MLB roundtable: Yankees and Braves are off to rough starts; which team is more disappointing?

The 2021 MLB regular season is now two months old and I think we’ve all settled into the daily grind that is marathon regular season baseball. The 60-game sprint was fun in its own way last year given the circumstances. Give me the full 162-game experience every day of the week though.

Throughout the season the CBS Sports MLB scribes will bring you a weekly roundtable breaking down, well, pretty much anything. The latest news, a historical question, thoughts about the future of baseball, all sorts of stuff. Last week we debated the two start shortstops in Chicago. This week we’re going to tackle two preseason contenders having disappointing years.

Which team has been more disappointing this season: Braves or Yankees:

R.J. Anderson: I think it has to be the Yankees. If you told everyone during the preseason phase that the Yankees would rank seventh in staff ERA entering mid-June (and, mind you, I’m writing this on Tuesday afternoon), would anybody have guessed they’d be in fourth place with a negative run differential? Conversely, if you told everyone that the Yankees would rank fifth-to-last in runs scored at this point, they would’ve assumed you had sorted the leaderboard the wrong way. There’s still time for the Yankees to get things on track, be it through internal improvement or external additions, but for now they’re far more disappointing to me than the Braves.

Matt Snyder: The Braves going two-plus months without ever being above .500 feels like it tips things for me. It’s easy to get caught up in the standings and see “fourth place” or the number of games out, but if the Yankees were in the NL East, they’d have been in first place for several days and would be within a quick winning streak of being back on top. The Braves are in what’s been an objectively-bad division so far and haven’t taken advantage of everyone else being either bad or simply mediocre. The Yankees’ offense has been incredibly disappointing for sure, but at least they’ve played a tough schedule. The Braves have a negative strength of schedule rating on and still have disappointed.

Katherine Acquavella: I’d have to say the Yankees slightly edge the Braves on the disappointment scale. While, yes, the Yankees’ pitching staff has overperformed, it’s the team’s offense that’s most concerning. The Braves entered the season with a lot of question marks, even after they made a handful of offseason upgrades. But, New York entered the season with expectations of another year of high offensive numbers from a dominant (and healthy) lineup. Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit continue to battle injuries, while Aaron Hicks is out for the year because of wrist surgery. Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu and veteran Brett Gardner are struggling. Aaron Judge has been the only consistently good hitter for the Yankees. I think the NL East still is very winnable for the Braves, while pressure weighs heavier on the Yankees, who need to turn things around as soon as possible.

Mike Axisa: The Yankees. The Braves looked like a regression candidate coming into the season because there’s a lot of injury risk in their rotation, and because several hitters had incredible seasons last year that they were unlikely to match this year (Travis d’Arnaud, Marcell Ozuna, even Freddie Freeman). I didn’t expect them to be hovering around .500 at the one-third point of the season, but Atlanta taking a step back is not the most surprising thing in the world.

The Yankees haven’t been bad but they have fallen way short of expectations. They’re 27th in runs per game (3.74!). How in the world? If you’d have told me before the season that their run prevention would be this good (3.82 runs per game, sixth best in MLB), I would’ve assumed they were on pace to win 110 games. Instead, pretty much everyone in the lineup except Aaron Judge has underperformed, and the Yankees are struggling to keep their head above water. They’re a bigger disappointment to me than the Braves.

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