This baseball season, like most, has been full of surprises.
Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees has burst on to the scene as one of the league’s best sluggers, becoming the first player since 2013 to hit 30 home runs during the first half of the season. Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer is following up his 2016 Cy Young campaign with an even better season, striking out a career-high 35.5 percent of batters while walking just 5.5 percent, a differential that if maintained would be the fourth best since Pedro Martinez was on the mound 17 years ago.
The Arizona Diamondbacks won just 69 games last season, but they are now poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers are also in the playoff hunt, with the latter leading the NL Central by 5 1/2 games at the all-star break.
But not all the surprises are positive. Here the five biggest flops and failures of the 2017 season.
Chicago Cubs, 43-45, 2nd in NL Central, 5 1/2 games back
The reigning champs are having one of the worst World Series hangovers in baseball history. Before the all-star break last season, they were batting .256 with an OPS (.786) that was 12 percent higher than the league average. This year they ended the first half of the season batting .239 with a league-average .744 OPS. Chicago’s pitchers have gotten worse, too, allowing a .724 OPS against this season compared with a .644 OPS against during the first half of 2016.
And instead of demolishing the league with a plus-139 run differential after the first half of the season, the Cubs are breaking even, giving them the 13th highest run differential in the major leagues.
The overall result is a team with just a 16.3 percent chance at making the playoffs, significantly less than the 96 percent chance it had at the start of the season.
San Francisco Giants, 34-56, 5th in NL West, 27 games back
San Francisco scored 354 runs, third fewest in baseball this season, and allowed 453 runs, the fourth most in the NL. And in a season in which teams are hitting a record-setting number of home runs, the Giants have a league-low 75 homers hit in 2017 — 12 fewer than the next closest team, while ranking dead last in the majors in slugging percentage (.374).
Ace Madison Bumgarner made four starts before suffering a Grade 2 shoulder sprain and rib injury during an off-day dirt biking accident, and the performance of Johnny Cueto, an all-star last year, has been unimpressive.
Cueto is walking 7.9 percent of batters this season, his highest rate since 2009, with 29 hits allowed on the sweet spot of the bat, the fifth most among pitchers with at least 1,500 pitches thrown this season.
Now for the bad news.
The Giants set a franchise record for most losses at the all-star break, besting the 55 losses by the team in 2008. They are projected to lose 99 games this season, which would be the most since their 100-loss campaign of 1985.
New York Mets, 39-47, 4th in NL East, 12 games back
Meet the Mets. Meet the Mets. Get up everybody and greet the underwhelming, soul-crushing, disappointing Mets.
The team some expected to compete for the NL East title is 39-47, with five losses in six games, including a 6-0 defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals to end the season’s first half. Win projections have dropped from 87 to 74 since the preseason.
The Mets have some excuses — starting pitchers Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey plus closer Jeurys Familia are all on the disabled list — but the hitters are just average, at best. As a team, the Mets are batting .249 with a .765 OPS, creating runs at a rate that is just 2 percent above the league average after adjusting for park and league effects (102 wRC+).
The pitchers who are healthy have allowed 90 more runs than expected based on the men on base and number of outs recorded. Only the Oakland Athletics are worse at the all-star break.
Toronto Blue Jays, 41-47, 5th in AL East, 8 1/2 games back
The Blue Jays ended the first half of the season on a low note, falling 19-1 to the Houston Astros on Sunday afternoon, the fourth-largest margin of defeat in the 40-year history of the franchise. Their 41 wins are the lowest at the break since 2004 (39) and they have just a 4 percent chance at making the playoffs, a mere fraction of what it was during the preseason (50.5 percent).
Among AL teams, only the Baltimore Orioles, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Kansas City Royals are creating runs at a lower rate this season, with Toronto’s hitters combining for 4.5 wins above replacement, second fewest in the majors after the San Diego Padres (2.1 fWAR).
In addition, Toronto’s defense has cost the team 28 runs in the field, second only to the Oakland Athletics (minus-52 defensive runs saved).
Detroit Tigers, 39-48, 4th in AL Central, 8 games back
Most of Detroit’s troubles can be found on the mound, typically after Michael Fulmer has started a game.
Fulmer, the reigning AL rookie of the year, is 9-6 with 84 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings pitched, good enough to be named to the all-star team. His 15 quality starts (six or more innings pitched, while allowing three or fewer earned runs) in 17 games is not only the most on the team, it is more than the quality starts by Daniel Norris (six) and Jordan Zimmermann (six) combined. The team’s other ace, Justin Verlander, has 10 quality starts in 18 games.
The Tigers enter the all-star break nine games under .500 at 39-48, eight games behind the Indians in the AL Central division and 6.5 games back of the league’s second wild-card spot, giving them a 5.5 percent chance at a playoff spot.