Yesterday, we looked at the upstart teams of Major League Baseball, those that went from having a losing record one season to reaching the postseason the next season. There's one every year, so we dug into the contenders.
We end this week by looking at the flip side: teams that went from the playoffs one season to a losing record the next. This is also common in the Wild Card Game era.
Pittsburgh Pirates (78-83 after NL Wild Card Game loss in 2015)
Oakland A's (68-94 after AL Wild Card Game loss in 2014)
Detroit Tigers (74-87 after ALDS loss in 2014)
Tampa Bay Rays (77-85 after ALDS loss in 2013)
Cincinnati Reds (76-86 after NL Wild Card Game loss in 2013)
Boston Red Sox (71-91 after World Series win in 2013)
Atlanta Braves (79-83 after NLDS loss in 2013)
San Francisco Giants (76-86 after World Series win in 2012)
There are three teams that made the playoffs last season with losing records this season: the Toronto Blue Jays, the San Francisco Giants and the New York Mets. Now, to be fair, the Indians are only one game over .500, and the Rangers and the Cubs are only two games over .500. It's not as if every 2016 playoff team is breezing along except these three we're examining. But it's one thing to not be on a 2016 pace, and it's quite another to be in danger of not even having a winning record. These three teams have been the most concerning, essentially since the season began, and they're the likeliest candidates for the annual ignominy.
Here's a ranking -- from most likely to finish under .500 at the end of the season to least likely -- of the three struggling would-be contenders.
3. New York Mets (16-23, 3rd in the NL East)
If you want something to dream about as a Mets fan, you can hang onto the fact that the rest of the division, outside of the Nationals (who seriously might win the NL East by 25 games), is a huge mess too. The Braves looked like they might be making a surge toward being a .500 team … and then Freddie Freeman got hurt. Philadelphia is more worried about tinkering with their roster for future success than the results this season, and Miami is a baffling nightmare so far. When the Mets look at their schedule, they can squint and see some wins there.
But the problem is that all those same losing teams see the Mets on their schedule and think, "Oh, cool, we're playing the Mets. We can win those games." The Mets have lost seven in a row and are in a heap of trouble right now. They might be contributing to a rash of injuries, they have no pitching staff and the team's best hitter is a young outfielder that the manager still doesn't seem to trust entirely. Everything that could possibly go wrong for the Mets has gone wrong for them so far, and there is still so, so much season to go. You look around the NL East and you want to tell yourself that the Mets can still finish second in that division and sneak up to .500. But are they any more likely to do that than Philadelphia? Or Miami? Or Atlanta? I don't think so. Put it this way: This team just lost seven games in a row. Do you see a seven-game winning streak in their future? Or even a five-game one? It might bottom out fast in Flushing this year.
2. San Francisco Giants (17-25, 4th in NL West)
According to Baseball Reference's Simple Rating Score, the Giants have been the second-worst team in baseball this year, ahead of only their division rivals in San Diego. (The Mets are the fourth-worst.) Madison Bumgarner's injury has been the main catalyst, but the Giants are a mess everywhere. Buster Posey and Brandon Belt are the only above-average hitters in the lineup, and now Hunter Pence is on the DL again. It's as if the gaping hole in left field has infected everybody else; this lineup is wilting everywhere.
The vaunted rotation was supposed to be enough of a constant to make up for any drops in lineup production, but both Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija have ERAs over 5.00 and Johnny Cueto's mark stands at 4.50. It is very possible that San Francisco's most productive starter has been Ty Blach. Is it possible that, even with the injury woes of Mark Melancon, the Giants' most reliable aspect so far this year has been the once-maligned bullpen?
The Giants should rebound: There is still a lot of talent here, even if it's aging. The starters, in particular, shouldn't be nearly this bad. But the D-backs and Rockies look legit, which doesn't leave them much space to maneuver. The Giants have to be nearly perfect to get back in this thing. Does this team look perfect to you?
1. Toronto Blue Jays (18-24, 5th in the AL East)
The Jays got off to the most jaw-dropping start in the sport, beginning the season with a 2-11 record and just looking lost in every facet of the game. This was a team that had made two consecutive AL Championship Series, and they were putting lineups like this out there.
But … quietly … the Blue Jays are crawling their way back. Since falling 10 games under on May 6, they're 8-4, and Jose Bautista is hitting and driving people crazy like normal again. (Also, maybe Marcus Stroman should DH?) The Jays actually have a positive Simple Ratings System score -- which means they would be favored to beat a league-average team in a neutral location, as if such a place exists on this planet -- and you're starting to see some pep in their step. The Orioles and the Yankees are good, but they won't play at such a high pace all season. The Blue Jays play in a tough division. But they might have one last run in them left.
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