The Glass Eye: MLB’s Disappointing Players
The last few weeks we’ve looked at the surprising teams and players around MLB – this week let’s look at some of the disappointing players, and try to determine if they will rebound this season. As Adam Dunn is showing us this summer, even the worst season is not necessarily career-ending. We’ll start in the American League.
Jose Bautista (.226 avg, .332 on-base%, .467 slugging%; .302/.447/.608 in 2011): Bautista is still hitting for plenty of power (14 HRs, on pace for 40+), but his walk total is down somewhat along with the batting average. This looks to me like some bad luck more than anything. If he had 1 more single per week thus far his average would be over .250, and his power and strikeout numbers are right in line with his 2010-2011 seasons. Look for Bautista to end up with 40-45 homers, a .260 average, and 100 walks…chance of 2012 rebound: 90%.
Albert Pujols (.236/.294/.398; .299/.366/.541 in 2011): I was concerned about Pujols in LA, and I said so in my gantdaily.com baseball preview. Pujols’ 2011 season was the worst of his career, and despite some fine numbers he seemed to be chasing way too many bad pitches and refusing to take walks. That trend has continued in 2010 – he’s drawn only 19 walks all season, but he’s on pace to strike out 90+ times (hasn’t happened since his rookie season). Pujols’ power seems to be rebounding slightly, and he will likely approach 35 doubles and 30 homers, but I question if he will get his average over .270 and his numbers clearly seem to be trending downward since 2009. One has to wonder if Pujols’ time as an elite hitter is done – I’m thinking he has a great season or two left, but not in 2012. Chance of 2012 rebound: 30%.
Jon Lester (68 innings, 71 hits, 22 walks, 48 strikeouts, 4.79 ERA; 192 innings, 166 hits, 75 walks, 182 strikeouts, 3.47 ERA in 2011): One of the things to watch for with pitchers is a sharp decrease in strikeout rate. Lester has averaged almost a strikeout per inning his whole career – this year those numbers are way down, and he’s allowing many more hits than usual. My guess is that Lester is pitching hurt in some way, the decline in his stats is too sharp to be random chance and at age 28 he’s too young to be in serious decline. Chance of 2012 rebound: 40%, and most of the 60% is a guess that we will see him hit the DL sooner or later.
Ryan Zimmerman (.233/.314/.333; .289/.355/.443 in 2011): Zimmerman has been injured, so he gets something of a pass here…but his power totals are very worrisome. His HR totals since 2009: 33, 25, 12, and just two this season. He remains a plus defender and his average is just a few singles from being adequate, but Zimmerman has to regain his power stroke to be considered an elite 3B in the league. Chance of 2012 rebound: 25% – I think he’s still not physically right, and it may take the offseason for him to regain his form.
Rickie Weeks (.170/.309/.308; .269/.350/.468 in 2011): Weeks was very consistent in 2010 and 2011, but the hits just aren’t falling for him this season. He’s still walking (34 so far), and while his strikeouts are high they are not out of line with his career. He’s also got eight doubles and five homers…but only 17 singles in almost 200 at-bats! I don’t see a ‘smoking gun’ in the stats here, so expect some serious rebounding from Weeks as the season progresses – provided his manager shows patience and leaves him in the lineup. Chance of 2012 rebound: 85%.
Justin Upton (.243/.340/.365; .289/.369/.529 in 2011): Upton is in his sixth season, so it can be easy to forget that he is only 24 – and he’s drawing a ton of walks, which is allowing him to remain a valuable offensive player. Still, his lack of power is very puzzling – he had 39 doubles and 31 homers in 2011, he has only seven and five this season. He’s played almost every game this season so it doesn’t appear to be an injury issue. I hesitate to predict a complete rebound, if only because his power numbers are so far down that it would take a massive hot streak to get to 30 doubles and homers, but I think it’s fair to expect some rebound from Upton moving forward. Chance of 2012 rebound: 70%.
Tim Lincecum (60 innings, 61 hits, 34 walks, 64 strikeouts 5.82 ERA; 217 innings, 176 hits, 86 walks, 220 strikeouts, 2.74 ERA in 2011): The first red flag here is the walk total: 34 walks in 60 innings equates to well over 100 in a 200-inning season. There are reports that Lincecum’s velocity is down (again – it was down last season over prior years) and his season walks totals have gone 68, 76, 86 while his strikeout totals have gone 261, 231, 220. Clearly he’s losing effectiveness, and while he still gets his share of strikeouts, hitters are squaring him up more than ever. He is better than this, but expecting an ERA below 3.50 is unrealistic, and if he doesn’t find his form soon an ERA under 4.00 will be a long shot. Don’t rule out an injury here either, wildness often is a sign of an injury for pitchers. Chance of 2012 rebound: 20%.
Josh Johnson (63 IP, 78H, 19 walks, 50 strikeouts, 4.83 ERA; 60 IP, 39H, 20 walks, 56 strikeouts, 1.64 ERA in 2011): Obviously Johnson wasn’t going to repeat those 2011 numbers, especially coming off of a season-ending injury…but when healthy, Johnson has always been one of the toughest starters to hit in all of baseball (until now). The good news is that after allowing 41 hits in 28 innings in April, he allowed 37 in 34 innings in May – and he’s had five solid-to-good starts in a row. He’s not quite the pitcher he was in 2010, but he’s still above average and should improve. Chance of 2012 rebound: 85%.
Dave Glass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.