Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Boom or Bust

The baseball season is more than a quarter done, which officially means "It's early" is no longer an excuse or explanation for the stellar (or less than) play of some surprising individuals around the League. I wanted to take some time to identify some of the biggest surprises and disappointments of the season, with a little GDB-flava thrown in for good measure.

The Good:

Ryan Ludwick, OF, St. Louis
.333, 13 HR, 38 RBI, 31 R
Ludwick was a highly touted prospect...about ten years ago. A string of serious and bizzare injuries kept him out of the majors, but not anymore. Big Stick Ludwick is teaming with Albert Pujols to form one of the more potent 3-4 combo's in the NL, and his play is demanding an everyday spot in a lineup crowded with talented outfielders on the surprising Redbirds club.

Dan Uggla, 2B, Florida
.317, 16 HR, 38 RBI, 40 R
Uggla has been pretty decent during his couple of years in the show, but not like this. If the MVP voting took place today, I have to think this guy would get a couple votes. As is, he's playing well enough to make people forget about his fellow Florida middle infielder, a guy named Hanley Ramirez. The guy has 16 homers, a truly Utley-esque power display from an otherwise power-starved position.

Nate McLouth/Xavier Nady, OF's, Pittsburgh
Combined: .320, 20 HR, 78 RBI, 71 R
Like Mr. Uggla, the amazing numbers these guys have put up so far are making people forget about their more heralded teammate and fellow outfielder, Jason Bay. The Pirates pitching still stinks worse than Nick Bragin's butthole, but these guys are padding their stats and playing for fat paydays in the future, probably hoping to get as far away from the Pitts-burgh as possible.

Honorable Mention: Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas (omitted due to status as #1 overall draft-pick and impressive '07 rookie campaign. Geovanny Soto, C, Chicago (Cubs).

The Bad

Barry Zito, SP(&RP), San Franciso
1-8, 5.65 ERA, 27K, 28BB
I think everyone saw the writing on the wall when SanFran offered up big money to this dude. He became one of the most expensive relievers in history when the Giants demoted him to the bullpen, then plugged him back into the rotation without making an appearance in relief. The once-prized Zito is radioactive in fantasy leagues, and his recent win should hardly be considered the sign of a turnaround in the future.

Jim Edmonds, OF, Chicago (Cubs)
.173, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 R
Look at the stat line above. That is all that Jimmy Ballplayer has been able to put together in 110 at bats. The man who finished 5th in the 2004 MVP voting is a shell of his former self and was cut by the worst team in the league two months into the season. Unlike similarly disappointing Andruw Jones, he doesn't even still have good defense as a selling point. But as a Cardinals fan, I'm happy to see him in a Cub uniform.

Travis Hafner, DH, Cleveland
.217, 4HR, 22 RBI, 19 R
This guy used to post numbers like that in the course of one week. Unfortunately, Dodgers speedster Rafael Furcal has more home runs this season than Hafner...and Furcal has been on the DL since May 6th. I don't know what Pronk's malfunction is, but he is playing like a steamy sack of shit. His dead weight is part of the reason why the Indians have become a massive disappointment.

Honorable Mention: Jim Thome, DH, Chicago (White Sox)

The Ugly

Andruw Jones, OF, Los Angeles (Dodgers)
.165, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 18 R
Jones officially became a huge bust when he went on the DL for knee surgery last week. The same problems that developed in Atlanta followed him to L.A., and now mercifully they will not return for 4-6 weeks. As mentioned above, he has a lone redeeming quality of still playing plus defense. But at age 30, there is no upside left to a bad that has had its pop drained by a decade of grueling major league seasons.

Jason Isringhausen, RP, St. Louis
1-5, 8.00 ERA, 10 Saves, 6 Blown Saves
Izzy is strong as a bull, as evidenced when he pitched most of the 2006 season with his hip out of the socket before being shut down to make way for Adam Wainwright. But this time it wasn't a bad hip but a loss of confidence (and an altercation with a clubhouse flat-screen) that sent him on the DL, but once again the farm system has sent a more-capable-replacement up to replace him: Chris Perez, the AAA Memphis Redbirds closer, who has struck out 5 in 4.2 big-league innings.

Eric Gagne, RP, Milwaukee
1-2, 6.98 ERA, 10 Saves, 5 Blown Saves
I'll give a million dollars to anyone who DIDN'T see this one coming. But unlike a few other underachievers, Gagne has the excuse of not being on the 'roids anymore for his poor performance. The former supercloser sucked just as hard in Milwaukee as he did in Boston. Like Izzy, he has been shut down for the foreseeable future. And like the Cardinals, the Brewers are lucky to have other options (Salomon Torres, Guillermo Mota) available.

Honorable Mention: Eric Byrnes, OF, Arizona

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