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NL Week In Review 8-13-08

As I mentioned in my last column, August is usually a slow time in terms of baseball news and rumors. The non-waiver trading deadline has come and gone, teams have usually solidified their line-ups, and September call-ups are still a month away. So with the season past the two-thirds mark, [...]

As I mentioned in my last column, August is usually a slow time in terms of baseball news and rumors. The non-waiver trading deadline has come and gone, teams have usually solidified their line-ups, and September call-ups are still a month away. So with the season past the two-thirds mark, I thought it’d be best to go over the most disappointing players of the 2008 season so far and what the plan of action their teams should take in regards to them:

Arizona Diamondbacks – OF Chris Young. While his batting average and on-base percentage never did impress, the D-Backs looked at Young as a catalyst at the top of the line-up that provided power and speed to the team. So it must be a huge concern that Young is providing neither of that. He’s produced only 8 SB’s in 12 attempts and his slugging percentage is 50 points lower than last year’s production. Young, a player who looked to be a regular threat to join the 30/30 Club, could possibly struggle to eclipse 20 in either category. With an OPS barely over .700, this “slugger” really hasn’t provided much pop to this year’s team which wouldn’t be a problem if he was able to get on-base more often. The problem is that he just isn’t able to. Arizona has already dropped him down in the order due to his offensive woes and I agree with their decision. He just isn’t lead-off material and if he continued to bat there, he’d just be a detriment to the team.

Atlanta Braves – OF Jeff Francoeur. In his fourth professional season in the majors, one would think that Frenchy would be hitting his stride, adapting to big league pitching and showing all the potential that the team expected of him. However, what we’ve seen is a painful regression that is compounded by the multiple injuries that the team has been facing all over their roster. For the season so far, Francoeur has posted a line of .228 BA/.288 OBP/.350 SLG which is, quite simply put, horrible. What will be interesting to see is how the team will react when arbitration times comes this off-season. Considering the team’s approach to former face-of-the-franchise Andruw Jones, and how much money Francoeur might receive in the process (possibly $3-5 M), could it be possible that the team would just cut him loose? In short, Francoeur …I hope you’re unemployed next season…For everyone’s sake…

Chicago Cubs – RP Bob Howry. On a team that really doesn’t have much disappointment, it’s quite hard to find someone who isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. If Howry is the player that the Cubs have to worry about for the rest of the season, I think that they don’t have much to worry about. Everything about this year screams fluke when you look over just how consistent he’s been during his tenure with the team. This is the first season in five years where Howry has posted a WHIP over 1.15 or even an ERA over 3.40. It’s possible that age has caught up to him, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt considering his reliability over the years. Plus, with a deep bullpen with Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol, Michael Wuertz, etc, the team is deep enough to provide the reliever some relief of his own.

Cincinnati Reds – SP Aaron Harang. After having three great years as the ace of the staff, Harang has struggled this year and simply hasn’t provided the team anything of value. He’s given up a run in every start this season and has given up four or more runs eight times as well. For someone who was looked upon to provide stability to a rotation with many inexperienced players (Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey), he has to be looked upon as a major disappointment for the season. To be honest, I don’t think the Reds have what it takes to be contenders anymore after this season with the jettisoning of Ken Griffey Jr. and the inevitable departure of Adam Dunn after this year. They should consider moving Harang for some offensive help as the team will be in dire need of some punch to the middle of the order.

Colorado Rockies – SP Jeff Francis. Francis is another supposed ace who just hasn’t fulfilled his obligations. I’ve always given some leeway to pitchers operating in Colorado, but his numbers are just horrible across the board. At home, on the road, against lefties, against righties, etc. and in fact, his ERA on the road is almost 50 points higher in comparison to his home numbers. He was put on to the 15-day DL for left shoulder inflammation, from which he’s come back already, so I’m willing to give him a pass and let him try to pitch his way through it, but if he continues to be unproductive, I’m going to assume that 2006-2007 seasons were aberrations rather than this year’s numbers.

