It’s hard to fake it over the course of a baseball season. Sure, any team can have a good game, series, or even month. But over the course of a 162 game MLB season, overachievers become exposed.
Which MLB teams have overachieved the most in 2016? With a little more than four months to go, who can expect to cool off significantly?
These four overachieving MLB teams are due for some regression.
Baltimore Orioles (26-16)
If a team is exceeding expectations, chances are pretty good that a couple of key players are doing the same thing. That’s certainly been the case in Baltimore.
Mark Trumbo has always had immense power, so his 13 home runs are not terribly shocking.
What is surprising is the .293/.345/.573 slash line that he currently sports. Entering the year, Trumbo had a career line of .250/.300/.458. His previous career highs in all three stats came in 2012, when he went .268/.317/.491.
Similarly, Chris Tillman entered the year with a 4.20 ERA, 1.315 WHIP, 4.50 FIP, and a K/9 mark of 6.7 over his career. This year, he checks in with a 2.61 ERA, 1.161 WHIP, 2.85 FIP, and a K/9 ratio of 9.2.
If Trumbo and Tillman were young players, this wouldn’t be terribly noteworthy at all, but that’s not the case. Trumbo is 30, Tillman is 28. Both have been around for a while. Logic says that they’ll both come back to the middle.
What’s scary for Baltimore fans is that both men can experience significant regression and still experience career years. The problem is that significant regression will definitely lead to a cooled off performance from the team as a whole.
The Orioles are probably good enough to compete for and potentially earn a playoff spot. Still, it’s hard to see them maintaining their status as one of the American League’s best teams for much longer.
Philadelphia Phillies (25-19)
Thus far in 2016 Phillies have supplied plenty of good reasons to be optimistic about their future. Unfortunately as it relates to the 2016 season, there are some notable reasons for pessimism as well.
One is that, while Philadelphia has one of the best 10 records in baseball, their -31 run differential is one of the worst in the league.
Granted, we’re still early enough in the season that a couple of lopsided losses can greatly sway this stat. Still, a poor run differential generally signals relatively imminent regression.
What’s more alarming is that the Phillies are 14-3 (.824 winning percentage) in one-run games. The recent history of even the best one-run game records suggests that Philadelphia will come back to earth over the season’s final four plus months.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) May 22, 2016
Additionally, the National League East is absolutely stacked. The Washington Nationals and New York Mets are both legitimate World Series contenders. Even the Miami Marlins sit only 2.5 games behind the third-place Phillies, and that’s with poor numbers from Giancarlo Stanton. If and when he heats up, Miami will only get better.
With players like Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Nola, Vincent Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Jeanmar Gomez in place, Philadelphia has a solid group of building blocks for the future. Still, this group is likely a year away from being a real postseason contender.
Colorado Rockies (21-21)
First thing’s first. While the Rockies have a solid 21-21 record, we’ve seen this movie before.
In 2011, they were 23-19 through 42 games. In 2013, they were 22-20 and in 2014, Colorado sat at 23-19 at this point of the season. None of those years concluded with the Rockies finishing any better than 74-88.
What’s particularly concerning as it relates to this season is how much Colorado is depending on its bullpen. Only the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals, and Cincinnati Reds average fewer innings per start.
That’s troubling for two reasons.
One is that the Rockies bullpen is simply not very good. They have the third worst bullpen ERA in all of baseball.
Two is that as bad as they are, it’s only going to get worse over the course of the season if they’re overused. If starting pitchers are frequently failing to get through six innings, more relievers will naturally have to be relied on to finish games. The more a relief pitcher throws throughout the year, the more tired his arm will get. So, if many of them are being called upon, many of them are going to get tired.
Additionally, while the first place San Francisco Giants have been playing hot recently, they’ve been inconsistent throughout the year. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been mediocre for their standards, while the Arizona Diamondbacks have been bad. Still, Colorado is only one half game clear of Los Angeles for second place and two ahead of Arizona. If those teams begin to heat up, it will be hard for the Rockies to keep pace.
Detroit Tigers (21-22)
It might be a little difficult to associate 21-22 with overachieving, but with the Tigers we can do it.
Record aside, Detroit done a decent job hanging close in the American League Central, but it’s hard to imagine that lasting much longer.
Rookie Michael Fulmer had a stellar game on Saturday, going seven innings, allowing only one hit, one walk, and one earned run, while striking out 11 hitters. The problem is that stellar starts have been too few and far between for their pitching staff this year. Detroit’s starters have been below average to just flat-out bad across the board.
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) May 23, 2016
Fulmer’s outing was the longest from a Detroit pitcher besides Jordan Zimmermann or Justin Verlander in nearly three weeks. It also marked the first quality start from a Tiger (besides Zimmermann or Verlander) in more than a month.
Now, you never want to have a starting rotation that struggles to go deep into games. In Detroit, it’s an even bigger issue, as they’re 23rd in bullpen ERA and tied for 19th in bullpen WHIP.
Much like the Rockies, it’s hard to imagine a team that struggles this much in pitching will find a way to contend throughout the year.