Take me to the River
The first two months of the season are winding down and most players
are either near their career norms or headed that way. But there
are some players who are inexplicably well below expectations.
Here is a list of some of the more obvious examples and my diagnosis of
what has gone wrong.
Monroe has been a terror on lefties for his entire career. Even
in his brief exposure in the majors - just a little over a season - he
has a .895 OPS against
Last year, he hit .293 with an OPS of .968 against them. It has
right-handers that he has struggled with, hitting a paltry .206 with a
.595 OPS against. This year, he's fallen through Alice's looking
glass and is temporarily trapped in a bizarro reverse world. He's
hitting .306 vs right handers, .167 vs lefties.
Fortunately, the sample is small and Monroe has a history of strong
second half performance. He will see a lot of left-handed
pitching in his division and his solid showing against
right-handers thus far may be an indication that he's ready for
Two things to know about Millar: he is a streaky hitter and for the
last three years, he's hit over .300 with men on base. So far
this season, he's not hitting with men on base and appears to be in one
of his 2-3 month long slumps. It happens. However, it
shouldn't be permanent. When he starts hitting, it comes in
floods as it did in 2002 when he hit over .375 in August and
September. There is a concern if the Red Sox sign Raul Mondesi as
to how he will get playing time, especially when Trot Nixon comes back,
but if they do sign him, it may be more of a sign of concern about
Nixon's health than it is about Millar's current lack of
There doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with
Fullmer. His surgically repaired knee certainly wasn't bothering
him in spring training when he hit .391. The biggest change
appears to be the way pitches are starting him off in the at bat.
Last year he hit .448 on the first pitch. The year before,
.378. This year, he's hitting .250. Opposing pitchers are
either starting him off with junk or stuff off the plate. The
deeper into the count, the less comfortable and less aggressive he
to be. He's been pretty good at making adjustments in his career
and the improved walk/strikeout rate should end up being a bonus.
He's a good rebound candidate.
I was surprised to see just how close to the plate Jeter is standing
these days and just how obstinate he appears to be about making an
adjustment. Pitchers are busting him inside with just about
everything and he can't get the barrel of the bat on anything but bad
mistakes. Jeter won't continue to hit .200 the rest of the
season, but unless he moves back from the plate a little, he won't come
anywhere near .300.
There was a time when Kotsay looked like he was going to develop into a
star, but back troubles have derailed that train and this may be all
we're left with. Now it is his knee that is causing problems and
just doesn't appear to be any end to the nagging injuries. The
and skills are there but his body just doesn't appear to be capable of
coping with the stress and strains of being an everyday player.
He'll probably be more productive as a
Williams missed almost all of spring training after his emergency
appendectomy and basically used the first month of the
season as his spring training against competition that was already at
speed. No wonder scouts said his bat speed looked slow.
at his May numbers - .276 average, .802 OPS, 3 homers - shows a player
who may be finally returning to form. The days off from playing
when he DHs should help him stay healthy. While a return to his
levels might be a bit much to expect - .303, 23 homers - something in
the .290s and high teens in homers is a very real possibility.
Likewise, Mark Teixeira, Jerry Hairston, Ben Broussard and Desi
Relaford should rebound
from their early season injuries.
Simply put, Matos isn't as good as he looked last year. He had
hit better than .300 before last season at any level. While his
strikeout rate has always been pretty good, his walk rate has never
been: he's never topped 40 walks in any season. His power
also somewhat of a surprise as he's topped 10 homers in a season just
once, back in 1999 as a 20 year old split between over 550 at bats in
the Carolina League and the Eastern League. The speed is real,
anything more than 15 homers will be a surprise this year.
A cold start by Ensberg and a hot start by Mike Lamb limited Ensberg's
opportunities, but his bat is starting to come around. The
projections for 30 home runs were probably overly optimistic and based
more on his 8-homer output in June of last year than his
2-4 homers in four other months. He'll hit, but a home run total
around 18-20 is where he should finish.
