The MLB All-Stars have been selected, and there is no shortage of debates on the merits of the players who made the mid-summer squads. Most of the candidates, though, have some merits to debate.
This piece is not about those players.
Here, we turn a harsher spotlight on the players who have suffered through difficult first halves, offering little to no evidence to support a case for All-Star votes. In contrast to the stars that get to shine out in Phoenix next Tuesday, the following men will be referred to as the Dim-Star Teams. Make no mistake, there are a few legitimate stars on these rosters, but it’s hard to convince anyone of that based on their first-half lines.
(All statistics through games of July 6th.)
C—Jorge Posada, Yankees (.236 avg., 9 HR, 29 RBI, .324 OBP)
Hip-Hip-Jorge finally began to heat up in June, but he still rates a place of shame for asking out of a game, suffering from little more than a bruised ego. When he threw a tantrum after being asked to bat ninth on May 14, he was batting .165. He’s hit .308 since, reminding us that motivation is a very mysterious thing.
1B—Derrek Lee, Orioles (.233 avg., 7 HR, 24 RBI, .293 OBP, .351 SLG)
Last year was the first time since 1999 that Lee failed to bat .270, and his weak start to this year seems to show that 2010 was less an aberration and more Father Time making his inevitable rally. The slugging average is especially disturbing from a guy who slugged .521 from 2000 to 2009. Even Lee’s usual 30-plus doubles can’t be counted on at his current pace.
2B—Aaron Hill, Blue Jays (.242 avg., 4 HR, 24 R, .281 OBP, .341 SLG)
Hill’s 2009 power explosion seems like it happened a decade ago. He’s making himself somewhat useful on the basepaths (10-for-10 in steals), but unlike Posada, he didn’t make a June rally. All of his averages dropped from May to June, and the only real bright spot so far is that he’s batted .294 against the Jays’ AL East opponents.
3B—Chone Figgins, Mariners (.183 avg., .231 OBP, .244 SLG, 9 SB, 6 CS)
As an Angel, Figgins was one of the most dangerous offensive players in the game, batting over .290 and stealing 40 bases per year. Since the Mariners paid him handsomely, he’s struggled to get that mojo back. This season, he’s forgotten how to hit any breaking pitches, the kind of problem that gets a player shipped back to Triple-A if he’s not raking $8.5 million.
SS—Reid Brignac, Rays (.187 avg., 9 RBI, .233 OBP, 3 XBH in 160 AB)
Brignac’s never been known for a booming power bat, but many major league hitters could take a bratwurst to the plate and get three extra-base hits in 178 at-bats. Only the fact that his backup, Elliot Johnson, is batting .204 and striking out every third at-bat keeps Brignac in the lineup.
LF—Carl Crawford, Red Sox (.243 avg., 6 HR, 31 RBI, 33 R, 9 BB/46 K, .275 OBP)
Crawford’s rallied after a hideous April in which he batted .155 with one homer. Still, for a $14 million salary that’s going to balloon over $20M next season, Red Sox Nation was wondering what took so long. His hamstring injury could scarcely have come at a worse time. Still, if he ever remembers how to hit lefties (.151 through June), the streaking Boston offense might never cool down.
CF—Alex Rios, White Sox (.216 avg., .266 OBP, .315 SLG, 6 HR, 20 RBI)
Like Crawford, Rios was terrible in April (.163 with 15 strikeouts) and is having serious issues with a particular pitching hand, batting .190 against righthanders. Unfortunately for Rios, there are a lot more righties than lefties in this game. He appears to be letting it get to him, as he’s now incurred Ozzie Guillen’s wrath (I know, join the club) for a lack of basepath hustle.
RF—Shin-Soo Choo, Indians (.244 avg., 5 HR, 28 RBI, 65 K in 266 AB)
Choo batted .250 in April, a decent start by most players’ standards. Then, a DUI arrest put him in a funk that he wasn’t able to pull out of before breaking his thumb a couple of weeks ago. One has to expect that Choo’s luck should get better when he returns. After all, the only way it could get worse is if the South Korean government decides to revoke that military exemption.
DH—Adam Dunn, White Sox (.166 avg., 8 HR, 32 RBI, 110 K in 253 AB)
South Side fans had visions of Dunn stroking 35-plus home runs at the Cell just like he did in Washington and Cincinnati. Instead, they’ve watched him do little more than strike out at a rate that makes Rob Deer look like Joe DiMaggio. He hit lefties so badly that last week, a mere single (only his second off a southpaw this year) touched off a sarcastic standing ovation. Dunn was concerned that he would need to get used to not having to play in the field, but who knew that reducing a player’s workload would end up like this?
SP—Fausto Carmona, Indians (4-10, 5.78 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, .275 BAA, 15 HR allowed in 104.1 IP)
Carmona’s season looked salvageable through April and May. Opposing hitters were batting a reasonable .253 against him, and he was allowing a home run every 36 batters. Then, in June, the Indians’ early-season magic started to wear off and Carmona’s hole only got deeper. His OBA jumped to .336, and he allowed six homers to 128 batters, an average of one every 21.3 hitters faced.
