Hey, I’m just the messenger. Players have bad seasons.
The players below are guys we expected to have good seasons. Some are veterans who might have hit the wall in their 30s. A couple are young guys who didn’t have the projected breakout season. Maybe some played through injuries that affected their production. Some of them still have a chance at redemption with a strong stretch drive or big results in October. If that’s the case, all will be forgiven.
It’s not really fair to include guys with injuries on this list, but there are some mitigating circumstances here. Harvey not only pitched poorly before getting injured — a 5.25 ERA and 16 home runs in 70 1/3 innings — but missed a game after he was spotted partying until 4 a.m. the night before. He initially lied about why he missed the game and was finally suspended for three games for violating team rules. Lame.
As for Syndergaard, you have to question an offseason workout regimen in which he bulked up by 17 pounds. Nothing wrong with getting in great shape, but Syndergaard’s reasoning: “I always want to throw harder.” You throw hard enough! Your next step was to learn the finer points of pitching, not throwing harder. Five starts into his season he went down with a torn lat muscle. In July, he admitted to The New York Times, “I realize now how messed up my body was, and I’m working hard to get it back to normal.”
These three have gone a combined 16-30 with a 5.10 ERA. But Samardzija has an awesome strikeout-to-walk ratio! Here’s how bad the Giants have been, however: Even if this trio were 30-16 instead of 16-30, they’d only be 60-56 and still out of a playoff spot.
Dyson leads major league relievers with seven losses, and while he’s been better with the Giants, his awful April with the Rangers helped torpedo their season. He blew all three of his save chances and lost another game in the ninth inning, going 0-3 as the Rangers dropped all four of those games. He lost two more games in May as the Rangers finally dumped him with a 10.80 ERA.
The Rangers gave up highly touted center-field prospect Lewis Brinson, plus a decent pitching prospect in Luis Ortiz, to acquire Lucroy at the 2016 trade deadline. Lucroy was outstanding down the stretch for the Rangers to help them to the American League West title, but 2017 was a disaster. And as the Rangers plummeted out of the wild-card race, Lucroy was shipped to the Rockies for the lowly player to be named later. Not only has his home run production dropped from 24 to four, but his once-praised framing metrics haven’t rated well either. Among 31 catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, Lucroy ranks 29th in FanGraphs WAR.
This is hard to believe for a player who has won two MVP awards with the Tigers and never finished lower than 13th in the voting since he came to Detroit in 2008, but Cabrera has been one of the least valuable players in the league. He’s hitting .251/.337/.408, but the major league average at first base is .264/.346/.488. So he’s been a below-average hitter for his position combined with below-average defense and poor baserunning, and his Baseball-Reference WAR is minus-0.1. FanGraphs has him at 0.5. He’s essentially been a replacement-level player.
While there’s some evidence of bad luck, Cabrera’s inability to pull the ball is a troubling sign of decay or undisclosed injury. While he’s been one of the best hitters of all time because of his ability to hit with power to the opposite field, he’s pulled just three home runs all season (and hit three to center); in 2016, he pulled 13 home runs and hit 10 to center. And the Tigers will owe Cabrera $184 million over the next six seasons.
2B: Rougned Odor | Texas Rangers
Odor is still just 23 years old, but his game has become so one-dimensional that his future not only as a potential star is now clearly in question, but so is his future as a viable long-term regular. He has 24 home runs, but he’s hitting .215/.254/.417. He doesn’t walk, he hasn’t hit many doubles and his high chase rate means he simply gets himself out too often. The offense he does produce is helped by his home park as he’s hitting .192 on the road, with just 10 of his 24 home runs. The Rangers are counting on him to be a core part as they signed him to a contract that goes through 2023, but a player with a .254 OBP isn’t going to last.
I considered Manny Machado, but he’s been heating up of late and still plays plus defense. Maybe Machado isn’t having an MVP-type season, but he’s still a top-10 third baseman. Franco, on the other hand, is hitting .229/.284/.405, and that poor OBP combined with below-average defense pegs his WAR at minus-0.5. Am I the only one who thinks the Phillies’ rebuilding isn’t going that well?
After a strong debut in 2015, Franco looked like he’d be a key guy, but it’s becoming more likely that he’s not going to be part of the next winning Phillies team. Some of the pitchers have backed up and some of the top guys at Triple-A like J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro haven’t been good. There’s a new wave of prospects in the lower minors, but that means the timetable for contention is pushed back a few more years.
SS: Brandon Crawford | San Francisco Giants
With his Gold Glove defense and enough offense for a shortstop, Crawford ranked 23rd among all position players in WAR over 2015-2016. He’s stopped hitting this year, however, as his OPS has dropped over 120 points. His defensive metrics are still solid, but not spectacular. A lot has obviously gone wrong for the Giants, but Crawford’s decline from underrated star to mediocre veteran is also potentially problematic because his salary increases in 2018 to $15.2 million — which he’ll make for the next four seasons.
Honorable mention: Dansby Swanson. I wasn’t high on him, but I certainly didn’t expect him to hit his way back to Triple-A.
There are many candidates to choose from here, including some high-priced vets who haven’t been any good such as Alex Gordon (0.4 WAR), Matt Kemp (-0.6 WAR) and Ian Desmond (-0.9 WAR). Ouch. But Gordon was bad last year, we already knew Kemp had defensive flaws, and Desmond was way overpaid. Schwarber, coming off his World Series heroics, was supposed to be special with the bat, which is why the Cubs kept him even with obvious defensive concerns. He’s better than the .193/.307/.429 line he’s put up, but with 105 strikeouts in 89 games, he’s going to have figure out an approach that works better for him.
Maybe it’s unfair to compare a player to his draft and prospect pedigree, but that’s the case with Buxton. He’s an elite defender and 19-for-20 on the basepaths, but he hasn’t carried over his monster September from 2016 when he hit .287 with nine home runs. There have been some improvements in walk and strikeout rate, but he’s still fanning 30 percent of the time and has just five home runs. He’s only 23 so a breakout is still possible, but it looks like he’s going to be great-field, mediocre-hit at best.
RF: Carlos Gonzalez | Colorado Rockies
He’s 155th of 159 qualified regulars in OPS+. His WAR is minus-1.6. He doesn’t run anymore. Baseball reality: When you start to go downhill, you can fall off a cliff.
Remember when a big offseason story was, “How come nobody wants to sign Mark Trumbo?” Coming off that 47-homer season, Trumbo didn’t get the mega-contract he sought and slinked back to the Orioles on a three-year deal. He’s on pace for 24 home runs and his slugging percentage is down 130 points. Apparently everyone knew what they were doing in not paying for his 2016 numbers.