Yes, it is still early, but the sample size is growing. We’re nearing the two-month mark in the season and have seen enough games to get a better read on some of the teams that were expected to contend for the postseason. ¶ The Mets weren’t one of them, but they have held first place in the NL East for most of the season and might be 2015’s biggest surprise so far. Let’s call it the Cuddyer factor. ¶ However, there are several teams that have underperformed due to slow starts — or unrealistic expectations. Here’s five teams that expected to do more than they have this season.
1. Washington Nationals: Yes, the Nationals have been better of late and entered Saturday within a half-game of the Mets. But when you sign Max Scherzer to join an already imposing rotation, you are supposed to crush. And the Nationals haven’t. Bryce Harper is walloping home runs … and getting tossed from games. Stephen Strasburg has shoulder problems, so fans are holding their breath. At least Denard Span is back after starting the season on the disabled list. Can manager Matt Williams survive if this team doesn’t win?
2. Boston Red Sox: The starting rotation just isn’t what folks thought it would be. Wade Miley? A mess. Clay Buchholz? A mess. Justin Masterson? On the disabled list. Rick Porcello is the only pitcher on the staff with more than two victories. Meanwhile, the Boston offense is supposed to be vibrant this season, with new additions Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. But David Ortiz isn’t hitting, and the Red Sox are in the middle of the pack in runs. This is a team that could use a Cole Hamels.
3. Baltimore Orioles: The AL East has been a beast so far, as the Orioles entered Saturday only three games below .500 but tied for last place. Pitchers Chris Tillman and Bud Norris haven’t been effective and Manny Machado is committing errors at third in bunches. Matt Wieters still is recovering from elbow surgery. This team was in the playoffs last season and needs to turn things around. This weekend, the Orioles started a stretch of games outside the division. Maybe that will get them going.
4. Chicago White Sox: The White Sox made headlines during the offseason when, in a matter of days, they signed David Robertson as their closer and outfielder Melky Cabrera to boost the offense while trading for Jeff Samardzija to anchor the rotation. While impressive moves, the White Sox remain a flawed team. They are not sound defensively, the back end of the rotation has been a failure and the bullpen has been leaky. We should all slap ourselves for thinking the White Sox were going to be in the AL Central race.
5. Miami Marlins: The Marlins were expected to compete this season but got off to such a slow start that there were rumors that manager Mike Redmond could be fired. They bounced back some, but while the Marlins made some nice moves during the offseason (trading for Dee Gordon), it might have been premature to think they could be in the division race. Marlins fans should lower expectations, wait for Jose Fernandez to return from injury and root for more 475-foot home runs from Giancarlo Stanton.
Cleveland has been a disappointment, but the starting rotation is coming around. In the Indians’ recently completed six-game homestand, the starters had 54 strikeouts and four walks.
During the last two games of their series against the Cardinals, Cleveland held the NL Central leaders scoreless for 17 consecutive innings.
• • •
It’s scary to think, but the Royals bullpen might be better than last year.
Kansas City entered Saturday with the majors’ lowest bullpen ERA at 1.61 and opponents’ batting average at .175. If the Royals have a lead after six innings, it’s almost always game over.
• • •
Playing with pain must be contagious in Detroit. Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera have done it, and now J.D. Martinez went 2-for-4 Thursday against the Twins despite a bad back that forced him out of Wednesday’s game.
• • •
The Micah Johnson experiment is over in Chicago, as the White Sox have demoted the rookie second baseman to Class AAA Charlotte and replaced him with Carlos Sanchez.
Defense and baserunning errors did him in, but the team has more problems than Johnson.
Three observations …
• It is hard to watch Oakland play considering that the Athletics had Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija and Josh Donaldson last season.
• What’s more entertaining these days, watching Bartolo Colon baffle hitters at age 41 or watching him swing a bat?
• The Twins should not give up on Alex Meyer. Some players are late bloomers, and he has to watch his mechanics and not melt down during innings.
… and two predictions
• The Rockies will not trade Troy Tulowitzki and will try to fill their pitching needs another way.
• Seattle will finish the season below .500. The Mariners still need offense and that bullpen needs help.