How real are bad starts from Astros, Cardinals, Blue Jays?

Alex Bregman's Astros are one of three recent playoff teams off to a bad start in 2024. Does this define who they are this season? Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

As we reach the quarter mark of the 2024 MLB season, three teams -- all playoff contenders in recent years -- are off to miserable starts.

Since 2017, the Houston Astros have won two World Series (and reached two others), made seven straight American League Championship Series and topped 100 wins four times. The St. Louis Cardinals had a winning record every season from 2008 to 2022; since 2000, they have made the playoffs 16 times and reached four World Series. The Toronto Blue Jays don't have that long track record of success, but they made the playoffs the past two seasons and three of the past four.

However, so far in 2024: The Astros can't pitch, the Cardinals can't hit and the Blue Jays aren't clicking.

For Houston and Toronto, the weakness raises questions about an ability to return to the playoffs. For St. Louis, it means more of what we saw last year, when that streak of winning seasons ended. Let's check in with an edition of Real or Not, focusing on these three clubs and their ugly starts.