7 underperforming teams and how they can turn it around

June 3rd, 2023

It’s still early, but not that early.

June will be a pivotal month for some of this season’s underperforming teams, in which they'll either re-establish themselves as contenders or fall too far out of the race to recover.

The seven clubs below all made the postseason last year, but six of the seven are currently on the outside looking in, while the seventh is barely clinging to a Wild Card spot. Here’s a look at these seven teams, listed in order of their current playoff odds per FanGraphs, and where they need to improve to have a chance at playing postseason baseball. (All stats below are through Thursday.)

Mets: 67.3%

Where they stand: The Mets had the third-best postseason odds in the National League entering this season. More than two months since Opening Day, they still have the third-best odds in the NL. But that doesn’t mean everything has been rosy for New York in 2023. They spent May hovering around the .500 mark, never getting more than three games over or under. The team will try to build some positive momentum after finishing a sweep of the Phillies on Thursday to move to 30-27 on the year, but after dropping Friday's series opener to the Blue Jays, the Mets are a percentage point behind the Pirates for the third NL Wild Card spot.

Where they need to improve: The Mets were expected to have one of the best rotations in baseball, but their starting staff has recorded a 4.84 ERA and a 4.91 FIP through 57 games. has started to turn things around, but New York needs reigning AL Cy Young Award winner to do the same. After missing all of April with an upper-arm strain, the 40-year-old posted a 4.80 ERA in May while notching an 18.2% strikeout rate, which would be his lowest mark since his 2006 rookie season. The Mets also need more offensive production from (97 OPS+) and (75 OPS+) to support and .

Padres: 58.3%

Where they stand: After defeating the Dodgers in the 2022 NLDS, this was supposed to be the year the Padres challenged their rivals for NL West supremacy. However, San Diego hasn’t been more than three games above .500 all season, and it has been below the mark every day since May 12. The Padres are 8 1/2 games out of first place in the NL West and 3 1/2 out in the NL Wild Card race.

Where they need to improve: Scoring runs has been a problem for the Padres all season, which isn’t what anyone expected from a lineup that features , , and . Even if you assume that the Padres’ offense will eventually coalesce now that Machado (fractured left hand) is back from the injured list, the team also has rotation issues to sort out -- namely, its vaunted trio of , and has combined for a 4.59 ERA and a 4.64 FIP over 28 starts.

Blue Jays: 51.0%

Where they stand: The Blue Jays were expected to challenge for the AL East title in 2023, but they find themselves in fourth place, nine games behind the first-place Rays and 3 1/2 games out in the AL Wild Card race. Toronto moved its record to 24-16 with an impressive sweep of the Braves on May 12-14, only to go into a 2-9 tailspin against the Yankees, Orioles and Rays. Toronto is 6-15 against the AL East this season.

Where they need to improve: Toronto’s offense has been underwhelming, particularly with third baseman slumping after a sizzling start. , and Chapman need more support from the rest of the lineup, especially (102 OPS+), (80 OPS+) and (95 OPS+). Then there’s starter , who finished third in the AL Cy Young Award race a year ago but has gone 1-6 with a 5.46 ERA, a 1.77 WHIP and a 48-to-41 K/BB ratio in 12 starts.

Cardinals: 38.2%

Where they stand: Coming off four straight postseason appearances and an NL Central title in 2022, the Cardinals started off 10-24 -- their worst record through 34 games since 1907 (9-25). At that point, they were 10 games out of first place. However, St. Louis has gone 15-9 since to trim its division deficit to 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Brewers and its NL Wild Card deficit to five games. Milwaukee has one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the NL and a myriad of pitching injuries, leaving the door open for the Cards to make a run at the division crown.

Where they need to improve: Reigning NL MVP is having another stellar season, but St. Louis’ other superstar infielder, third baseman , has been inconsistent. Arenado bounced back from a frigid April with a strong start to May, but he finished the month mired in a 4-for-26 (.154) slump and has a 103 OPS+ on the year. Meanwhile, the Cards’ rotation has been a mess, notching a 4.81 ERA with one of the lowest strikeout rates (19.2%) in the game. It’s likely the Cardinals will be in the market for a starting pitcher at the Trade Deadline again, assuming they can remain in the postseason hunt over the coming weeks.

Mariners: 23.5%

Where they stand: After ending a 20-year playoff drought last season, the Mariners haven’t played poorly in 2023, going 29-28 with a +22 run differential. However, the AL West has been tougher than anticipated due to the emergence of the Rangers. Seattle is  7 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West and four games out in the race for the third AL Wild Card spot.

Where they need to improve: The Mariners’ pitching staff has kept them afloat while their offense has cratered, with newcomers , and combining for a .584 OPS and taking a step backward from his stellar rookie season. J-Rod showed signs of life near the end of May, going 18-for-43 (.419) with three homers and 10 RBIs in his final 10 games of the month. But even if Rodríguez rediscovers his 2022 form, it likely will be for naught unless some of Seattle’s struggling bats get back on track.

Phillies: 23.3%

Where they stand: Not much has gone right for last year’s NL champs, who have spent much of 2023 below .500. Philadelphia just got swept by the Mets and are 10-19 since April 30, falling eight games behind the first-place Braves in the NL East and 4 1/2 games back in the NL Wild Card race.

Where they need to improve: With such a top-heavy roster, the Phillies’ need their premier players to produce if they’re going to go anywhere, but most of them haven’t in 2023. Free-agent addition (77 OPS+) and veteran slugger (91 OPS+) have been the biggest culprits on the offensive side, while Opening Day starter has the second-worst ERA (4.70) and strikeout rate (21.5%) of his career.

Guardians: 14.0%

Where they stand: Last year’s AL Central champions have gone 25-32 in 2023, but they are still only 5 1/2 games out in the division. That’s closer to first place than the Guardians were last season at the end of May (six games out).

Where they need to improve: Although they didn’t hit for much power, the Guardians’ offense was slightly above average last season with a youthful lineup that put the ball in play, stole bases and manufactured runs. Cleveland has taken a similar approach this year, but its batted balls aren’t falling in for hits nearly as often. As a result, the Guardians are averaging just 3.68 runs per game, tied for the second-fewest in the Majors behind the A’s. (85 OPS+), (68 OPS+) and (96 OPS+) have all regressed, and free-agent additions and haven’t provided the power boost that was expected of them, combining for just seven homers in 340 plate appearances. José Ramírez (127) and (109) are the only Cleveland hitters with an OPS+ higher than 96.