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The Biggest Disappointments of the MLB Season

2018 MLB -Joey Votto

The MLB season is winding down as we approach the midpoint of September.

Every season there have been teams and players alike that come out of nowhere to surprise us, however, there are also clubs and individuals who disappoint us. There are also certain aspects of teams that can surprise and disappoint. This season has been no different.

Let’s go ahead and identify the 10 biggest disappointments from the 2018 MLB season.

Washington Nationals

There is no single team in baseball who has disappointed more than the Washington Nationals.

Coming off their third NL East division title in four years, Washington was the heavy favorite to take home the division again in 2018, but could never sustain any momentum for longer than a month, which is a problem in a six-month regular season.

On May 1st, Washington was two games under .500, but it was still early. A big month of May had them nine games over .500 at 33-24 and just one game back of the upstart Braves in the division come June 1st. That’s when everything fell apart.

They were just two games over .500 by the start of July and have essentially been a .500 team ever since.

Bryce Harper has mashed for a .265 ISO and 1.023 OPS in the season’s second half, but Harper hit just .214 in the first half of the season with a .833 OPS. That OPS number isn’t terrible, but it’s not superstar status and the Nationals flopped without the help of their best position player in the first half.

It has to be disappointing to Nationals fans that the team enjoyed prime years from Max Scherzer, Harper, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Murphy, Ryan Zimmerman, and Gio Gonzalez, and yet never made an appearance in the NLCS.

Now, the team has sold pieces at pennies on the dollar while Harper is very likely to be wearing another uniform in 2019. The veteran-laden Nationals still have some pieces, but a disastrous season filled with poor on-field performance and reported clubhouse riffs certainly gives the club a cloudy outlook for the future.

Perhaps the torch has been passed to the Braves and Phillies in the east.

Baltimore Orioles

While the Orioles weren’t as favored as Washington to return to the postseason given the difficulty of the American League East, this team is a big disappointment not because they are losing more than 100 games, but because they actually planned on contending this season.

Look no further than Alex Cobb as evidence. The Orioles handed Cobb a four-year, $57M contract in free agency this past offseason, something indicative as a club going for it and bolstering their rotation depth. The results on Cobb were disastrous for most of the season, but poor all-round performance is to blame.

The rotation that included promising talent in Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman (since traded) and the once-reliable Cobb has combined to produce a 5.54 ERA, the worst mark in the big leagues.

An offense that could once power up with the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox and even the Blue Jays has produced a .153 ISO (21st) and a .689 OPS (26th) for the season. If things couldn’t get any worse in Baltimore, they have played the second-worst defense in the big leagues this season, in terms of defensive runs saved, at -107.

Of course, underperformance has been across the board. The Orioles managed to sell some assets at the trade deadline to improve their future, but for now, no one expected things to be this gloomy in Baltimore.

Chris Davis (BAL)

Yes, underperformance has been rabid in Baltimore this season, and that conversation starts with Chris Davis.

Davis has been a complete and utter liability at the plate this season, especially in the first half.

Prior to the All-Star break, Davis hit .158 with a .506 OPS. Among qualified hitters, that .158 average was by far the worst mark in baseball by 28 points with Lewis Brinson’s .186 mark the next worst figure. That .506 OPS was also the worst mark in the bigs by a long shot with the Royals’ Alcides Escobar’s .522 figure the next worst mark.

The worst part is this is coming from a guy who hit nine homers in the first half, meaning his .232 OBP was tied for the worst mark in baseball alongside Brinson.

Also, his 35.8% strikeout rate for the season is tied for the worst mark in baseball alongside Texas’ Joey Gallo.

You know who has been the worst player in baseball this season according to WAR? You guessed it. Davis’ -2.8 WAR is the worst figure among position players in baseball by a country mile with the Tigers’ Victor Martinez’s -1.7 mark the second worst figure.

This is a guy who hit .286 with 53 homers and logged a 1.004 OPS in 2013. In 2015, he hit .262 with 47 homers and logged a .923 OPS.

This season, he’s hitting .174 with 16 homers and a .553 OPS.

A huge fall from grace for the worst player in baseball this season.

Joey Votto (CIN)

Now, Votto is not nearly in the same category as Davis when it comes to the scale of disappointment, but given his resume, this year has been nothing short of disappointing.

To clarify, Votto has a 3.2 WAR which ranks in a tie for 39th league-wide among position players.

However, that WAR has been calculated taking his on-base skills and excellent defensive play into consideration. However, in terms of at-the-plate impact, Votto has been a shell of his former self.

