MLB

Mets, Angels vying for title of 2020’s Most Disappointing Baseball Team

Sixteen of baseball’s 30 teams will make the postseason this year. That’s good for the 16, but a special type of disappointing for the 14 clubs that fall short of the cutoff, especially the clubs that hoped/expected to contend for October berths. 

Once upon a time (1993), when only two teams in each league earned postseason tickets, the Giants finished with 103 wins and a .636 winning percentage but missed the playoffs because the Braves won 104 games and the NL West title. There was frustration, but no shame in missing October that year. 

But in 2020, when it’s reasonable to expect every team that finishes .500 or above will get into the dance — at the moment, two teams with sub-.500 records (Astros, Giants) would be in — to fall short of October is pretty much a complete failure. So which team is the most disappointing? 

It depends on which fan base you ask (and, no, the Red Sox are not here; they basically let everyone know they had no interest in contending this year when they traded away Mookie Betts in the offseason). Here are the contenders:

5. Rockies (21-25)

Why it has to be the Rockies: Look, maybe your hopes weren’t high for the Rockies in 2020. But in a 60-game season, where small-sample sizes are more impactful than ever, Colorado’s quick start was reason enough to believe the Rockies could maintain at least enough momentum to finish in the top half of the NL. 

The Rockies roared out to an 11-3 start on the season, with nine of those games against teams that would be in the postseason if the season ended today (A’s, Padres and Giants). With their 5-0 win against the Mariners on Aug. 8, the Rockies owned the best winning percentage (.786) in all of baseball. Even though that pace was obviously unsustainable, it was reasonable to think the franchise could be heading back to the postseason for the third time in four years, after missing in 2019. 

But since Aug. 8? Yikes. The Rockies are just 10-22, which is — you guessed it — the worst winning percentage (.313) in baseball in that stretch. And they’ve struggled despite outstanding years from Trevor Story (10 homers, 14 stolen bases) and Charlie Blackmon (.333 average), and big bounce-back years from starters Kyle Freeland (3.54 ERA after 6.79 last year) and Antonio Senzatela (3.69 after 6.71 last year). 

They’re 21-25 on the season, which actually still places them in the hunt for a wild-card spot (they cannot catch the Dodgers or Padres in the NL West). But what evidence is there over the past five weeks or so that indicates a turnaround is coming? 

4. Nationals (17-28)

Why it has to be the Nationals: This club won the 2019 World Series title, re-signed Stephen Strasburg, Daniel Hudson, Ryan Zimmerman, Howie Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera and Yan Gomes in the offseason, has a budding super-duper star in Juan Soto, an entering-his-prime shortstop in Trea Turner and a still-dominant ace in Max Scherzer. How could the Nationals, at the very least, not easily lock up a playoff spot, right? 

Instead, the only thing they’re contending for is worst record in baseball (they’re 3.5 games above the Pirates in that “race”). They’ve had injuries, sure — Strasburg made just two starts this year, and Kendrick, Sean Doolittle, Starlin Castro have all spent time on the IL — but there’s no way to frame the 2020 season without the word “disappointment.”

3. Reds (23-26)

Why it has to be the Reds: Cincinnati was the trendy preseason pick to win the NL Central, and for good reason. The rotation had the potential to be stacked. Luis Castillo developed into an ace in 2019, Sonny Gray rediscovered his dominance last year and Trevor Bauer has a solid track record. And Anthony DeSclafani (3.89 ERA in 2019) and Wade Miley (3.98 ERA in 2019 for the Astros) seemed set as solid Nos. 4 and 5 guys. Offensively, they added Nicholas Castellanos, Mike Moustakas and Shogo Akiyama to a lineup that included Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez, Freddy Galvis, Nick Senzel and Jesse Winker.

But few things have gone as planned. As a team, their OPS is .719 (21st in the bigs), their average is .212 (last in the bigs) and their runs per game number is better than only the Pirates in the NL. Their bullpen ERA is 4.96, the bullpen FIP 4.87. DeSclafani and Miley have combined for a 6.99 ERA in 10 starts (Miley’s on the IL with muscle soreness). 

The club fell to a season-low six games under .500 at 11-17 and hasn’t been able to find much footing since, basically alternating wins and losses in September. This, despite very good performances from the top three starters — Castillo has a 3.44 ERA/2.88 FIP with 11.4 K/9, Bauer has a 1.71 ERA and Gray had a 1.94 ERA in his first seven starts, before allowing 11 runs in four innings combined in back-to-back starts before landing on the IL.  

If they can somehow rally in the final few weeks and earn a playoff spot (sweeping double-headers, like they did Monday against the Pirates was a good start), they could be a dangerous first-round opponent — imagine having to face Castillo, Bauer and Gray with the season on the line — but they’re not playing with the consistency of a team destined to get to October. 

2. Mets (21-26)

Why it has to be the Mets: Even by Mets standards, this season has been bizarre. They’re five games under .500, despite having …

— Jacob deGrom: 1.67 ERA, 1.97 FIP, 79 Ks in 54 IP
— Michael Conforto: .343 average, 171 OPS+, 31 RBI
— Dominic Smith: .333 average, 178 OPS+, 38 RBI
— Jeff McNeill: .319 average, 142 OPS+, 12 doubles
— Robinson Cano: .320 average, 144 OPS+, 7 homers
— Pete Alonso: 11 homers
— Edwin Diaz: 1.89 ERA, 3 saves, 39 Ks in 19 IP
— Seth Lugo: 2.63 ERA, 3 saves, 36 Ks in 27 1/3 IP

How does a team have a guy who could win his third straight NL Cy Young award, two guys who could garner top-five NL MVP votes and several other players putting up solid-to-great individual stats struggle to even get close to .500? 

Your 2020 Mets, folks. 

1. Angels (20-28)

Why it has to be the Angels: Look, everyone wants to see Mike Trout get another shot at the postseason. He’s been baseball’s best player for a long time, and he’s been excellent again in 2020: He’s tied for the MLB lead with 16 homers, leads the AL with 39 runs scored and is second in the AL in both OPS+ (181) and RBIs (39) despite missing a handful of games for the birth of his baby boy.

And this was going to be the year it all came together, with the vastly expanded playoff scenario — eight AL teams qualify, up from five last year — and a great offseason (on paper) for the franchise. The Angels signed perennial MVP candidate Anthony Rendon as a free agent, brought in World Series-winning manager Joe Maddon as the skipper and got Shohei Ohtani back on the mound after Tommy John surgery.  

But after a 1-1 start to the season, the Angels lost 10 of their next 14 games and haven’t even sniffed the .500 mark since, let alone a playoff spot. Even with their recent run of good play — they’re 8-3 in their past 11 games — they’re still eight games under .500. That leaves them 3.5 games behind the Astros in the race for the AL West’s second auto-bid and 6.5 games back of the second AL wild-card spot. 

At this point, we might never see Peak Trout in October, and that should make everyone sad. 

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