I have absolutely no idea why Derrek Lee isn't hitting up a storm in
Chicago. True, he has a history of slow starts, but that usually
takes the form of a low batting average, not a lack of power. He
is on pace to set a career record for doubles, so maybe the power is
still there but the line-drives aren't quite carrying out of the
park. Still, moving from one of the toughest parks for hitters to
one that has been historically good for them should have helped more
than it has. There's just no reason for his lack of power thus
far, so it's a good bet to be a mirage and we'll see a strong finish
This is the first year since 1994 that Jones has suffered any
significant injuries. Hamstring injuries affect hitters in
different ways and tend to linger a bit even after the player returns
to action. With Jones, it appears to be his ability to reach
pitches on the outside half of the plate that has been most affected so
while he should be decent from here on out, slight drops in his final
batting average and power numbers are a reasonable expectation.
Like Derrek Lee, Jenkins home run power has been noticeably absent, but
his power overall is still there. It's just taking the form of a
career pace in both doubles and triples. The triples are
surprising since he's never hit more than 4 in a season and he's on
pace for 11. He will revert to being Geoff Jenkins soon: home
runs, nagging injuries and everything.
Klesko appears to be the first hitting victim of Petco. In the
first homestand, he absolutely crushed several pitches that in any
other ballpark would have been in the seats. But in Petco they
fell short of the fence. The cool, heavy sea air at night was the
culprit and Klesko has let it get to him. The weather will warm
up in San Diego and the ball will travel a little better in June, July
and August. But the damage to his confidence appears to be
done and it may take a trade to get it back. His game is better
suited to the American League where he can DH and play first or
outfield occasionally and the Padres are rumored to be looking to make
such a deal. The change will go a long way to fixing him.
Jose Vidro/Orlando Cabrera
Many pundits said the Expos would miss Javier Vazquez more than Vlad
Guerrero, but that doesn't appear to be the case. The concept of
line-up protection has been debated extensively - although there has
never been a study that looks at the effects on all hitters, only the
effect on star hitters - but this might be a case where Vidro and
Cabrera are pressing to make up for the absence of Guerrero, especially
with Carl Everett being out of the line-up so much. This may be
an issue all year as Everett isn't the type of hitter you build a
line-up around, although both hitters should see at least some rebound
the rest of the way. Assuming the Expos end up in the DC area
next year, both Vidro and Cabrera will rebound with a financially more
robust line-up around them.
I mentioned this in my NL preseason preview, but guys who have a career
slugging percentage in the .350s who suddenly and unexpectedly slug
.500 don't usually continue to slug .500. Cintron's average is
than expected, but the power is about right.
one guy who doesn't yet have a league...
that have been mentioned most prominently in the pursuit of Mondesi,
the Os make the
most sense. They would be able to DH Gibbons full-time (thus
him healthier) and trade either Brian Roberts or Jerry Hairston for
some pitching help. It would also give them the best defensive
outfield in the American League. Adding Mondesi makes short-term
in Anaheim, but when Tim Salmon, Darin Erstad and Garrett Anderson
return, someone who is accustomed to playing regularly will have to sit
the bench. Signing Aaron Boone makes much more sense for the
In Boston, Mondesi would move Millar to first base temporarily until
Trot Nixon returns, and then Nixon to DH, David Ortiz to first and
Millar to the bench. It helps their outfield defense but it's
questionable how much it helps them overall. Millar's
career on base
percentage is almost 30 points higher and their career slugging is
almost identical. It also puts Ortiz' limited range at first in
more often. And if Red Sox fans aren't complaining enough about
lack of clutch hits from non-Vartiek/Ortiz/Manny hitters now, wait 'til
they get a few months of Mondesi, who has still never driven in 100
runs in a season despite playing for some pretty good teams. The
Cardinals also appear to be a decent fit but the NL team that has the
best fit for him is the Giants. However, it's doubtful he'll sign
with a team that has almost no chance at making the postseason.