In 2017, Votto clobbered 36 homers, scored 106 runs and knocked in an even 100. This year (in 140 fewer plate appearances), Votto has hit 11 homers, scored 65 runs and knocked in 66.

His advanced metrics paint an uglier picture than his traditional stats.

  • Votto has a career .220 ISO, and a .139 mark this season.
  • He has a career .531 SLG, and a .421 mark this year.
  • His career OBP is .959, and this season he is at .841.
  • His OBP remains super-elite at .420, but the Reds are paying an awful lot of money for a player who walks a lot.

Now, Votto has hit two homers over his last four games. However, prior to that, he hadn’t went deep since July 9th, albeit with a 15-day absence mixed in from Aug 15-30. Prior to September 8th, Votto hit one home run in his previous 52 games. Yikes.

All-round, he’s a still a fine player. But his power outage has some out of nowhere and the Reds need his power on top of his on-base skills. He’s been a big disappointment in my books.

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels made a tidal-wave sized splash in the offseason when they won the sweepstakes for two-way Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani.

They also traded for both Justin Upton and Ian Kinsler from the Tigers, signaling an all-in season as they prepped to take a full-out run at the Astros for an AL West title.

Since then, nothing has gone right.

Kinsler’s production cratered and Ohtani has been diagnosed with the dreaded UCL injury and Tommy John surgery has been recommended. He’s mashed at the plate, but his two-way future is certainly in doubt. Unfortunately, UCL damage has been a common theme for the Angels this season.

Out of their control, they have also lost Garrett Richards to season-ending Tommy John surgery and lost fellow starter JC Ramirez to Tommy John before the season even began. Finally, the Tommy John bug wasn’t done yet as it bit closer Keynan Middleton early in the season as well.

The Disabled List has also eaten up Matt Shoemaker’s season while Zack Cozart, Albert Pujols, Tyler Skaggs and Nick Tropeano all currently reside on the list as well.

In other words, a great deal of misfortune has been a big reason why the Angels hover around the .500 mark in fourth spot in the division rather than making the postseason push they envisioned with their bold offseason moves.

Still, most of us saw the Angels near the top of the division, but it’s simply been a disappointing season in Orange County.

Blue Jays Starting Pitching

Entering the season, the Blue Jays had a starting five-man rotation of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Jaime Garcia. Things looked promising as Stroman and Sanchez were two of the better young pitchers in the American League while Estrada and Happ were veterans who were pitching like it was their prime.

Not so fast.

This season, Blue Jays starters have combined to produce a 5.21 ERA, good for 28th league-wide. Their 1.34 HR/9 rate ranks 25th and the 750 innings they’ve received from their starters ranks 23rd. It’s just been a disastrous season all around.

Here are the numbers from that starting five this season while with the Blue Jays.

  • Marcus Stroman: 5.54 ERA, 6.17 K/9, 4 Wins
  • Aaron Sanchez: 4.90 ERA, 7.57 K/9, 4 Wins
  • Marco Estrada: 5.32 ERA, 6.56 K/9, 7 Wins
  • J.A. Happ: 4.18 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 10 Wins (2.70 ERA with the Yankees)
  • Jaime Garcia: 5.93 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 3 Wins (since dealt to the Cubs)

As you can see, it’s no wonder why Toronto is 65-80 on the season, especially with an offense that is nowhere near as productive as the offenses that led the Blue Jays into the postseason in 2015 and 2016.

Stroman and Sanchez are a nice pair of arms to build around, and both were unfortunate with injuries this season. That said, there is plenty of work to do in this area for a Blue Jays team that was intent on competing this year.

At the end of the day, their starting rotation has been the most disappointing group in the league.

Buster Posey (SF)

If Posey hadn’t been one of the best catchers in the league since entering the league perhaps his 2018 season would be understandable, but there’s no doubt he disappointed in his ninth big league campaign.

All you have to do is pick a category and you will find regression this season.

Prior to undergoing season-ending hip surgery with the Giants fading quickly in the NL postseason picture, Posey’s offensive production across the board was way down.

He hit just five homers, produced a .098 ISO and a measly .382 SLG. His strikeout and walk rates were very close to his career averages, but like with Votto, Posey was zapped of mostly all of his power this season.

His still-solid .284 batting average is under his career .306 mark, his .741 OPS is well under his .840 career mark and his .326 wOBA is well under his .361 career figure.

Add it all up, and Posey was worth just 1.9 WAR before hitting the DL, miles under the 4.2 mark he posted just last year. Of course, that was over a full season, but it is clear his all-round game fell this season.

