16 Aug

Reds, Padres highlight the best of the meh-st in first half of MLB season

first_imgNot only is Cincinnati one of the worst teams in MLB by runs per game (4.31 is good for 24th in baseball), an 83 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created plus) number is among the worst in all of the majors. In June, the Reds had only scored 78 runs, second worst in the Show behind the hapless Tigers (72 runs). Not great, Bob!The good news is that the Reds still have plenty of dudes who can help shift their fortunes. Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto and Yasiel Puig have all hit below their career lines so far in 2019 with plenty of baseball left to be played, and when healthy and on, those three can mash with the best of them. Who needs to pick it up?: Joey Votto has been much better in June, hitting to a .267/.368/.507 slash line, which is more Votto-like. Everyone’s favorite Canadian needs to keep mashing to keep the Reds in the race. For some teams, hovering around .500 is a welcome surprise: Teams such as the White Sox and Padres, who are still undergoing a rebuild, are hanging in there. Meanwhile, other teams, like the Mets, expected much bigger seasons than what’s currently unfolding.MORE: Watch ‘ChangeUp,’ a new MLB live whiparound show on DAZNOn June 27, 2018, there were 14 teams under .500; only three (Rays, Pirates, Rockies) finished above .500. Turning it around isn’t a guarantee, but there’s always an opportunity for certain teams with abberational stats and situations to salvage the season. Obviously and unfortunately, there are plenty of sub-.500 teams this season, but some are more intriguing than others.Here are four of those teams who might be fun to watching heading into the All-Star break and beyond.White SoxChicago has touched .500 twice this season — once on June 14 and once on April 5. There’s a good chance the White Sox could hit .500 and maybe take off the second half of the season, but they’re going to need help.The South Siders are getting past the growing pains of being a young team and are actually starting to win now: May (16-15) was their first plus-.500 month since August 2018, when we first started seeing flashes of a potentially good team. There are two big reasons to watch the Sox moving forward.Reason No. 1: Starter Lucas Giolito has emerged as the ace Chicago expected him to be, worth 2.8 bWAR this season through 15 starts, pitching to a 2.87 ERA (3.22 FIP). The team’s record in those games: 11-4. Whether it’s by way of new mechanics or trusting his stuff, Giolito looks like the real deal and he’s becoming appointment viewing.Reason No. 2: At the dish, Yoan Moncada has seemed to finally figure out how to be a productive ballplayer. The 24-year-old is on pace to set career highs in average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage (by proxy, OPS), OPS+, hits, home runs, RBIs, total bases and pretty much every other offensive category.The White Sox still play in a bad division where they’re much better than the bottom feeders (Kansas City, Detroit) and have taken the fight to Cleveland (7-5 record vs. the Indians this season). They’re 0-3 vs. Minnesota, one of the best teams in baseball, with 16 games left to play vs. the Twins this season. Could the White Sox make a run at the division? Probably not, but boy, watching the rebuild come together is fun. Who needs to pick it up?: The entire pitching staff not named Alex Colome, Alex Bummer or Lucas Giolito. At 5.05, Chicago has one of the worst staff ERAs in baseball.PadresThe Padres surprised a lot of folks out of the gate and played very close series vs. the Dodgers in May. Since then, they’ve cooled off, finishing the month under .500 and going 10-13 to this point in June.But with Manny Machado — who’s coming alive at the plate — potential Rookie of the Year Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Hosmer and Hunter Renfroe, this team is going to be interesting to watch offensively the rest of the way. They’re near the bottom of the NL in runs, hits and OPS, though they’re middle of the pack in home runs (sixth). That’s something that’s not really correlating. They’ve already scored 135 runs in June with three games left — they scored 121 all in May, and 96 in April. So might say that’s trending upward.Young teams have a tendency of hitting a wall — see the Phillies last season as an example — but there’s a different feel around the Padres. They still have plenty of impact players they could use from the minors — or guys that they could use to acquire more help at the trade deadline if they decide to make a run at a wild card spot.Really, everything you think you know about the Padres is true: young, talented and deep. That’s what makes their second half so much more intriguing — especially with 40 games against division opponents left, including 14 against the Dodgers. Who needs to pick it up? Austin Hedges is in the midst of the worst offensive season of his career. Hedges is one of the best — if not the best — pitch framers in all of MLB, so it’s unfair to ask for him for too much offense, but he should at least be building on the steps forward he took last season.MetsThe Mets’ season has been mired in controversy, lack of production and injuries. So really, it’s just like any other season.But really, the boys from Flushing still have a decent chance to keep their hopes from circling the drain the rest of the season. The division is pretty much shot at this point: The Braves are probably going to finish out the season as the NL East champs. But they could still make a run at the second wild card. It’s not unfathomable.Mickey Callaway on the #Mets being 10 games behind the first-place Braves:“We were so far back last year, and then we had the best record in the National League.”— Deesha Thosar (@DeeshaThosar) June 26, 2019Side note: Huh?As said before, the moves that Brodie Van Wagenen made this offseason operated well within the sandbox he was allowed to play in. It’s just insane to see how so many of the players BVW has brought in haven’t worked out. Keon Broxton (off the team), Jed Lowrie (hasn’t seen the field), Robinson Canó (hurt/bad), Jeurys Familia (bad) have all been negatives this season, just four of the warm bodies that the former agent brought in to turn this thing around.It’s unrealistic to expect everything to click for the Mets at this point, but more has to go right than it has. It’s unfair to pin it all on manager Mickey Callaway — he obviously hasn’t done himself any favors — but he’s going to have to get this thing turned around, and quick.Who needs to pick it up? Robinson Cano needs not only to pick it up but to pick ’em up and put ’em down. The hustle issues are and always have been overblown, but his performance with the Mets this year hasn’t been: He’s slashing .223/.271/.360 in 225 plate appearances this year.RedsCincinnati is baseball’s most intriguing team. Throughout the season, they’ve been one of baseball’s most effective pitching staffs by many metrics: K/99, BB/9, ERA, xFIP, FIP. Entering June 27, the Reds were second in the majors in reliever ERA (3.47) and fifth in starter ERA (3.77), just behind the Twins (3.75) and Nationals (3.74).But there’s an interesting trend: The Reds have a plus-40 run differential. They’re the only last-place team in all of MLB with a plus run differential. In fact, that number is better than 20 teams in the sport. Nine of those 20 teams are .500 or better. That’s crazy!So what exactly is keeping the Reds below .500? Well, one part of that from early in the season — an overtaxed bullpen — seems to have rectified itself. An abysmal offense, though, is another big part of what’s gone wrong with Cincy. Mediocre. Average. Meh. Any way you choose to address it, being in baseball purgatory is frustrating. It’s cruel. It’s sitting-through-’90s-boy-band-discography-on-repeats cruel. last_img read more