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MLB- Five Teams That Have Taken Steps Backs - This Is Sports Zone

A new season always breeds optimism, and it doesn’t matter what sport. When the standings say 0-0 anything is possible. It doesn’t matter what happened last season for a moment, because the hope of the unknown can make even the most hardened and cynical think of the best scenario before reality sets in. For these five teams, this baseball season might not have that optimism, as these are the teams that look to take a giant step back from 2014:

1. Baltimore Orioles (2014 record (96-66)- Under Buck Showalter, the Orioles are always a hard team to count out, they haven’t done much to replace the loss of Nelson Cruz to the Mariners, after he paced the offense with 40 home runs and 108 RBI. If Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Chris Davis can put their injuries and off-field issues behind them then the offensive loss will be minimal, but the pitching staff is still suspect behind Chris Tillman, and unless Ubaldo Jimenez can show signs of life in his second season under contract, and youngsters Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy can finally deliver on their potential, it could be a season where the Orioles take a step back in the AL East.

2. Detroit Tigers (90-72)- While the offense is still strong; with Yeonis Cespedes and Anthony Gose joining Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, and JD Martinez; they did nothing to improve a bad bullpen, and will be replacing Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello with Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene, after David Price was added during Justin Verlander’s worst season since 2008. The offense might have to score six runs or more a minimum of every time those three start for the Tigers to claim the AL Central; a daunting task in this day and age.

3. Kansas City Royals (89-73)- It’s not that switching Nori Aoki and Billy Butler for Alex Rios and Kendry Morales is that much of a downgrade, but can the starting rotation make up for the loss of James Shields? Yordana Ventura and Danny Duffy are now thrust into lead roles in a staff that added the inconsistent Edinson Volquez and the returning Kris Medlen for depth after veterans Jason Vargas and Jeremy Guthrie. Duffy has never pitched over 150 innings in the majors before, and was sparingly used in the playoffs last year, so it remains to be seen if he can hold up for a full season. The other big question is have Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas finally turned the corner and are ready to be consistent offensive contributors at long last? It’ll be tough for them to get back to the playoffs if they can’t

4. San Francisco Giants (88-74)- Once again, we enter a season after the Giants win the World Series expecting a decline. With Pablo Sandoval going to Boston, it falls on Casey McGahee to try to replace the Kung Fu Panda. Meanwhile in the rotation, unless Matt Cain returns to form after having bone chips removed from his elbow, the rotation might be thin behind Madison Bumgarner, unless Jake Peavy and Yusmerio Petit can each pitch 200 innings, which would be a first for Petit. It’s tough to count the Giants out given their track record, but with the Dodgers maintaining a quality lineup and the Padres upgrading this winter, it’s an uphill battle.

5. Atlanta Braves (79-83)- After collapsing in the second half, the Braves are looking past this season, having traded Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and Evan Gettis for a collection of younger players; highlighted by rotation hopefuls Shelby Miller and Mike Foltynewicz, while not resigning Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy- each coming back from their second Tommy John surgeries in two years. The lineup still has Freddie Freeman, but with only Nick Markakis and Jonny Gomes brought in, will struggle to produce runs. The rotation could be solid behind Julio Teheran, with second-year left Alex Wood and Mike Minor hoping to rebound off a poor 2014, but unless Miller takes a giant step forward the back-end will fall off. Given what the youth of the Marlins and Mets in the division, not to mention the Nationals adding Max Scherzer, and the Braves should just be happy they aren’t the Phillies this year.

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