August Dog Days, Collapses & The Takeaways From This Week in Baseball

We’ve reached the dog days of the 2023 baseball season. It’s late August and the standings have all but taken shape. This week, let’s look at the teams that have fallen apart and how they became a mess, a disappointment, and sometimes, both this year. To start, let’s look at how some teams that we’ll dive into have done recently.

There’s a lot to discuss and word will fail to describe the letdown some of these teams have produced. But, it’s worth a try.

The Dog Days of August

New York Yankees

There are a lot of places to start with a team that was expected to compete for the World Series. Their team batting average is .230 which is second-worst in baseball behind only the hapless Oakland A’s. Only two batters have an OPS+ over 100 and only three active batters have one over 90. The rotation has only one pitcher with an ERA+ over 100. With one of the largest payrolls, .500 ball would be a disappointment; they are four games below the .500 mark. However, let’s look at the top-down of this team.

The Yankees at this point have all but given up. To be fair, with the front office doing nothing, the team has followed suit. The Yankees weren’t a playoff team before the trade deadline and the message that was sent was that there wasn’t going to be an effort to improve otherwise. Aaron Boone, their manager is starting to run out of excuses. Typically, he’ll say that they need to play better. The problem is, he says that after every loss. It’s getting old, like the antics that get him ejected and the roster that suits up on a daily basis.

This team is destined to finish below .500, something the Yankees haven’t done since 1992. It creates an offseason ahead where change will be demanded. Not just from the roster, but an overhaul of the franchise. This season was years in the making and now, the Yankees have to pay the price and start rebuilding from the top all the way down.

Chicago White Sox

What particularly hurts about the White Sox’s awful season is the wasted year Luis Robert is having. He is playing at an MVP level, slashing .270/.325/.563 with 33 home runs and 252 total bases along with a 4.7 WAR. Yet, his remarkable year almost goes unnoticed.

This in part is because of the rest of the team which is bad to put it lightly. The rotation entered the season with high hopes but a combination of underachievers and lack of depth left it in shambled. The lineup outside is Robert had one bat that provided power (Jake Burger, who was traded) but now there are only two active hitters with 10 home runs or more in the lineup. The team collectively can’t field, a problem amplified by power hitters (who are struggling at the plate) playing in the field every day.

The White Sox, while disappointing, have an avenue to contention. This year has made the future look bleak but there are a few things to look forward to. The core, which has been a letdown, is young, as five everyday players are 29 or younger. The other bright spot is playing in a division that is there for the taking any given year as the American League Central Division is the weakest in baseball. The White Sox have been awful this year and look at times like a minor league roster but at least for them, there is hope.

Los Angeles Angels

They made the bold decision to keep Shohei Ohtani and not trade him. On top of that, the Angels bought in, acquiring Lucas Giolito, Mike Moustakas, and Reynaldo Lopez ahead of the trade deadline. Yet, they got worse, winning only five games after signaling they were going all-in (making the Yankees’ decision to do nothing seem defensible).

Call the Halos cursed. Maybe this is a sign that they will never win. Maybe this was by design. The bottom line is that the Angels look like a franchise heading nowhere and their one hope to avoid that, was by possibly trading Ohtani, who is no longer available. Sure, they can re-sign him but this is a team that despite having a generational talent (two actually) that can’t reach the postseason. The best move would have been to trade him for a surplus of prospects and try to field a competitive team down the road but now, they have no path towards competitiveness.

St. Louis Cardinals

The irony is that the Cardinals have a good lineup this year. They average 4.61 runs per game and have a handful of batters putting together strong seasons. Unfortunately, being awful on the mound and in the field has given them their worst season of this century.

Almost every game the Cardinals play feels like a 6-2 or 7-3 one that they’ll cruise to a victory with. Then, they’ll allow a few runs in one frame, a lot of runs in another frame, and lose 10-6 or 11-7. The pitching can’t hold a lead from their rotation to their bullpen and even worse, their fielding makes any ball put in play, a likely rally builder for the opposition.

The Cardinals this year oddly reminds me of the San Francisco Giants last year. Specifically, one issue created a chain reaction that made them a hapless team. With the Cardinals, the pitchers pitch to contacts which requires a good field behind them to make the pitchers formidable. The pitching looks worse because of the fielding and with the shift ban, the fielding is easy to scrutinize this year. It makes every loss deflating and a season that looked confusing at first is now shaping up to be a symptom of a poorly designed club.

San Diego Padres

It’s crazy to think that Xander Bogaerts was seen by many as the missing piece, the player that would take the Padres and put them over the top. Beogarts in his defense has been playing well, slashing .265/.339/.395 and compiling a 2.5 WAR but it’s the depth, which was an issue entering the season that has been exploited.

The Padres have a top-heavy roster. The problem is when Juan Soto goes through a slump or Fernando Tatis Jr. deals with an injury, the team both relies on the stars to do too much and asks the depth, which isn’t there to step up. Gary Sanchez had to be brought in just to add stability to the lineup and the catcher position. Rich Hill, at 43 years old, was acquired at the trade deadline to add reinforcements to the rotation. Manny Machado has been asked to be a top-five player in the league, especially with the pile-up of injuries, he’s not even a top-five player on his team (he’s seventh in WAR for those keeping track).

Like the Yankees, they have invested in a team where .500 ball should be considered a disappointment. They are seven games below .500 and six games out of a wild card spot. Like the Angels, they are a team that can be seen as cursed and similarly, could have traded away key players like Blake Snell to plan for the future. However, they are left with a team that is overpriced and heading nowhere.

For the Padres, the future seems non-existent in large part because they went all-in this year and many people saw this roster as the one to win the World Series. Now, the clock is ticking on Soto, who becomes a free agent in a few years. Snell is a free agent this winter. Josh Hader, who remains one of the best relievers in the game, is approaching free agency soon as well. The Padres wasted a year they couldn’t afford to waste and the uphill battle to return to a competitive state got steeper.

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