Beginning the season in a 9-for-63 (.143) slump is bad enough, but yesterday Brad Hawpe’s early struggles extended to his defense at first base, as his misplay contributed to the Braves’ five-run inning in a 7-0 defeat of the Padres.
Hawpe had started a grand total of eight career games at first base prior to this season and any problems there defensively are no doubt being magnified by the fact that he’s replacing two-time Gold Glove winner Adrian Gonzalez.
Stepping into Gonzalez’s shoes no doubt isn’t helping Hawpe’s cause offensively either, although there isn’t much of a cause to begin with at this point. Not only is he hitting just .143 through 21 games, Hawpe has zero homers and four walks versus 23 strikeouts, leading to a hideous .382 OPS. To put that into some context, considering that NL pitchers have a .326 OPS.
Hawpe is coming off a career-worst season with the Rockies and his raw numbers with Colorado were always inflated by Coors Field, but he’s still a career .269 hitter with an .829 OPS on the road and for a modest $3 million investment he seemed like a worthwhile pickup for the Padres.
Instead he’s been perhaps the worst player in baseball through four weeks and is in danger of being replaced.
For a few days, it looked like Aaron Judge was finally hitting his stride in the postseason. He was still striking out at a regular clip, piling more and more strikeouts atop the 16 he racked up in the Division Series, but he was mashing, too. He engineered a three-run homer during Game 3 of the Championship Series, followed by another blast and game-tying double in Game 4. His one-out double helped pad a five-run lead in Game 5, while his 425-footer off of Brad Peacock barely made a dent during a 7-1 loss in Game 6. And then Lance McCullers‘ curveball found and fooled him, as it did five of the 14 batters it met in Game 7:
The strikeout was Judge’s first of the evening and 27th since the start of the playoffs. No other major league batter has racked up that many strikeouts in a single postseason, though Alfonso Soriano’s 26-strikeout record in 2003 comes the closest. Within that record, Judge also collected three golden sombreros (four strikeouts in a single game), narrowly avoiding the dreaded platinum sombrero (five strikeouts in a single game).
It’s an unfortunate footnote to a spectacular year for the rookie outfielder, who decimated the competition with 52 home runs and 8.2 fWAR during the regular season and was a pivotal part of the Yankees’ playoff run. Thankfully, the image of McCullers’ curveball darting just under Judge’s bat won’t be the image that sticks with us for years to come. Instead, it’ll look something like this: