large part of the Astros' difficulties at the plate have been due to outfielder Carlos Gomez and third baseman Luis Valbuena. Both players are hitting below the Mendoza line and have negative offensive WAR ratings.
Throw in the fact that the Astros have been an average team at best when it comes to defense, and it’s easy to see why the club is 17-28 and sitting dead last in the AL West. Off all the teams in Major League Baseball, the Astros have been by far the most disappointing.
2) Detroit Tigers
The Detroit Tigers, a team many baseball writers predicted to win the AL pennant before the start of the season, are just 22-22 at the moment. By no means is the sky falling in Detroit, but Tigers fans should have some legitimate concerns about their team.
To start, outside of Jordan Zimmermann, the rotation has some serious issues. Former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander is now clearly past his prime, while third and fourth starters Anibal Sanchez and Mike Pelfrey have struggled. In particular, Sanchez has just not looked like himself, evident by his 6.23 ERA and 1.59 WHIP.
As awesome as Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler are on offense, it’s impossible to win in the majors without getting quality starts. At this point in time, the Tigers' pitching staff has recorded just 18 quality starts in 44 games, and opposing hitters are batting .271 against the team as a whole.
Playing in a division that features the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals, along with the improved Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians, only makes things more dicey for manager Brad Ausmus and his Tigers. Detroit just might be overmatched this season.
3) Toronto Blue Jays
After winning the AL East crown last season and playing postseason baseball for first time in over 20 years, the Toronto Blue Jays appeared to have everything going for them. However, losing former Cy Young-winning pitcher David Price to the division-rival Boston Red Sox appears to have entrenched the Blue Jays in mediocrity once again.
With a record of 22-24 thus far, the Blue Jays find themselves in fourth place in the AL East and look to be far from the World Series contenders they were last year. The subpar pitching could have been predicted, but several of Toronto’s stars at the plate have had surprising struggles.
Former All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is batting just .205, and home run machine DH Edwin Encarnacion is hitting a mere .240 on the year. The power is still there for both of them, suggesting their struggles will eventually pass them by, but having these two key cogs in the middle of the Toronto lineup run dry has slowed the offense down. As a team, the Blue Jays are hitting just .236 this season, third worst in the American League.
Given the limited options on the mound, manager John Gibbons was likely counting on great hitting to keep this Blue Jays team in contention. Unfortunately for Gibbons and Blue Jays fans alike, the only “hit” baseball fans remember from any of their games this season so far is Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor punching Jose Bautista in the face.
4) Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s too bad the Los Angeles Dodgers can’t start Clayton Kershaw every night. The Dodgers are 9-1 in games Kershaw has started this season. In the 36 games the Boys in Blue have trotted out other starters, the club is 14-22.
Clearly, the offseason loss of Zack Greinke is having far more of an impact than Dodgers management expected. Greinke’s replacement, veteran Scott Kazmir, has an ERA of over five and just three quality starts in nine appearances. Japanese-born rookie Kenta Maeda has impressed so far, but with Hyun-Jin Ryu not expected to return to the rotation anytime soon and a below-average bullpen, the Dodgers are going to be feeling the loss of Greinke for several more months to come.
Additionally, the Dodgers haven’t had too many bright spots at the plate. Yasiel Puig still looks lost in the batter's box, as he is hitting below .250. Justin Turner and Yasmani Grandal are off to slow starts, and Howie Kendrick and Carl Crawford have revealed themselves to be two veteran players who are now clearly past their primes.
Let’s put it this way: 37-year-old Chase Utley currently leads the team in both batting average and offensive WAR. The veteran second baseman deserves credit for his play thus far, but after hitting .212 last season, it’s unlikely Utley can keep up this type of production.
The Dodgers need some of their younger bats to pick it up and pick it up soon. Otherwise, a team that many predicted would win the NL West will be toiling with mediocrity all season.
5) Arizona Diamondbacks
As the team that lured Zack Greinke away from the Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks were expected to make major improvements this season with Greinke and Shelby Miller on their pitching staff.
With a record of 21-25, that improvement is yet to happen.
Greinke has looked nothing like the Cy Young contender he was last season, posting a 4.59 ERA and 1.31 WHIP thus far in 2016. Miller, who D-Backs management shelled out outfielder Ender Inciarte and two prized prospects to acquire, has been downright awful. The 25-year-old righty is 1-5 in nine starts with a pitiful ERA of 6.64 and has almost as many walks as strikeouts recorded. We’re just a quarter of the way through the 2016 season, and the Shelby Miller trade is beginning to looks like one of the worst deals of the decade.
At the very least for D-Backs fans, the club has plenty of bright spots in the lineup. All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt looks like his typical self, while shortstop Jean Segura and third baseman Jake Lamb are off to best starts at the plate in their careers.
That being said, if Greinke, Miller and the rest of the Arizona rotation can’t get it turned around by midseason, this will likely be another lost season in the desert.
But hey, at least the Diamondbacks have some funky new uniforms.