Monday, May 19, 2014

We're Not The Only MLB Team Performing Below (High) Expectations

Take a deep breath, Dodger fans. Because while it's easy for us to wallow in the mud of our own situation, other teams with similarly high 2014 expectations (not to mention heaps of articles about their "way" of playing the game) are also stumbling early this season. Witness the 23-21 St. Louis Cardinals, whom David Schoenfield of ESPN says "lack(s) magic":

St. Louis Cardinals fans have been feeling a little jittery when closer Trevor Rosenthal enters games -- and with good reason. He hasn't been the same dominant ninth-inning reliever we saw in October, when he faced 40 batters, retired 33 of them and struck out 18. After spending most of the season as a setup reliever, Rosenthal's scoreless postseason was a big key to the Cardinals reaching the World Series.

For the most part, Rosenthal simply blew hitters away; 149 of his 174 pitches in the playoffs were fastballs, averaging 97.7 mph and touching 100 mph multiple times. Batters knew the fastball was coming and still couldn't touch it. His ascendant performance had many expecting him to be one of the premier closers in 2014. Maybe not Craig Kimbrel, but one of a handful of guys lining up behind him.

Instead, as we saw on Sunday when the Braves rallied for two runs in the ninth to pull out a 6-5 win, Rosenthal hasn't been lights out and is 0-2 with a 4.98 ERA, two blown saves and 14 walks in 21 2/3 innings. His velocity is down just a bit from what we saw in the postseason, as he's averaging 96.2 mph on his fastball and has yet to touch triple digits on the radar gun. But command has been Rosenthal's biggest problem, as witnessed by the high walk total. [...]

Still, the Cardinals are 23-21, hardly cause for alarm but not playing like that best team in the NL that I expected back in March. If they do turn things around and start playing like the team many expected, I suspect Rosenthal, Carpenter and Craig and be big reasons why.

The 23-22 Dodgers are concerning. But just like we were blown out by the Diamondbacks 18-7 Saturday, the Cardinals were also blown out by the lowly Cubs 17-5 last week as well (to be fair, we also added to that Arizona humiliation another 13-3 blowout loss in Miami). I'm still not panicking.