Florida Marlins – OF Jeremy Hermida. In what can be considered his third year in the majors, Hermida has yet to turn the corner and show everyone his true potential. His BA is at .260 which would be fine if he were drawing enough walks to bring his OBP to a respectable number but he is failing to do so. He’s also slugging about 70 points lower than he did in 2007 which is mostly based on his decrease in doubles. It’s not that surprising considering they’ve been batting him second and third for most of the season without much protection behind him. I know that if I were an opposing pitcher, I’d take my chances with Mike Jacobs and Jorge Cantu as well. It was good to see Hermida dropped down in the order against the Mets on Sunday as it really takes advantage of his full potential and forces pitchers to throw to him. He responded with a 2-2 night with a walk, sac fly and an RBI. If they continue to leave him there, I think he can continue to post solid numbers batting behind Dan Uggla and Cody Ross.

Houston Astros – SS Miguel Tejada. I would normally have said Roy Oswalt for the biggest disappointment but I’m going to have to point fingers at Tejada for his failure to score in that bandbox they call Minute Maid Park. Considering the Stros gave up players like Luke Scott (.262 BA/.345 OBP/.496 SLG) and Matt Albers (3-3, 3.49 ERA, 1.327 WHIP) for him, you’d expect better production than what he has been giving. Tejada, while batting a respectable .284 has only drawn 20 walks so far this season, leaving his OBP at an anemic .318. Pair that with his sub par 12 homeruns and his slugging percentage is only at .425 (ranking him only fifth among regulars in that category). All of these numbers are significant drops to his 2007 production as well. With his defensive abilities dwindling more and more each year, one has to wonder how much longer he can succeed at SS. Unfortunately, the team doesn’t have many options to place there and there aren’t any major upgrades available in the free agent market so the Astros might be stuck with Tejada for a while. They honestly have no other option other than to play him.

Los Angeles Dodgers – 2B Jeff Kent. It was a tough decision deciding whom to choose among the lackluster players in the Dodgers organization but I finally was able to decide on Kent. With players like Brad Penny and Andruw Jones in contention, it was a tough choice but I think that Kent was the obvious winner. I gave a bye to Penny because of his injury and I can’t be certain that his lack of production wasn’t related to it and Jones sucked last year, so you really can’t be considered a disappointment if you’re comparing it to a horrid season from the previous year. Thus…Kent is my choice. On a team without any notable power threat, the Dodgers obviously thought they could rely on Kent to provide some respectability to the middle of the order. He had a 2007 line of .302 BA/.375 OBP/.500 SLG so it wasn’t like the Dodgers were pulling these expectations out of nowhere but man, did Kent disappoint. He’s currently batting .265 with a weak OBP of .318 and he just isn’t hitting for extra bases (20 doubles, 11 homeruns and 1 triple in 359 AB’s). With the acquisition of Manny Ramirez, the team has alleviated some of the burden off of Kent’s back and allows him to drop down in the order. Retirement looks (or it should be at least) to be on the horizon for the career leader in HR among second basemen.

Milwaukee Brewers – 2B Rickie Weeks. So much potential…wasted. I was tempted to put Eric Gagne in this spot but I just felt bad doing so knowing that his arm is probably being held together by three rubber bands and a piece of Bubblicious (watermelon flavor). Bill Hall was also in the running (it must suck to hit your peak at 26…it’s just disappointment for the rest of your prime years) but alas…Andruw Jones rule (you suck the year before, you don’t count). Now you might say, “But Jesse, Rickie Weeks sucked last year too”, to which I’d reply “Nope. You’re wrong…” Sure his batting average looked miniscule last season, but he supplemented that with a solid OBP (.373 in 2007), hit for nice rate of extra bases (21 doubles, 6 triples and 16 homeruns in 409 AB’s) and stole 25 bases as well. This year, his walk rate has dropped and his extra base power has declined. It looks like the Brewers have gotten wary of this as they acquired Ray Durham during the July trading sweeps and will have them both split time together. Personally, I dig Weeks and want him to succeed, but he just can’t seem to pull it all together. One more season and if he doesn’t man-up…then ship him out.

New York Mets – RP Aaron Heilman. For some reason, Heilman is giving up a higher rate of homeruns this season. He’s already given up more this season than in 06 or 07 and in less innings pitched. I’d normally suggest that he get demoted to a less stressful role in the bullpen. Perhaps something in the fifth or sixth inning, but with the struggles that Duaner Sanchez has been having, the relegation of Pedro Feliciano to be a lefty specialist and the injury to Billy Wagner, the Mets do not have the luxury to do so. In fact, Heilman is the new closer in Wagner’s absence, so one has to hope that Heilman can get back on track in this new, high-impact role. Who knows? Maybe more pressure is what Heilman needs to get his head back on straight.

