It wouldn’t have been far-fetched at the beginning of the season to expect any of the Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, Cardinals, Phillies or Mets to end up as part of this year’s National League playoff field. Three of those clubs – Milwaukee, Chicago and Colorado – earned postseason trips a year ago and continued to boast capable rosters coming into 2019. St. Louis won 88 games in 2018 and then made a couple aggressive offseason moves in an effort to get over the hump. Philadelphia and New York were sub-.500 teams last season, though the NL East rivals were among the majors’ busiest franchises over the winter.
With the regular season having reached its brief summer recess, it’s fair to say all of the above clubs have disappointed to varying degrees so far. The Cubs (47-43) and Brewers (47-44) do hold playoff spots at the moment, while the Redbirds (44-44) are just two back of those teams in the NL Central. However, they’ve each contributed to the general mediocrity of their division.
Cubs president Theo Epstein just voiced disgust over his team’s weeks-long slump. Their closest competitors, the Brewers, have gotten another otherworldly season from reigning NL MVP outfielder Christian Yelich. A thumb injury has helped lead to sizable steps back for 2018 outfield complement Lorenzo Cain, though, while first baseman Jesus Aguilar has a mere eight home runs after slugging 35 a season ago. Meanwhile, the Brew Crew’s pitching staff – like the Cubs’ and the Cardinals’ – has underwhelmed throughout the season. The Cards’ offense has also sputtered, in part because headlining offseason pickup and longtime superstar first baseman Paul Goldschmidt hasn’t resembled the player he was as a Diamondback.
The Rockies (44-45) reached the playoffs last year thanks largely to their starting pitching – something which has seldom been true about the team in its history. This season, though, reigning NL Cy Young candidate Kyle Freeland’s output has been so dreadful that he has spent the past month-plus trying to regain form in the minors. Aside from German Marquez and Jon Gray, nobody else in the Rockies’ starting staff has stepped up to grab a stranglehold of a spot.
Shifting to the NL East, the Phillies are in wild-card position at 47-43, but a .522 winning percentage and a plus-2 run differential may not have been what they had in mind after an action-packed offseason. A record-setting contract for Bryce Harper was the Phillies’ largest strike, but they also grabbed J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura and David Robertson in other noteworthy transactions. However, at least offensively, Harper, Realmuto and Segura haven’t matched their 2018 production. McCutchen was enjoying another quality season before suffering a season-ending torn ACL a month ago, meanwhile, and Robertson got off to a terrible start in the year’s first couple weeks. The long-effective reliever has been on the injured list since mid-April with a flexor strain. Even with a healthy McCutchen and Robertson, the Phillies would still be riddled with problems in their pitching staff – including the rapidly declining Jake Arrieta, whose season may be in jeopardy because of a bone spur in his elbow.
The Mets are rife with concerns on and off the field, with recent behind-the-scenes drama involving GM Brodie Van Wagenen and manager Mickey Callaway the source of the franchise’s latest unwanted attention. Van Wagenen’s audacious offseason signings and trades were supposed to help the Mets snap a two-year playoff drought this season. Instead, the team’s an abysmal 40-50 through 90 games and on track to sell at the July 31 trade deadline. Trading for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz hasn’t worked out at all, while splashy free-agent additions Jeurys Familia, Jed Lowrie (injured all season and possibly out for the year), Wilson Ramos (a potential trade candidate just a few months into a two-year contract) and Justin Wilson have also failed to meet expectations.
In a league where only the Dodgers and Braves have truly stood out so far, all of these clubs still have at least some chance to earn playoff spots this season. They’re each no worse than seven back of postseason position at the All-Star break. Considering your preseason expectations, though, who’s the biggest disappointment to date?
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