Dustin Pedroia, Ichiro Suzuki, Rafael Furcal among worst hitters since May 15

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I wrote yesterday about how Albert Pujols has recovered from his awful start to lead the entire American League in homers, RBIs, slugging percentage, and OPS since May 15.

Based off that I thought it would also be interesting to look at the least productive hitters during that same span, which accounts for about 70 games.

Braves second baseman Dan Uggla has baseball’s lowest batting average since May 15 at .161, but because he’s hit seven homers and drawn a ton of walks his .647 OPS is only the 26th-worst mark during that period.

Here are the “trailers” in OPS among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances since May 15:

Tony Gwynn Jr.    .549
Clint Barmes      .550
Rafael Furcal     .561
Justin Smoak      .566
Jordan Schafer    .589
Cameron Maybin    .596
Ichiro Suzuki     .596
Dustin Pedroia    .597

Tony Gwynn Jr., Clint Barmes, and Jordan Schafer aren’t surprises, as they’ve never really hit. Justin Smoak has been such a big disappointment that the Mariners demoted him to Triple-A last month.

More noteworthy is the inclusion of former MVPs Dustin Pedroia and Ichiro Suzuki, although Pedroia hasn’t been at full strength health-wise for seemingly the entire season and Suzuki has been unproductive since last year. And while not a former MVP, Rafael Furcal started the All-Star game for the NL less than a month ago.

The standard “small sample size” and “arbitrary endpoints” caveats apply, of course.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.

 

There is a Tyler glut in baseball

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It’s a slow news morning — Miguel Montero is gone and everyone else is quiet — so you should go read Tyler Kepner’s latest column over at the New York Times. It’s, appropriately, about Tylers.

There are a lot of them in baseball now, Tyler notes. No Larrys and hardly any Eddies or Bobs. This obviously tracks the prevalence of the name Tyler in the population at large and the declines in Larrys, Eddies and Bobs. It’s the kind of thing I imagine we’ve all noticed from time to time, and it’s fun to do it in baseball. For his part, Kepner tries to make an all-Tyler All-Star team. The results are sort of sad.

There are always one or two Craigs floating around baseball from time to time, but not many more than that. We got a Hall of Famer recently, so that’s pretty nice. There will likely be fewer over time, as Craig — never even a top-30 name in popularity — is now near historic lows. I’m not complaining, though. I never once had to go by “Craig C.” in class to differentiate myself from other Craigs. Our biggest problem is being called Greg. We tend to let it pass. Craigs are used to it by now.