Which men of misery prevented their teams from escaping the murky waters of suckitude?
My semiannual Replacement-Level Killers series spotlights the worst holes in contenders' lineups, as well as the possible remedies they might take to avoid letting such subpar production destroy their post-season chances the next time around. I make no claims for this companion series being so noble in purpose. Because bad baseball so often makes for good copy, it's more fun to hunt the fish at the bottom of the major-league barrel to find the positions where players' contributions could be considered the worst in the majors. What follows is an "all-star" team of players who have produced tornado-level disasters amid their lineups, often at salaries that represented far more than just a soft breeze running through their team's bank account. Once again, I present the Vortices of Suck.
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Which players is Jason avoiding, despite their recent success?
The 2011 season has seen its share of odd moments already. Jose Bautista’s slugging percentage is higher than Albert Pujols’ OPS right now; Vernon Wells, Carl Crawford, and Alex Rios have three of the worst OPS in all of baseball; guys like John Lackey, Carl Pavano, and Edinson Volquez all have ERA over 5.00 following the “year of the pitcher”. One of the worst things fantasy players can do is run out and acquire players via trade or free agency based on small sample sizes or news bits that flash across the screen, just because they look intriguing. Here are four players I recommend you stay away from despite their recent success, as you have likely already missed their good production, and will only be saddled with headaches.
Brian Bogusevic, Alex White, and two Giants infielders make the most of other people's injuries, the Dodgers swap backup catchers, the Snakes switch futilitymen, and the Padres ponder their first base future.
Should these Pluto-cold under-performers from the NL stay or should they go?
After I expressed impatience with Miguel Olivo’s slow start in yesterday’s column, he muscled up and laid a 3-for-4, all singles, performance on the Tigers in the Mariners’ 10-1 victory. He now carries lofty .217/.263/.290 rates into his next start. The most horrifying thing about those rates is that Olivo is now just .019 away from his career on-base percentage. Imagine Ted Williams having a bad year and reaching base only 46 percent of the time instead of 48 percent. That’s Olivo now. As such, it is probably no longer fitting that we retain Olivo on the list of springtime slumpers, as by his own standards he’s just a little bit off. Unfortunately, we still have several ice-cold players to be frustrated with, among them this group culled from the National League.
Chris Johnson, Astros-3B: .190/.238/.278
There is a famous moment in Casablanca when Claude Rains says, “Round up all the usual suspects.” Johnson is one of the usual suspects. He was an over-age rookie at 25, had hit .277/.315/.429 in the minors, and benefitted from a .387 average on balls in play in the major leagues. His regression was among the most predictable developments of the past offseason.
Trading an immediate post-rookie like Johnson on the basis of a statistically- or scouting-based intuition would be dangerous for most general managers, but I wish there were more examples of this kind of trade, in which the selling GM gambles that the Latest Fashion is a flash in the pan and the acquiring GM bets that he is not. I’m sure there have been such trades in the past, but I can’t think of any. Walt Dropo won the 1950 Rookie of the Year award for the Red Sox hitting .322/.378/.583 with 34 home runs and a league-leading 144 RBI, but he was 27 and his minor-league numbers weren’t nearly that good. What if they had dealt him then? In 1984, Dan Gladden came up to the Giants when Jack Clark got hurt and hit .351/.410/.447 in half a season. He was 26, and though he had hit .300 in the minors, he did it in the hothouse hitting environment of Phoenix. He wasn’t a bad player in the long run, but he also didn’t come within 50 points of that average over the rest of his career, hitting .264 from then on. What if the Giants had moved him for the best possible return that winter, when someone might have perceived him as a star?
The NL West is home to a variety of offensive setups, but all five teams better hope things change sooner than later.
Colorado owes much of its hot start to the double play combination of Jonathan Herrera and Troy Tulowitzki. One of these names should come as no surprise. In our preseason predictions, Baseball Prospectus staffers picked Tulowitzki to finish second in NL MVP voting.