Clearing The Bases
We can’t have a surprise column without a disappointment column now can we? Earlier this week we talked about our Top 9 pleasant surprises, and now we will visit the opposite end of the spectrum. Maybe I’m a negative kind of person, but it seemed that there were quite a few players/teams I could put in this column. I didn’t include the Yankees or Red Sox even though they are both bringing up the rear in the AL East. I left off Jacoby Ellsbury, a top 15 pick, who suffered another freak injury that will cost him to miss approximately half the season. I would’ve included Alex Rodriguez, but his two HRs on Wednesday gave him a reprieve. Miguel Montero doesn’t get on because he’s a catcher. Gaby Sanchez avoids the list because I wasn’t expecting big things from him anyway. Ben Zobrist was left off because I didn’t want to have two Rays on this list and last but not least, no Mark Reynolds just because I decided he wasn’t worth including. As always, these are listed in no particular order.
Detroit Tigers: Coming into the season most thought the Tigers would win the AL Central by 15-20 games. Well, almost two months into the season and after being swept by the 1st place Cleveland Indians, Detroit finds themselves in 3rd place in the division, six games out of 1st. It’s still early, and I would still bet good money that they win the division, but it’s certainly not going to be by 15 games. Hard to pinpoint the exact reason for their slow start. Free agent addition Prince Fielder is hitting for average (.285) but only seven home runs leaves something to be desired in the power department. Outside of Justin Verlander, the starting pitching hasn’t been all that great and closer Jose Valverde has been far from perfect so far this season.
Ike Davis, New York Mets: With Davis we’re not talking about a player that was expected to be a top five, maybe not even top 10 1B, but we did believe he would provide good pop at a CI position. Davis is fully recovered from the ankle injury that cost him most of last season, but did suffer from mountain valley fever in spring training. The illness was not expected to affect him this season with the exception that he could be more tired with strenuous activity than usual. So why isn’t he hitting now? We all remember what the fever did to Conor Jackson’s career. He’s batting .159 with five HRs and an OPS of .503. The Mets insist they are not going to send him to AAA but he’s already sitting versus lefthanders, and if he can’t manage a few more hits against righties, the Mets will have no choice but to send him down.
Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees: We’ve heard just about every excuse imaginable for Tex’s slow start. He does this every year. His bronchial infection is affecting his play. The shift teams are employing is taking away hits, and the best of all, because he was trying to hit the ball the other way in spring training, his swing got all fouled up and he’s trying to work through that problem. Tex certainly looked extremely frustrated early this season when certain hits turned into outs because of the shift. He has been extremely stubborn in not trying to defeat the shift by taking a single to left or laying down a bunt. His reasoning being that the Yankees pay him to hit HRs and drive in runs. While that’s true, there are times when getting on base is just as important. Plus if he were to hit a few balls the other way, perhaps that shift would go away.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels: I put Pujols on this list fully aware that he does seem to be breaking out of his season long slump. In fact he hit another HR while I was working on this column. Still, much more was expected out of the $254 million man than five HRs in late May. The good news is that Pujols got off to just a slow start last season before putting up close to his normal numbers, the bad news is that you can’t keep relying on this every season. If you’re asking me if I would want Pujols on my team right now, my answer would be yes. I think he’s starting to get used to the American League now, and he will start to see teams for the second and third time coming up which should certainly help with his pitch recognition.
Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals: Hosmer was one of those hot rookie or second year players that everyone seemed to want to acquire during the draft, especially those owners that didn’t want to spend a top pick or top dollar on Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and the other high priced 1B. Well now you know why it’s safer to draft a known commodity rather than take a gamble on a player who hasn’t played enough to be able to totally trust the numbers that he will put up. Hosmer had a great spring and was being hailed as the next sure thing at 1B, but a disastrous start to the season, .191 avg, 5 HR, and an OPS of .593 has some people wondering if he needs a stint at AAA to build up his confidence.
Philadelphia Phillies offense: Maybe I’m being a little to harsh on the Phils offense by putting them on this list. They haven’t had arguably their two best offensive players, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, all season. That would certainly hurt anyone’s run production. They do however have Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence. It’s not like their devoid of talent. Things aren’t all that bad however. The team may be in last place, but they are a .500 team. Howard and Utley could be back before the All-Star break, and they still have an outstanding starting pitching staff. Somehow I have a feeling they will be around to make some noise in September.
Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays: Like Hosmer, Moore was another first year player whom big things were expected out of this season. Well so far, the only big things are his ERA, 5.07, and his WHIP, 1.570. One would think a left-hander who has a fastball in the high 90s would have more success even if this is just his first full season in the majors, but it doesn’t matter how hard you throw it if you don’t know where it’s going, and that seems to be his problem right now. The sooner he can correct it, the sooner he will once again become a successful pitcher once again.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants: One of the biggest questions going on in fantasy circles this season. What is wrong with Lincecum? He certainly doesn’t look like the same pitcher that has won a Cy Young award or two in the past. His velocity is down to 89MPH, a far cry from the mid 90s he used to throw. Is this just a slow start? Lincecum did go through a similar period last season before figuring things out. Is he hurt? Seems unlikely that the Giants would continue to let him pitch if he was. Is he just flaming out quickly? Possibly, and if that’s the case he made a big mistake in not signing a long term contract when he had the chance.
Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels: It seems if you want to play better, just have me put you on this list. Haren just finished a complete game shutout of the Mariners. Once again, perhaps that is a sign of things to come. Ironically I was offered a trade for Haren earlier today. A trade I turned down as I do expect Haren to continue to turn things around. The complete game tonight was only his 2nd win of the season. There were rumors that he was going through a dead arm period which would certainly account for the 4.37 ERA and 1.329 WHIP, however his fastball is averaging about 88.5 MPH, about two MPH less than when he arrived in Los Angeles, in 2010.
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