Five Disappointing Teams from the First Half of the 2021 MLB Season

By Nick Sterling in MLB
| July 14, 2021 6:39 am PDT

The 2021 MLB season is over halfway complete. We’ve had plenty of time to assess all 30 teams. In my assessment, I have identified five teams that have severely underperformed.

This list is based on the team’s projected preseason win total. Unfortunately, none of these teams have lived up to their expectations.

Let’s look at the five most disappointing MLB teams this season.

5. Atlanta Braves

The Atlanta Braves made the playoffs the last three seasons. They were just one win away from a World Series appearance last season, but they blew a 3-1 lead in the NLCS. The defeat was heartbreaking but a lot of people expected them to be back in championship contention this season.

I think the experts agreed, as they projected the Braves to win 88 games this season. Their 63.8 percent chance to make the playoffs was the fourth highest in the NL.

Unfortunately, things haven’t gone according to plan.

Atlanta began the season on a four-game losing streak. They briefly took the division lead on April 28 with a 12-12 record. However, they lost the lead just a few days later.

On June 16, the Braves sat at 30-35, 7.5 games back in the NL East. They have somewhat weathered the storm, going 12-9 since then. Atlanta is currently 42-44, 4.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East. The Braves have not made it over .500 all season.

According to FanGraphs, the Braves playoff chances are down to just 12.9 percent. They are only on pace to win 79 games, which would be their lowest mark since 2017.

Their offense has its strengths, ranking second in the NL in home runs and slugging percentage.

Ronald Acuna Jr is the star of the Braves offense. He leads the Braves with 24 home runs, 16 stolen bases, and a 3.4 WAR.

The only other offensive player worth mentioning is Ozzie Albies. He leads the team with 59 RBIs.

Atlanta’s pitching staff is what’s holding them back. They rank 10th or worse in the NL in ERA, opponent batting average, and WHIP.

Being just 4.5 games out of the division lead, Atlanta still has a chance but they can’t mess around. Their pitching is going to have to improve or else they won’t make the playoffs.

4. Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles entered the season with low expectations. They haven’t won more than 55 games since 2017. In their defense, they were on pace to win 68 games in 2020 had the season been 162 games.

They performed a little better than expected in 2020, but that didn’t stop FanGraphs from giving them a whopping zero percent chance to make the postseason.

Not even a miracle was going to save the Orioles. Somehow, they have performed even worse than expected.

Baltimore actually began the season by sweeping the Boston Red Sox. They held the division lead through April 12. Even halfway through May, they sat a respectable 17-23. Unfortunately, that’s when the Orioles of old showed up. They lost 14 straight games, dropping to 17-37.

Since then, Baltimore has gone 11-21 for an overall record of 28-58. They did sweep the Houston Astros at the end of June, so at least they can say they swept the two best teams in the AL.

The Orioles started with a zero percent chance to make the playoffs and that hasn’t changed.

FanGraphs had them projected to win 65 games before the season began. Now, they are on pace to win just 53 games.

Honestly, there isn’t a lot to say with the Orioles offense or pitching. They rank last in the AL in runs scored.

Cedric Mullins is having a breakout season for the Orioles. Mullins is top five in the AL in hits, batting average, doubles, total bases, stolen bases, on-base plus slugging percentage, and WAR. He will represent the Orioles in the All-Star Game.

The Orioles pitching ranks last in the AL in ERA. John Means was well on his way to an All-Star Game appearance, but he’s been out since early June with a shoulder strain. Means has a 2.28 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, and a 3.1 WAR. He also pitched a no-hitter against the Seattle Mariners.

It’s just another year of the rebuild for the Orioles. At least they have the fifth-best farm system!

3. New York Yankees

It seems like the New York Yankees enter every season as one of the World Series favorites. However, they haven’t made it past the ALCS since 2009. Going into the 2021 season, the projections were sky high once again.

The Yankees came into the season with the second-best chance to win the World Series at 17.5 percent. FanGraphs projected them to win the most games in the AL with 95. Well, they haven’t exactly lived up to those expectations.

They got off to a rough start, sitting at 5-10 through their first 15 games. New York did a good job weathering the storm, as they were 28-19 and just a half-game back in the AL East on May 23.

Unfortunately, the Yankees couldn’t build any momentum. They went just 16-23 since May 23 and currently sit 44-42. They are fourth in the AL East, nine games behind the Boston Red Sox.

