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.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.