Yankees' bullpen, Dodgers' bats highlight early struggles among contenders

With the baseball season more than two weeks old, a few teams are off to scorching (and surprising) starts.

Yankees' bullpen, Dodgers' offense highlight early struggles among contenders

Yankees' bullpen, Dodgers' offense highlight early struggles among contenders

The Red Sox, Angels, Diamondbacks, Mets and even the Pirates have hit the ground running, as each lead their respective divisions. However, there are few expected contenders that have tripped out of the gate, getting off to slow, if not sloppy, starts.

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So far, the Yankees, Nationals, Cubs and Dodgers have not looked like the powerhouses everyone thought they would be. The season is still in its infancy, of course, but each club is dealing with issues.

While each should ultimately be fine and playing October baseball, let’s take a look at what’s plaguing these stumbling contenders in the early going.


New York Yankees (7-7, 3rd in AL East)


The Yankees are dealing with a bunch of problems — some stars are slumping, starters are not going deep and the injury bug is biting — but New York’s No. 1 concern has been its bullpen.

On paper, the Yankees have the best pen in baseball. In reality, their relievers have combined for four losses, two blown saves, 30 earned runs, eight home runs and 21 walks in 57.1 innings. Only four bullpens in baseball have allowed more earned runs.

No one person is to blame for New York’s bullpen struggles — it would help if the starters were more economical — but Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances have been especially inconsistent. Betances’ outings seem to be determined by the flip of a coin, but Kahnle looks to be on the right track after fixing some mechanical issues. This is a unit that should be fine in the long run despite some early headaches.


Washington Nationals (7-9, 4th in NL East)


Like the Yankees, the Nationals have had some bullpen troubles — though that’s par for the course in D.C. Full seasons of Sean Doolittle, Brandon Kintzler and Ryan Madson should solidify the backend, though.

Another problem Washington has in common with New York is injuries. They’re hindering the Nationals a lot more than they are the Yankees.

It's the absence of Adam Eaton (bruised ankle) and Daniel Murphy (knee surgery) that's particularly hurting Washington. With Eaton sidelined, the Nationals are without their leadoff hitter. Trea Turner has stepped in, but he’s hitting just .211 to begin the season.

Murphy, meanwhile, has been a .334 hitter since joining the Nationals in 2016, so he’s clearly being missed by a lineup that’s batting a collective .235 thus far.


Chicago Cubs (7-7, 3rd in NL Central)


Everyone not named Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist is off to a poor start offensively for the Cubs, but the team is at least hitting for some power. While losing Anthony Rizzo to injury doesn’t help, Chicago’s inaccurate rotation has done more harm than the batting order.

Yu Darvish has allowed 10 earned runs and seven walks in 15 innings. Jon Lester’s and Tyler Chatwood’s control has been just as bad. Jose Quintana’s has been even worse and his 8.16 ERA is last on the team. The only Cubs starter whose numbers are respectable is Kyle Hendricks.

As a staff, the Cubs are 25th in earned runs, 27th in FIP and walks, 28th in ERA and WAR, and 29th in BB/9. Right now, there are few rotations worse in baseball.


Los Angeles Dodgers (5-9, 5th in NL West)


A few Dodger bats — Cody Bellinger, Yasmani Grandal, Chase Utley and Matt Kemp — are hitting well in the early going. Everyone else appears to be lost.

Los Angeles has four regulars batting at or below the Mendoza Line, including Corey Seager, and a few more are in the low .200s. With 54 runs scored, the Dodgers are 20th in baseball. They are also 20th in on-base percentage and RBIs, 23rd in slugging percentage and 25th in home runs. It could be worse, but the L.A. offense is not up to code with Justin Turner on the DL.

The bullpen hasn’t been so sharp either, with Kenley Jansen and company pitching to the tune of a 4.47 ERA.

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