Friday, June 10, 2011

When Is a Bust a Bust?

Several teams made big moves during the off season and signed talent they hoped would lead them to greater glory. Some, like Lance Berkman, have paid off. Others have mostly paid off, like Cliff Lee. But some have been downright scary in how poorly they turned out. We are now seventy-one days into the major league season. When is a bust a bust? Is it still too early to tell? Is the sample size still too small? If so, then perhaps this post can be about potential busts instead of outright busts. No matter how you call it, the following players have been drags to their new teams.

Dan Uggla. The Braves were soooo happy to get Dan Uggla in the off season. Here was a guy with noted and consistent pop playing a position that doesn't have many sluggers. The Braves were so happy that they rewarded Uggla with a fat five year contract. But Uggla has been disappointing on many levels, and yes, that is an understatement. His current slash line is from your worst nightmare: .170/.235/.304. Fangraphs has him pegged at -0.9 WAR. That's ugly. Uggla's walk rate is way down. After three years of 12.4, 13.8 and 11.6 percent respectively, Uggla's walk rate is down to 7.6 percent.

Again, is this officially a bust or is it too early yet? Well, there is the matter of Uggla's BABIP, which is an ungodly low of .184. You would have to think that would even out over the long haul. But BABIP is such a tricky issue. Uggla's infield fly ball rate is double his career norms. That's not bad luck. His ground ball percentage is up from a career average of 38.1 percent to 45.9 percent this year. His line drive percentage is the lowest of his career. So it's hard to point to BABIP for this horrid start for Uggla. If Uggla were to hit a solid .300 from today until the end of the season, he would only raise his batting average to .241. Yes, we are getting pretty close to bust time and it's not like Uggla has a history of getting hot in the second half.

Adam Dunn. Dunn is another one without a history of slow starts and big finishes. His monthly average for hits, homers and the like are consistent over the months of his career seasons. That makes his recent start with the White Sox that much closer to bust status. His slash line is better than Uggla's but not by much: .178/.318/.325. His 15.5 percent walk rate helps, but he is such a bad base runner, that his walks lose some value with him on the bases. As a DH, his only job is to hit. He isn't hitting and he is only on pace to hit 18 homers. Since the guy has averaged 38 homers since forever, that's mighty troubling. Dunn's strikeout rate is the highest of his career, his ISO the lowest. His infield fly out rate is two and a half times what it was a year ago. The White Sox are simply snake bit in the DH position.

Dunn did hit a homer yesterday, so that's at least good news.

Aubrey Huff and Miguel Tejada: Re-signing Huff and signing Tejada were a couple of the few off-season moves by the Giants. Huff proves the Fan's old adage: When you find lightning in a bottle with a cheap off season signing, don't ever make the mistake of giving that cheap hurrah a good contract the following year. Of all regular players, that is players who currently qualify for the batting title, Huff is the second least valuable player in baseball and Tejada is fourth. That's not good. The pair have identical .223 batting averages and Tejada has a .246 on base percentage while Huff sits at .286. Huff at least has an OPS of .957 so far in June. So perhaps he can contribute the rest of the way. But he has a long way to go to come close to earning his $11 million in salary. Signing Tejada was simply dumb. He hasn't been a valuable player for years now.

Mark Reynolds: The Orioles hoped they could fix Mark Reynolds when they got him from the Diamondbacks. And indeed, his strikeout rate is markedly down. It's safe to say he won't break his own record this season. And he adds value with his patience at the plate and power. His ISO, wOBA and wRC+ are at acceptable levels despite his continuing batting average south of .200. What makes this acquisition close to being in the bust column is that his fielding has simply vanished. Miguel Tejada wasn't any great shakes as a third baseman for the Orioles, but Reynolds' glove thus far makes Tejada look like Brooks Robinson. Reynolds has a negative WAR of -0.2.

Other batting busts or heading in bust territory: Yuniesky Betancourt. But it's not like much was expected there. Vernon Wells. Good golly. What were the Angels thinking? Lyle Overbay. The Fan really thought Overbay was going to have a big season. Not yet anyway. And, of course, Chone Figgins is the bust that keeps on giving for two seasons now.

No comments: