Friday, May 10, 2013

Early Season Busts

Some time back I wrote about some early season breakouts, and that post is probably already out of date. Now that we're about 20% of the way through the season, I'll highlight some players that are probably NOT what their teams were hoping for.

The White Sox had a surprising 2012, leading the AL Central until the very end of the season. They didn't do all that much to improve themselves over the winter, with many thinking their pitching would be steady enough and the offense could get one more good year from Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. The pickup of Jeff Keppinger was overlooked, with people thinking he could be a good utility infielder. It hasn't worked out that way as he's batting .191 with a league low (among qualifiers) .397 OPS. He's had to play in the absence of Gordon Beckham, and while he's not the sole reason for the Sox disappointing start, he's done little to help.

It's always a fun story when brothers play together like B.J. Upton and Justin Upton. They've done notable things like hit home runs in the same inning (off Carlos Marmol), and Justin is having a very solid season with an OPS over 1.000. B.J., not so much--he's near the bottom in hitting at .157--not quite Adam Dunn territory, but walking down that path. The Braves were off to a hot start and are still respectable at 21-13, but they didn't pay Upton $12,450,000 to hit below his weight.

This won't turn out the way I hoped, but it still humors me, and I have a low threshold for amusement. Consider this split:

I was hoping it would be the other way around to make my reference to Samson much more relevant, but I work with what I have. It's Josh Reddick, and I chose April 22nd as the cutoff date because he apparently trimmed his beard on the 21st. The Bible, among other things, tells us two very clear things:
1. Don't trust women named Delilah (or Jezebel)
2. Don't shave your beard when you made the vows of a Nazirite (as Samson's mother had)
He's on the DL now (Reddick, not Samson--Samson was put on the 3,300-year DL list when the Philistines gouged his eyes out and chained him to the temple) and he's playing cheap. However, the way the A's manage their payroll, players like Reddick simply have to perform in order for them to have success. He had 32 homers last year, not so many so far this year.

He's batting .212
He has an OPS of .612
He has 4 homers and 11 RBI
He's near the bottom in fielding percentage at his position
Oh, and one more thing--he's making $17 million this year and is due $106 million for the next four years.

Yes, it's Josh Hamilton, one of the riskiest off-season free agent signings in recent history. He had a precipitous dropoff in the second half of 2012:

1st Half 79 77 342 299 54 92 15 1 27 75 6 3 35 76 .308 .380 .635 1.016
2nd Half 69 69 294 263 49 68 16 1 16 53 1 1 25 86 .259 .323 .510 .833
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/10/2013.

During the "Enhanced Offense" Era, power hitters were able to extend their power numbers later and later in their careers, but that seems to be coming back to historical norms. The Angels doubled down with Hamilton after signing Albert Pujols after the 2011 season, and so far it hasn't worked out well. 

Let's do a couple pitchers, although I'm much more reluctant on this because so many things can change.
It's not really fair to pick on Halladay since he's at the end of a distinguished career, but he is last in the majors with an 8.65 ERA. The worst ERA in baseball history (minimum 150 IP) was Les Sweetland at 7.71 for the 1930 Phillies, followed by three other 1930s pitchers. The 30s were THE best hitting decade in baseball history. To look at more recent times, Jeff Fassero is the leader with a 7.20 ERA with two teams in 1999.

Roy Halladay won't come anywhere near that since I strongly suspect he'd be shut down well before being able to pitch that number of innings. His record (2-4) and WHIP (1.456) aren't great but not commensurate with a player at the wrong end of the ERA standings, and the Phillies haven't been doing him any favors by scoring 21 runs in his 7 starts.

Joe Blanton has the same bad luck as Halladay, with the Angels scoring 21 runs in his 7 starts. Unlike Halladay, he hasn't won 2 games--he has an 0-6 record. I won't show it, but his velocity has been essentially unchanged since 2007, so it's not a matter of him losing his stuff as much as, well, pitching for the Angels. He's pitching in a pitcher's park (93 park factor), but at 32, this is probably who he's going to be going forward.

Just for Jason Goff (@Jason1Goff) I'll mention Julio Teheran, since I wanted to discuss a younger pitcher. He's 2-0 in his first extended foray in the majors (he had cups of coffee in 2011 and 2012) but with a 4.84 ERA and a WHIP of 1.528. It's bad enough he's named after Iran's capital city, but with velocity around 91 mph on his fastball, he better have the best stuff or the ability to place a pitch exactly where a hitter doesn't want to hit it. He's young, and it's not fair to judge someone so early, but when you contrast him (unfairly, I'll freely admit) with Matt Harvey, you can't just shrug your shoulders and say "Well, he's young."

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