The Red Sox and Giants impress while Padres and Braves fail to meet expectations
By Luke Servello, Guest Writer
The marathon that is the MLB season is entering the home stretch. Just like every other season in MLB history, there have been teams that have overachieved and underachieved based off of preseason expectations.
Here are my two biggest surprises and disappointments thus far in the 2021 MLB season.
The San Francisco Giants — The Giants had not finished with a record above .500, let alone make the playoffs, since 2016. only not made the playoffs since 2016. Combine that with them having to play in the same division as two playoff teams from last year (the Dodgers and the Padres), and expectations were bound to be low.
But the Giants now have a realistic possibility of winning the NL West and winning over 100 games. A large part of that can be attributed to bounceback years from Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford, as well as the reemergence of perennial all-star catcher Buster Posey, who opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19. The Giants, to me, are most certainly contenders heading into the postseason.
The Boston Red Sox — The Sox missed the playoffs the last two seasons and had a shaky outlook at best as far as starting pitching goes, so expectations were understandably low going into this season. But Nathan Eovaldi and now Chris Sale have contributed to the top end of the rotation pitching to help support a very good lineup all around.
The Red Sox still have work to do to clinch a playoff spot, but no matter what happens, they have surpassed expectations.
San Diego Padres — A Cinderella team last year, they were referred to as “Slam Diego” after all the grand slams they hit. No matter how you slice it, they were one of the more exciting teams last year. That magic has faded in a big way this year, and it looks like they will be watching the playoffs from their sofas.
To me, injuries to their starting rotation is the biggest reason for that. Losing Chris Paddock, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Mike Clevinger has been a brutal blow that the Padres just have not been able to overcome.
The Atlanta Braves — The Braves are still in good shape to win the NL East, so this is a little outside the box. But they aren’t going to win the division in a very convincing or dominating fashion, considering their talent level.
I understand that losing Ronald Acuña Jr. was a huge blow. The loss and distraction of losing Marcell Ozuna to a domestic violence case also can’t be easy.
But I still think with reigning NL MVP Freddie Freeman and a solid starting pitching rotation that includes Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Ian Anderson, the Braves should be running away with the lowly NL East more than they have. I would not expect a very deep playoff run from this Braves team as they just don’t really look like true contenders.