RP—Chad Durbin, Indians (7.01 ERA, .329 BAA)
The Indians were fast out of the gate, but they’ve come back to Earth in June. Durbin’s done the same, just much faster, sort of like a skydiver with a moth-eaten parachute. April was ugly, but he rallied in May (2.84 ERA, .260 BAA). June, however, was a nightmare for Durbin. Hitters lit him up for a .415 average and his ERA was a voluminous 10.38. In his defense, however, he didn’t allow a tater all month and only walked one batter outside of a disastrous game at Yankee Stadium on June 10.
C—John Buck, Marlins (.213 avg., 9 HR, 31 RBI, 60 K in 268 AB, .292 OBP)
Buck’s .281 average with Toronto is now looking like an aberration, as he’s lapsed back into his comfortable .220 range in Florida. His power’s been consistent month to month, as have his frequent strikeouts, but his average jumped to a still-shaky .244 in June. Luckily for him, he’s now in Miami, where he’s seemingly only whiffing in front of 200 or so people per day.
1B—Lyle Overbay, Pirates (.238 avg., .311 OBP, 6 HR, 34 RBI)
Overbay is the typical Pirate free-agent signing, a second-tier player willing to join a downtrodden team for middling money. While the team has made a near-miraculous move up to .500, Overbay has muddled through, stroking the occasional double and being otherwise quiet. Pirates fans may soon be seen at games wearing a No. 37 jersey with a “p” in place of the “b” in Overbay. The less mature may substitute a “g” instead, but let’s not speak of those people.
2B—Dan Uggla, Braves (.183 avg., 14 HR, 32 RBI, .256 OBP, 77 K in 323 AB)
It’s common knowledge that Uggla’s glove is about as soft as a frying pan, but this year, his bat’s been as strong as a dish towel to boot. His strikeout rate is about the only thing that’s rising as the season wears on. If a pitcher throws him a fastball, he’ll kill it, but asking him to hit anything else is like asking a basset hound to speak Latin. A .210 mark against curveballs is the best he’s managed so far.
3B—Miguel Tejada, Giants (.236 avg., 3 HR, .269 OBP, .322 SLG)
Remember Tejada’s days as a 30-HR hitter? Don’t feel bad, neither does anyone else. This season, Miggy’s been nothing but distracted by pesky baserunners, batting only .226 with runners on base and .222 if they’re in scoring position. This one looks like another case of age overtaking ability.
SS—Ian Desmond, Nationals (.216 avg., 3 HR, 22 RBI, .259 OBP, .298 SLG, 79 K in 305 AB)
Odd that Desmond has stolen 20 bases thus far, since it barely seems like he’s been on base 20 times. Desmond has the speed to be a leadoff man, but he’s barely on a nodding acquaintance with the strike zone, chasing a lot of bad cheese outside. Hanley Ramirez got some consideration here, but his .355 and seven RBI in Jack McKeon’s first eight games as manager could be the first signs of his switch being flipped.
LF—Raul Ibanez, Phillies (.236 avg., 10 HR, 40 RBI, .285 OBP)
For a career .280 hitter, this season’s production has been a major letdown. Raul’s been a roller coaster for Phillies fans, suffering through a horrible April, lighting pitchers up in May, then scuffling through June again. He only knocked in five runs in all of June, a figure that he’s almost equaled in the first week of July alone.
CF—Chris Coghlan, Marlins (.230 avg., 5 HR, 22 RBI, 7 SB, 6 CS, .296 OBP)
Coghlan’s 2010 season ended when he tore up his knee trying to give Wes Helms the Cream Pie of Doom. Now, he’s blaming that same knee for his struggles in May and June. Coghlan was strong in April, batting .287 and driving in 16 runs, but he’s batted a flat .200 since and currently sits on the DL rather than at Triple-A New Orleans, where the Marlins were trying to put him.
RF—Jayson Werth, Nationals (.218 avg., 10 HR, 30 RBI, 84 K in 312 AB)
Year One of the Nationals’ “Hell No, We’re Not Cheap” campaign is going reasonably well in the standings, but the team’s not getting a great return on their massive investment in Werth. He hit .287 in May, and looked like he was on his way back from a tough start. The month of June did not stick to that script, seeing Werth slump to a .154 average with 25 strikeouts in only 91 at-bats. The carnage is bad enough that he’s begun to get mental health days, which we could all use every now and then.
SP—Jake Westbrook, Cardinals (7-4, 5.34 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, .301 BAA, 40 BB/52 K in 97.2 IP)
Westbrook’s another player who looked like he was rallying after a harsh April. Hitters batted only .250 off him in May, and he didn’t allow a home run in five starts. When the calendar turned, though, so did Westbrook’s season. The hitters’ average ballooned to .358, his ERA kept hovering around five, and no one was missing anything he threw. As long as Tony LaRussa keeps him away from the Cubs, Nationals, and Padres, he might be okay.
RP—Ryan Franklin, Cardinals (8.46 ERA, 1-for-5 saves, 1.84 WHIP, .367 BAA, .700 SLGA)
Speaking of keeping a pitcher away from somebody, the Cards have decided to keep Franklin away from everyone, as they finally had enough and released him last week. He started badly, blowing a save against the Padres on Opening Day, then never got any better. He faced 133 batters and allowed 20 extra-base hits. Sports psychologists nationwide are probably blowing up Franklin’s cell as you read this, and he might be a difficult patient.