The 2023 MLB season is nearing the quarter pole and I have noticed a trend that is developing. I am seeing that a number of perennial contenders are really struggling as the campaign moves into mid-May.
The teams I am talking about enjoyed some level of success in 2022 and figured to be frontline contenders in 2023.
The New York Yankees are coming off a 99-win season in 2022. They brought back slugger Aaron Judge on a massive contract and also added frontline rotation help in Carlos Rodón. Despite the baseline of talent, however, the Yankees right now are near .500, in last place in the American League East, and already 10 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Judge has come back to Earth offensively and his history of nagging injuries seems to have returned. The Yanks rank 24th in MLB in runs scored and their pitching has been disappointing. Even with improvement, earning a playoff berth could be an issue as the AL East is easily the toughest division in baseball.
The reigning World Series champs Houston Astros won 106 games last season. They will not reach that number this year. Injuries have hit this team hard and they clearly miss 2022 AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander who left to the Mets via free agency. Injured Astros include Michael Brantley and Jose Altuve on offense along with pitchers Luis Garcia, Lance McCullers Jr. and José Urquidy. Houston is hanging around the .500 mark but it should be fine in regards to a playoff berth as they play in the relatively weak AL West.
The Philadelphia Phillies made it to the World Series out of the NL last season. They did so after a slow start. It appears they will need yet another strong finish to reach the playoffs in 2023. Philly is solidly under .500 and way behind the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. The big issue has been a pitching staff that ranks 26th in MLB with an ERA of 5.03. Free agent signee Trey Turner hasn’t produced in line with expectations thus far, and the Phils were without their best player, Bryce Harper, for the first month of the season. Harper is back which could lead to better days this summer in Philadelphia.
Closing out my small list of disappointing teams is the San Diego Padres. San Diego Pads made the NLCS last season, and expectations in 2023 were even higher given the signing of Xander Bogaerts, the return of Fernando Tatis Jr, and the promise of Juan Soto’s first full season in San Diego. At the moment, however, the Padres are around .500, in third place in the NL West, and have a negative run differential. Manny Machado hasn’t yet found his way at the plate and three core members of the rotation, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove, and Michael Wacha have put up poor overall numbers this far.
The beforementioned teams still have over 120 games to figure it out. My belief is that a few of them will.