New York is also 4.5 games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second wild-card spot.

According to FanGraphs, the Yankees have a 37.9 percent chance to make the playoffs, down over 50 percent from their preseason projection.

The Yankees are on pace to win just 83 games. That would be their lowest win total in 25 years.

The Yankees offense finished top two in runs scored in the AL every season from 2017-2020. This season, they rank 13th. They are fifth in the AL in home runs and first in walks, but everything else is pretty bad.

Aaron Judge is their only noteworthy offensive player. He leads the team in batting average, home runs, RBIs, and WAR.

New York’s pitching staff is actually pretty solid. They are top four in the AL in ERA, opponent batting average, and WHIP. However, Gerrit Cole is their only active pitcher with a sub 4.00 ERA.

Their playoff hopes are going to come down to their offense. If they don’t get things going quickly, it’s going to be another disappointing season.

2. Minnesota Twins

Coming into the 2021 season, most people expected the Minnesota Twins to make the playoffs. I think the question everyone was asking is, can they win a playoff game. They haven’t won one since 2004, despite making the playoffs six times since then.

FanGraphs projected the Twins to win 88 games this season. That, along with their 63.3 percent chance to make the playoffs, was the third-best in the AL. Unfortunately, the Twins pulled a full 180 this season.

They started the season 5-2, but immediately lost 13 of their next 15 games. Things just never really got better from there. They sat a season-high 15 games under .500 on June 15. Minnesota did go on a five-game win streak after that to have a 31-41 record.

The losses kept piling up from there. The Twins are currently 36-50 and are nowhere near a playoff spot. Their 63.3 percent chance to make the playoffs is now down to 0.7 percent.

There’s hope but it would take a miracle. Minnesota is on pace to win just 68 games.

Most people predicted Minnesota’s offense would carry them to the playoffs. So far, their offense hasn’t been the issue. They are second in the AL in home runs, and rank around sixth in most of the other categories.

Nelson Cruz leads the Twins with 18 home runs and 45 RBIs. Byron Buxton was on his way to an MVP caliber season, but injuries have limited him to just 27 games.  In those games, he’s hitting .369 with 10 home runs, and 29 RBIs. He has a team-high 2.9 WAR.

The big weakness for the Twins is their pitching. They are bottom three in the AL in ERA, strikeouts, and opponent batting average. Somehow, only two of their starting pitchers have a positive WAR.

Minnesota needs to pack it up and focus on 2022. Hopefully, they get some pitching help because they can’t succeed with their current staff.

1. Arizona Diamondbacks

What in the world happened to the Arizona Diamondbacks? The Diamondbacks are typically one of those teams that hang right around .500. Coming into the 2021 season, I think a lot of people expected them to do that again.

They came into the season projected to win 72 games. It’s not a great projection, but it was only four under the San Francisco Giants, who have the best record in the majors. Arizona on the other hand, has gone in a different direction.

The Diamondbacks actually got off to a decent start. On May 2, they were 15-13, just two games back in the NL West. However, this is where the season begins to go downhill.

Arizona lost 23 of their next 28 games, falling to 20-36. That stretch included a 13-game losing streak. I guess the Diamondbacks wanted to one-up themselves because they went on a 17-game losing streak in June.

Since then, they are 5-11 which honestly isn’t horrible for them. I should also mention they lost an MLB record 24 consecutive road games.

Coming into the season, Arizona only had a 1.7 percent chance to make the playoffs. Needless to say, that number is down to zero.

The Diamondbacks are only on pace to win 46 games. Only once has a team won less games this century.

As bad as they are, their offense isn’t horrible. They lead the NL in doubles and are second in triples. Eduardo Escobar is the team’s lone All-Star. He has 19 home runs and 58 RBIs this season.

Their pitching is woeful. They are last in the majors in hits allowed and opponent batting average. They are bottom three in the majors in ERA, earned runs, home runs, strikeouts, and WHIP.

Diamondback fans can look forward to picking first in the 2022 MLB Draft. Prospect Elijah Green is already being called a generational talent.

Final Thoughts

Obviously, every team wants to exceed expectations and compete for a World Series. However, that doesn’t always happen and we have some teams go in the opposite direction.

The Braves and Yankees still have a chance to turn their season around and make the playoffs. On the other hand, the Orioles, Twins, and Diamondbacks need to look forward to next season.

We’ll see if any of these teams can improve in the second half of the season.

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