One should always be wary of drawing any conclusions based on a single week of the baseball season. However, I do often find it instructive to see which teams are struggling mightily in the first week, only because it’s a lot easier to squander a 4-game lead than it is to overcome a 4-game deficit.
Three teams are currently occupying the cellar in Major League Baseball:
- The Washington Nationals are 1-6, 4.5 games behind the lead. The Nationals are widely expected to be the worst team in baseball in 2007, so this isn’t a surprise: There just isn’t much talent there.
- The Philadelphia Phillies are 1-5, in the same division. The Phillies were expected to contend in their division, but instead they’ve lost 4 close games (3 runs or less), 2 blowouts, and won one blowout. They’re 4th in runs scored, but next-to-last in runs allowed, with plenty of blame to go around on the latter score. Their pitching’s going to have to be more consistent if they’re really going to contend.
- The San Francisco Giants are 1-5, 3.5 games back. They’re last in runs scored and third-from-last in runs allowed, which is just all-around awful. They’re also the oldest team in baseball. While there’s some reason to hope their pitching will come around (Barry Zito always seems to be awful in April), their hitting is just not that good: Beyond Barry Bonds and Ray Durham, there isn’t a real good reason to think they’ll be above average at any other position. I picked them to finish behind even the Rockies this year, and they’re off to a correspondingly poor start.
The Phillies might just be having a run of bad luck to start the year, but being 4.5 games out with 25 weeks to play isn’t exactly a way to put yourself into contention. Meanwhile, the Nats and Giants have put themselves in position to be the worst teams in baseball.
Over in the American League, the Indians and Mariners have each only played 3 games, thanks to a goodly dose of snow in Cleveland over the weekend.
No one in the AL is looking really awful so far: Even the teams with the worst offenses have shown good pitching so far, and vice-versa. But that just means that no one’s separated themselves from the pack. I figure Baltimore, Kansas City and maybe Seattle will start declining before too long. The difference between these three teams being that KC is arguably on the way up, while the other two seem stuck in neutral (and I think the Orioles removed their clutch sometime around the year 2000).
Me, I’m still hoping this is the year that the wheels come off of the Yankees’ pitching train.