Every year there are surprises in baseball such as the Rangers, Brewers, Royals and Blue Jays. Less attention has been paid to the busts, those teams that have perplexed and surely disappointed prognosticators.
Here’s a look at some teams that have struggled and what has gone wrong.
Rockies: Colorado’s miracle run to the World Series in 2007 indeed appears to be a fluke. That season the Rockies were No. 1 in fewest errors allowed and that great defense had a domino effect on the pitching staff. They are middle of the pack in fielding now and the pitching is 14th in team ERA and 15th in saves. Throw in an offense with a .327 on-base percentage, and it’s a recipe for failure.
Like Florida, the Rockies just don’t have enough quality arms to anchor the rotation. Starters Jorge De La Rosa, Ubaldo Jimenez and Aaron Cook all walk far too many batters. Putting men on base in a park like Coors Field will be disastrous, which explains a losing record for the Rockies both home and away.
Indians: After reaching the 2007 ALCS, the Indians have fallen fast. The offense has been erratic, though second in the AL in on-base percentage. Fausto Carmona has gone from 19-game winner to bust as teams have sat on his sinker with his walks way up.
The bullpen is terrible, with new closer Kerry Wood stuck with an ERA over 7. Last week against KC he blew a three-run lead in the ninth. It was also a dead under the total game until the collapse. A year ago the Tribe traded ace CC Sabathia after a disappointing start. Now ace Cliff Lee and DH/catcher Victor Martinez are rumored to be on the block. Fire sale, anyone!
Marlins: Florida was the big story the first three weeks of the season, with a sizzling start. But that was a hundred years ago, it seems. The Marlins are 14th in batting average, 15th in slugging and 12th in team ERA. Despite all the youth and low payroll, this team should be better. They are sixth in the NL in runs scored and have a pair of terrific starters in Josh Johnson and Chris Volstad, a nice 1-2 punch to build a rotation around.
The main problem is that two talented young arms they traded for, Anibel Sanchez and Andrew Miller, have been awful. That makes it tough to get a streak going and puts too much workload on the middle relief.
Twins: A surprisingly bad bullpen and poor road play have been the problems. The Twins have good young offensive players, plus a starting trio of Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Francisco Liriano along with ace closer Joe Nathan. But the pitching ranks 12th in the AL with weak middle relief and few quality starts.
Minnesota is very good at home (17-9), but started 5-14 on the road.
White Sox: The White Sox won the World Series in 2005, but have proven to be one-year wonders. Chicago is 13th in the AL in batting average, 14th in runs with little speed. They also lost 14 of their first 21 road contests. The White Sox were fired up about San Diego ace Jake Peavy and had an apparent deal made until Peavy said no.
Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Jim Fiest