Philadelphia Phillies – OF Geoff Jenkins. With players like Pat Burrell, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard hitting in front of him, you’d expect Jenkins to get a lot of great pitches to hit. I mean, this is a guy who was productive on some bad Brewers teams with literally nobody around to protect him. He would regularly hit in the 20-30 HR range and have solid walk rates. It’s true that Jenkins hasn’t been an everyday player, but he plays often enough that his numbers should be a lot better than this, especially with that Big Four ahead of him in the line-up. However, Jayson Werth is just out-producing him and it’s time that Werth gets the majority of the AB’s in RF. Late in games, you can then pull him and hustle out Jenkins as a defensive replacement.

Pittsburgh Pirates – 2B Freddy Sanchez. It’s hard to believe that he’s a former batting title champion but you live by the bat and you die by the bat. Sanchez is one of those one-dimensional players that just really can only do one thing well. He’s not an exceptional defender. He doesn’t hit for power. He doesn’t walk. He doesn’t have much base-running ability. He’s simply a guy who can hit. Unfortunately this year, he can’t even do that. What’s even more unfortunate is that he’s predominantly batted first or second in the line-up for the Pirates this season which means they’ve started games with basically one out already on the board. I would take this opportunity to just bench him and play a prospect like SS Brian Bixler more often. While he might be just as bad offensively for the short-term, it would help his development for the long-term. This is a team that’s rebuilding so it doesn’t make sense to send out a 30 year old that can’t do anything worthwhile for your team.

San Diego Padres – SS Khalil Greene. The San Diego Padres are in last place in the NL West…Yes, you read that right. They’re worse than the San Francisco Giants. They have the reigning Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez, career leader in saves Trevor Hoffman, future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, another All-Star pitcher in Chris Young and one game away from the playoffs last year and they’re dead-last in their division. One of the reasons is this man, Khalil Greene. He has been horrid in 2008 and it boggles the mind how he still has a job. He hasn’t had a batting average over .255 since his rookie season (.213 this season), he’s unable to draw walks (.260 OBP in 0Cool and it’s pretty apparent that his power surge last season was an anomaly (.339 SLG this year). He has an OPS under .600 which is pretty hard to do. I think the only other person to do that had one leg and ran the bases with a crutch. It’s time to cut the cord on Greene and send him packing.

San Francisco Giants – SP Barry Zito. Big shock I know…Barry Zito, you suck at life. It’s pretty hard to be worse than you were last year, but you accomplished that! Congrats you tard. It’s pretty sad to imagine but if Zito wasn’t on the Giants, they potentially could be contending in the NL West…Retire already Barry “My Last Name Rhymes With Cheeto” Zito.

St Louis Cardinals – CL Jason Isringhausen. On a team that’s severely overachieving, Isringhausen has been the weak link in the chain. We’re seeing huge seasons from people like Kyle Lohse and Ryan Ludwick and the Cardinals can’t trust in their former All-Star closer to shut the door for them? I don’t know what’s going on with Izzy but when Ryan Franklin has to save your rear, you know that you have problems. The Cards are going to be utilizing a closer-by-committee approach but I’d sever ties with Isringhausen after this season and call up someone in September to audition to be his replacement.

Washington Nationals – OF Wily Mo Pena. He is the epitome of potential not equating to success. You thought Khalil Greene was bad? Wait until you see the season Wily Mo Pena had. His line for the season was an abysmal .205 BA/.243 OBP/.267 SLG. That’s right…he couldn’t even break .300 in slugging! I know I said that I would exclude injury from this list and apparently Pena is revealing that he’s been hurt for the better part of the past two seasons, but these numbers are simply too bad to blame on just a hurt shoulder. To think, he got paid $2 M for production that I could probably eclipse.

So just like last week, hope you enjoyed it and if not, feel free to send me PM’s with any suggestions or helpful tidbits that you think I might be able to use. Also if there are any questions or topics that you want me to touch upon for the next edition, send me those as well.

-Jesse Chin


Posted originally: 2008-08-13 20:17:23
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