Monday, June 01, 2009

Rubbernecking Car Wrecks

You have all experienced it at least once in your life. You are on vacation and driving to your destination, or you are trying to get out of the city on a Friday afternoon during rush hour, or you are on an usually quick flying road when all of the sudden you come upon a traffic jam. Cars are backed up for three lanes as far as the eye can see. After an hour or two creeping and creeping along you finally see blue flashing lights up in the distance. After more creeping, you can finally see the cause of all the trouble: A car wreck. All that stupid traffic was caused by thousands of motorists slowing down to gawk at the accident despite themselves. And as much as you criticize all those fellow drivers, you too do the same thing. It's also what happens at the race track. Cars start skidding and before you can say, "Crash!" race car parts start flying in all directions. Despite the danger so present for those drivers, the spectators can't look away. There are several of those car wrecks in Major League Baseball right now.

Some players, big names and others, are playing so spectacularly awful that it becomes fascinating. And though we want to be human and feel sympathy for those struggling so horribly, we ogle the new box scores just to see if their misery continued. We are strange creatures, we humans. We are inspired by success stories, but we are downright, bug-eyeingly fascinated with failure. It's why in golf, for example, that Greg Norman's collapses in majors are just as remembered as Tiger Woods' triumphs. And we'll all remember when that French guy totally blew the British Open, right?

And so it is in Major League Baseball. As much as we awe and gush about Greinke, Santana, Gonzalez and Teixeira, we also rubberneck at the likes of David Ortiz, Brian Giles and Jimmy Rollins as they crash into the wall like a Jeff Gordan racer. Heaven knows, the Fan has been fascinated to the point of the blood quickening at the thought of checking their box scores to see if their misery continued. And amazingly or sickeningly, the misery has continued. Let's look at a few.

David Ortiz has been the most publicized car crash. The fall from grace and the rarefied air that surrounded him has been stunning. He was the biggest fish outside of Miami. Everyone KNEW he was going to come through when the game was on the line. It was destined. It was expected. And it always seemed to happen. Now, he can't hit his way out of the old paper bag. Ortiz has six hits in his last forty-five at bats. That's a .133 clip. He has struck out sixteen times during that run. His average has shrunk to a paltry .185 for the year. Ortiz has a lifetime Slugging Percentage of .545. He currently sits at .283. He has a lifetime OPS of .923. He sits at .569. But it goes even beyond that. He was a clutch player. His lifetime .301 Batting Average with runners in scoring position show that. His .934 OPS in that situation is higher than his career totals. Those numbers went off the charts from 2003 through 2007. This year, he is batting .193 in those situations. For his career, Ortiz has struck out in roughly 18% of his plate appearances. This year the number is 23%. It's been fascinating, captivating and nobody knows what is going to happen from here.

Brian Giles is a two time All Star. His career numbers are: .292/.401/.505. Even last year, at the age of 37, Giles put up these numbers: .306/.398/.456. But this year, he's been a car wreck. His current line sits at: .193/.284/.287. At .571, his OPS is just two points higher than that of Ortiz. What is even more scary is that just ten days ago, his average was sitting at .168! Like the Red Sox, who stuck with Ortiz in the #3 spot in the lineup for the longest time, Giles was the Padres' leadoff batter all year. That has to be excruciating. A typical leadoff batter scores in about 62% of his games. Giles was respectable last year, scoring in 55% of his games. This year, he's scored in 25% of his games. That's really harmful for the Padres. The other day, the Fan suggested that the Padres try Tony Gwynn Jr. in the leadoff spot for a while. Looking like a genius, the Padres did just that today and Gwynn went two for four with a run scored. That had to be a relief to the Padres. But the rubbernecking did continue. Giles came up as a pinch hitter and grounded out to the shortstop.

Two years ago, Jimmy Rollins won the MVP. As the Phillies' leadoff batter, he batted .296 with an .875 OPS. He had 38 doubles, 20 triples and 30 homers. He scored an amazing 137 runs that season. Last year, his OPS slipped to .786 but he still finished strong and stole an amazing 47 bases in 50 attempts. He won his second Gold Glove along the way. This year, Rollins has been a car wreck. His Batting Average is .226, his On Base Percentage is .276 and his OPS is sitting at .621. Again, the leadoff batter does a lot to set up the team's offense. Plus, Rollins has already been caught stealing more times this year than he was all of last year. To add to the misery, his range factor this year is off significantly from years past. The rubbernecking continued as Rollins went 0-4 on Sunday.

1 comment:

Josh Borenstein said...

I can see Rollins recovering. Ortiz looks like he's finished. Coincidence that he loses it after Manny leaves? It's hard to believe Brian Giles actually hit .306 last year.