The baseball season is just 20 games or so old. In human terms it has ditched the diapers but is still too young to care about girls. A whole lot can and will change between now and the postseason. For at least four teams, though, I already can't shake the feeling that the season is all but over - that the last 140 games is just about playing out the string. I could be wrong about one of these teams, but I am confident that in at least three of the four cases it is going to be a fine idea to bet against them and then enjoy the profits you earn as a result - all season long. What we have seen from them so far isn't pretty, and it doesn't really feel like that will change in any hurry.
These are teams in trouble.
New York Yankees (8-11): The Yankees have the best record on this list and probably the most talent on their roster, but they are in no less trouble than the other teams. They are proof positive that you can spend millions without being guaranteed results. They just aren't good right now, and it doesn't feel like a fluke. Their starting pitching is underwhelming. They have given up a lot of runs, which wouldn't be insurmountable necessarily but certainly is if they are hitting like they are. Their run differential is a dismal -19 already - teams just don't contend with negative run differentials - and their slugging percentage is in the cellar along with most other offensive stats. The Yankees used to be bigger than themselves just because the name on their jerseys. That swagger is gone now, though, and they just seem like a rudderless group of underachievers earning more than they should. It is far from too late - they are still only three games out of the lead in the East. It just doesn't feel like they are a team poised to turn a corner in any hurry, and there is no obvious quick fix that they can make to solve their woes.
Houston Astros (6-15): Last year was a magical season for the Astros. The young group of upstarts shocked the world, leading the AL East for long stretches of the season, and ultimately claimed a wild card spot and gave the Royals more than any other opponent did in the playoffs. Everything seemed to be in place, and the long rebuild for the Astros seemed ahead of schedule. The future was bright and people were very optimistic heading into this season. They have allowed 110 runs so far - more than twice as many as the Cubs, White Sox or Nationals. They are terrible on the road and only slightly better at home. Their top bats have done their jobs for the most part, but things have fallen off a cliff quickly after that. The starting pitching has just been lousy. Cy Young hero Dallas Keuchel has struggled mightily, and he's still probably their best starter this year. The promise and hope surrounding this team has evaporated, and it feels like last year was just a blip in their endless rebuild.
Atlanta Braves (4-16): We knew the Braves were going to be bad. When you aren't fielding a major league roster it's tough to win major league games. What has been striking, though, is just how bad they are. They can't win, and they aren't even competitive most nights. Their defense is terrible. They have scored the fewest runs in all of baseball. They have a league-worst run differential of -39, which means that they are getting outscored by a sliver short of two runs per game. What has to be the most frustrating for fans, though, is that in the short to mid-term there is no reason to believe that things will change. They don't have a magic bullet just waiting to be fired somewhere. They are not good, and they are going to continue to be not good. For bettors, of course, teams this bad can be a blessing - betting against them all year has been wildly-profitable, and it's hard to imagine them winning enough games over long stretches to change that.
Minnesota Twins (7-14): The Twins have played 21 games and are eight games out of first place, That's an impressive accomplishment that only the woeful Braves and their 10.5-game deficit can trump. They have played better by far lately than they did in their first 10 days of action, but they are still a long way from being at all relevant. They have a lot more going for them than the Braves right now. On Wednesday night, for example, they are going to roll out stud pitching prospect Jose Berrios for his major league debut. They just don't have the tools to consistently be competitive, though. They will find spots to win - probably just enough to eliminate the value in betting against them - but over the long term they are going to struggle, and these struggles are going to continue for a long time. Losing can be a self-fulfilling situation - players know that they aren't good and aren't going to be good for a long time, and they struggle to play at their best. That certainly feels like the case here.
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