Even scarier is the future outlook. At some point soon, Posey is going to have to shift to first base to preserve his health. The problem is it’s tough to use a first baseman who doesn’t hit for power. Perhaps the hip ailment was a major factor in Posey’s lack of power production this season, and for the Giants, they better hope it was.

Still, there’s no doubt this was an extremely disappointing season for the three-time world champion.

Diamondbacks Offense

The D-backs are well within striking distance of first place in an NL West division that is going to come down to the wire. Still, the fact remains that Arizona would likely be holding down first spot, by a considering margin, if their offense produced as capable.

Please Note:
The D-backs have the league’s fifth-best bullpen (3.45 ERA), they are tied for the league’s eighth-best rotation (3.74 ERA) and they’ve been baseball’s best defensive team in terms of defensive runs saved at 113. Add these items up and you should certainly have a playoff team on your hands, but somehow it’s been the offense that has held them back.

Against left-handed pitching, the D-backs are baseball’s seventh-ranked offense in terms of OPS at .745. The problem is against right-handed pitching where they rank 26th with a .698 OPS, just two points worse than the last-place Orioles.

Arizona lost Jake Lamb, one of their best hitter against righties from last year, for the season with a shoulder injury, so that doesn’t help.

However, they have received yet another MVP-type season from Paul Goldschmidt (.963 OPS) and a huge season from David Peralta (.871 OPS), but A.J. Pollock has dealt with injuries and struggled at times while Steven Souza Jr., a big offseason addition, has not fared well in his first season in the desert.

Let’s keep in mind this is a team that ranked third in baseball against righties with a .787 OPS. Losing J.D. Martinez in free agency also doesn’t help.

No one would have thought the offense would be the weak link on the Diamondbacks club, however, it certainly has been, and if they miss the postseason, it will be the sole reason why.

Rockies Bullpen

In the league’s most hitter-friendly venue, it made good sense on the part of GM Jeff Bridich to go out and spend lavishly to create a lockdown bullpen.

Let’s just say the ROI on his $100M hasn’t been all that great to this point.

The Rockies’ bullpen ranks 26th with a 4.81 ERA on the season, a number that has improved some after ranking 28th with a 5.20 mark prior to the All-Star break.

Bryan Shaw
Who posted an ERA from 2.59 to 3.52 in all six of his MLB seasons prior to 2018, owns a 6.27 ERA this year in 58 appearances, the second-worst mark in the big leagues among all qualified relievers.
Wade Davis
Was also signed on to close games for the Rockies, and he owns a 4.55 ERA after posting an ERAs of 1.00 in 2014, 0.94 in 2015, 1.87 in 2016 and 2.30 in 2017.
Jake McGee
Who was extended by the Rockies for three seasons and $27M after spend the 2016 and 2017 seasons with them, has pitched to a 6.27 ERA himself to tie Shaw for the second-worst mark in the big leagues.

So, who does own baseball’s worst reliever ERA? None other than the Rockies’ Chris Rusin who has posted a 6.57 ERA in 45 appearances.

Needless to say, it certainly felt like the Rockies had things on lockdown at the back end of the bullpen on opening day. That has certainly not been the case and could be a big-time problem if they quality for the postseason.

Indians Bullpen

While the Rockies’ bullpen has been a complete mess, the same can be said for the Indians in the American League.

For the season, Cleveland’s 4.64 bullpen ERA ranks 25th in baseball, one season after leading the majors by far with a 2.89 bullpen ERA.

Andrew Miller has endured the worst season in some time while battling injuries, they miss Shaw’s reliable performances from the last five seasons and closer Cody Allen has a 4.10 ERA after going no higher than 2.99 over the previous five campaigns.

The Indians did well to acquire a pair of high-end relievers from the San Diego Padres at the trade deadline, including southpaw closer Brad hand who had dominated over the previous three and a half seasons at the back end of the Padres’ bullpen.

Well, Adam Cimber, the other arm in the deal, has a 4.85 ERA with his new club after compiling a 3.17 mark with the Padres. Hand has been good with Cleveland in the form of a 2.38 ERA, but blew a save Monday in Tampa Bay, so he’s no sure thing.

Aside from Oliver Perez, the Indians don’t have another active bullpen arm that has pitched at least 25 innings with an ERA under Allen’s 4.10.

The Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros have some of the best ‘pens in baseball, so in order to go through in American League, Cleveland is going to need that back end of the bullpen ready to perform after their elite group of starters.

For now they’ve been a huge disappointment after a fantastic 2017 season.

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