Monday, May 20, 2013

5 Players to Worry About

Last week I looked at players who have started slowly but are bound to turn it around. Here are five players who are still struggling and probably won't rebound to the production levels we've come to expect from them:

Jimmy Rollins (.251/.302/.389)
J-Roll's walk rate and contact rates have fallen every year since 2010 while his whiff rate has increased, disturbing trends  for a 34 year-old shortstop. His infield hit rate and stole base numbers are down as well, suggesting that he's lost a step or two.

Paul Konerko (.224/.280/.340)
The 37 year-old is striking out more than ever before, his walks are down, and he's not making nearly as much hard contact. These stats, compiled by ESPN fantasy baseball analyst Tristan Cockcroft, pretty much tell the story here.
2012 first half: .195 isolated power, .223 well-hit average, 10.3 BB%
2012 second half: .174 isolated power, .205 well-hit average, 8.3 BB%
2013 to date: .116 isolated power, .164 well-hit average, 6.2 BB%
This drop-off is more than just a slump: it signifies an erosion in skills.

Josh Hamilton (.216/.271/.351)
Blame the pressure living up to his new contract if you wish, but the truth is that Hamilton has been a bad hitter for almost a full calendar year. From June 1st onward last year, he batted .245 while striking out in 28.7 percent of his plate appearances. So far this season he's been even worse. His walk rate has fallen off a cliff (down to 5.9) percent) and he's still striking out a ton. His pop-out rate has more than doubled. He's chasing way too many pitches out of the strike zone and swinging at the first pitch far too often. Unless he adjusts and corrects those bad habits, he's not going to pull out of this funk.

David Freese (.223/.292/.282)
Freese, an All-Star last year, didn't hit his first home run of the season until last Friday (at least it was a grand slam, so he got the most out of it). That was hardly surprising, though, given his off-the-charts 4.17 GB/FB ratio. He needs to stop pounding the ball into the ground and start elevating it into the air. He is 30, so it could be possible that what we're seeing is the beginning of a downward trend in his career.

Ryan Howard (.245/.282/.430)
It's no secret that Howard's days as an elite slugger are behind him. Since 2011, he's a .229 hitter with a 4.26 K/BB ratio. His walk rate has nosedived down to 5.5 percent and he's swinging the bat more than ever before. His new aggressive approach isn;t paying off though, since his contact rate is down and he's coming up empty more often. It doesn't help that the 33 year-old is completely and utterly helpless against southpaws, too.

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