Every team is a contender in spring training, when optimism is immeasurable and expectations are sky-high. But as we often learn by the end of April, even our most sure-fire projections are miscalculated. Winning the offseason and winning the division are two very different things, as these underachieving teams and their fan bases have discovered the hard way in 2015.
As Ken Rosenthal wrote this week, there still is time for the Nationals to recover and earn a playoff berth. But the fact that this team – the consensus favorite to represent the NL in the World Series -- is in such a desperate position in late August is shocking. Injuries to Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span, Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg (pictured) have contributed, but the team has underachieved in just about every aspect. Washington ranks 17th in the majors in OPS and just 10th in rotation ERA despite a starting five as deep and talented as any in the game.
Getty ImagesHunter Martin
Boston Red Sox
In hindsight, Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez (right) obviously were ill-advised signings, but few could have predicted how massively that pair would backfire, especially defensively. The decision to load up on No. 2 and 3 rotation types was risky but became disastrous when most of those starters failed to pitch to No. 5 standards. Incredibly, this team hasn’t been above .500 since May 1. The rotation ranks 28th in the majors with a 4.88 ERA, while the bullpen is 23rd (4.20), likely cementing Boston’s third last-place finish in the past four years. And the sweeping front-office changes already have begun.
Getty ImagesMichael Ivins/Boston Red Sox
The white flag officially was waved before the nonwaiver trade deadline when ace David Price, slugger Yoenis Cespedes and closer Joakim Soria were dealt. Soon after, it was announced that longtime GM Dave Dombrowski had been released from his contract. But the damage was done far earlier when the team failed to post a winning record in any month after going 15-8 in April. The Tigers’ run of four consecutive division titles will end this season -- and although a wild-card berth remains possible, it isn’t realistic.
TNS via Getty ImagesKansas City Star
The preseason dark horse not only to win the AL West but also the AL pennant likely will avoid finishing in the division basement only because the Oakland A’s have collapsed. Any Mariner not named Nelson Cruz must shoulder part of the blame. Seattle’s offense ranks in the bottom third of the majors in runs per game and on-base percentage despite Cruz’s heroics, and the pitching staff is 24th with a 4.19 ERA. Things are so bad that even Felix Hernandez (pictured) has been affected; his ERA has jumped almost a full run in his past four starts.
Getty ImagesMichael Ivins/Boston Red Sox
Barring a torrid finish to the season, the Marlins will wind up under .500 for the sixth consecutive year. Beginning the season without injured ace Jose Fernandez didn’t help, nor did losing All-Star slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a broken hand in late June. But Miami already was 15 games under .500 and 11½ games out of first place in the NL East when Stanton suffered the injury. The result was the usual sell-off at the deadline (adios, Mat Latos and Dan Haren, among others) after an offseason of big spending.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
San Diego Padres
Speaking of big offseason spending, the Padres one-upped just about everyone. New GM A.J. Preller added Justin Upton (pictured, left), Matt Kemp (pictured, right), James Shields and Craig Kimbrel, sacrificing numerous highly rated prospects in the process. But the team hasn’t hit (shut out 16 times) and hasn’t pitched (its traditionally strong bullpen ranks 21st in the majors in ERA with Kimbrel having a subpar season). Preller refused to surrender at the nonwaiver deadline, but his team has lost even more ground since by going 9-9 since July 31.
Getty ImagesAndy Hayt
The Indians ended a six-year playoff drought by earning a wild-card berth in 2013 and finished strong in 2014 to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2007-08. But Cleveland has spent one day over .500 this season (it was 2-1 on April 9). The talented young rotation has experienced growing pains at times and has received very little run support when it excelled. Among the Indians’ problems: a .240 batting average with runners in scoring position (26th in the majors) and a losing record against every division opponent (a collective 18-31 record vs. the AL Central).