Most Overrated MLB Teams Entering Heat of Pennant Races

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    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

    What makes an MLB contender overrated? It’s a tricky question and inevitably involves a degree of subjectivity.

    That said, as we enter the heat of the pennant races, we can survey the baseball landscape and identify ostensible postseason hopefuls with potentially fatal flaws that could prevent them from making deep runs or, in some cases, qualifying for the playoffs altogether. 

    Injuries to essential players, a key deficiency, a ho-hum run differential—all those factors and more might bump a seeming contender to also-ran status.

    Here are five squads whose presumed October aspirations are at least partly in question.

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Phillies have been among the cooler stories of the 2018 season. After several seasons of bumpy rebuilding, they’ve blossomed earlier than expected and appear ticketed to make their first postseason foray since 2011.

    Then again, of the three teams with a shot to crack the postseason from the National League East, here is how the run differentials stacked up entering play Wednesday:

  • Phillies (plus-39)
  • Atlanta Braves (plus-67)
  • Washington Nationals (plus-69).

The Phils offense tied for 19th in runs scored and ranked 22nd in OPS. The pitching staff has done its part, but it’s worth wondering if Philadelphia’s bats can fend off the Braves and Nats, let alone lead the club on a deep October charge.

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    Chase Anderson

    Chase AndersonThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Milwaukee Brewers are nipping at the heels of the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central and would be the NL’s top wild-card team if the season ended Wednesday. 

    On the other hand, their plus-34 run differential is the same as the Los Angeles Angels, who are a game under .500 and buried in fourth place in the American League West.

    The Brew Crew’s fatal flaw may be the starting rotation, which owns a respectable-but-unspectacular 3.91 ERA. Junior Guerra (3.42ERA), Chase Anderson (3.81 ERA) and Jhoulys Chacin (3.89 ERA) are decent mid-rotation options. Jimmy Nelson is still working his way back from September shoulder surgery. None is a lights-out ace.

    That’s an especially important commodity in the do-or-die Wild Card Game, which means the Brewers should do all they can to catch the Cubbies.

    If they don’t, they could be destined for a quick postseason exit. 

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    The Seattle Mariners are two games behind the Oakland Athletics for second place in the AL West and the Junior Circuit’s second wild-card position.

    With so much time remaining, that sentence makes it sound as though the M’s have a solid shot at snapping their 16-year playoff drought.

    Don’t get your hopes up, Seattle fans: The Mariners’ minus-25 run differential is easily the worst of any team with a winning record. Their starting pitchers rank 17th in baseball with a 4.19 ERA, and erstwhile ace Felix Hernandez appears to be finished.

    General manager Jerry Dipoto did his trademark tinkering at the non-waiver trade deadline and added ancillary pieces, but there’s scant reason to believe Seattle can overtake Oakland—let alone compete—with the AL elite.

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    The Colorado Rockies are positioned to compete in a tight NL West.

    They’re only 2.0 games behind the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks (who are a half-game away from the second wild-card berth) and 2.5 behind the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers. 

    After making the NL Wild Card Game in 2017, a return to the postseason is within their grasp.

    Now, the wet blanket: The Rockies own a minus-16 run differential and their bullpen’s 5.13 ERA ranks 28th in baseball, ahead of only the Miami Marlins and Kansas City Royals.

    Most damningly, the Rockies made no significant moves at the July 31 trade deadline. They’re technically in the thick of the race, but all signs point to them missing the dance.

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    To be clear: The New York Yankees will almost certainly make the playoffs. 

    Despite trailing the archrival Boston Red Sox by nine games, they hold the American League’s top wild-card slot. The odds of two teams overtaking them and bumping them off the October stage are slim to none. 

    If and when they get to the playoffs, however, the Yanks could be in trouble.

    Star slugger Aaron Judge is on the disabled list with a wrist injury and still can’t swing a bat. Catcher Gary Sanchez (groin) is likewise sidelined. 

    New York also has serious questions in the starting rotation, even after adding J.A. Happ (who’s missed time with hand, foot and mouth disease) and Lance Lynn at the trade deadline. 

    Luis Severino, the club’s ace for most of the season, is wrestling with an extended, ill-timed slump. Could the team count on him in an AL Wild Card Game?

    A deep bullpen and potent offense (health provided) make the Yankees possible World Series contenders. But there are a lot of troubling “ifs” in the Bronx.

          

    All statistics current entering play Wednesday and courtesy of MLB.com and Baseball Reference

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