Is it possible for one player to be the scapegoat on a Major League Baseball team? Many factors contribute to a team making or missing the playoffs, but a glaring lack of performance in one or two players is hard to ignore. As players have shown over the years, timely hits and lockdown starts can change the course of a team’s season, possibly pushing them into the playoffs. Continued underachieving can have the opposite effect. When players are unable to limit runs or bad at-bats, it can directly impact the team’s record. Hence the rise in prominence of the Win Against Replacement (WAR) statistic.
In 2014, there have been so many dropoffs in offensive performance they are hard to document in full, but several MLB pitchers have been just as responsible for their team’s poor performance. When it is all said and done, here are six players who may have been the ones who cost their team the playoffs in 2014. Teams who are four games or fewer out in the Wild Card were considered, while stats are current before the start of play on July 18.
1. Allen Craig, Cardinals
It would too much to ask for Allen Craig to repeat his extraordinary performance with runners in scoring position (.454 average, 1.138 OPS) in 2013. However, the Cardinals’ No. 3 hitter has hit the skids in 2014, with his batting average down to .244 (.648 OPS) and his RISP clip down to .258 (.686 OPS). Craig’s slump is at least part of the reason the Cardinals are fourteenth of fifteen NL teams in runs scored this season.
Shelby Miller is another player to fault in the Cardinals’ 2014 struggles, but the Redbirds sit only one game out of first place and Wild Card standings. Craig could easily be that difference maker that pushes the Cards into the playoffs once again in 2014.