Data: .310/.395/.448, 10 HR, 68 RBI
Malfunction: Those numbers would be pretty good for mere mortals. Unfortunately, Wright plays in a city where he's not allowed to be ordinary, and in a new stadium where he apparently can't homer even though it's tough to homer there. After hitting 70 homers in five years at Shea, Wright has only hit five homers at Citi Field in 2009. Like his team, he's also stumbled to the finish line, as he's batting .235 with a .635 OPS in September. Wright, like every other Met, must really want the year to be over.
Diagnosis: Wright's average and OBP are fine. The only thing out of whack is his slugging, but that has diminished sharply. Since joining the team on July 11, Jeff Francoeur(notes) has seven homers, more than anyone else on the Mets, Wright has just five, and Daniel Murphy(notes) has six. Wright has still produced a gaudy batting average and OBP, but the lack of fireworks is still notable, as is the difference in expectation. Francoeur was acquired for very little (Ryan Church(notes)) while Wright is the team's biggest star and anything less than continued .300/30/100 production is seen as a disappointment. It's true that Wright is hitting far worse at Citi than he did at Shea. After posting a .958 career OPS at the Mets' old park, he's just managed a paltry .804 OPS at Citi. In fact, other than his homer outage, his production on the road is about as good as it's ever been: an .881 OPS this year, virtually identical to the .887 OPS he's put up over his career. Over the past month, though, nothing's working: just three multi-hit games, and just five extra-base hits. He's clearly tired and worn out. Considering his impressive resume and still young age, exhaustion is a much likelier explanation than diminished skills.
Reboot Directions: After a deeply disappointing year, during which nearly every other significant Met missed far more time than he did, he may have simply worn down from the pressure of trying to be a teammate-less hero. There's a lot less reason to believe in Omar Minaya's future than David's. He's a good bet for a rebound year next year — I mean, even with all the guff fans have given him, he's still hitting .310. Wright doesn't deserve the flak.
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Data: 15-12, 3.98 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
Malfunction: One of 2009's unlikeliest first-time All-Stars, the 31-year old Marquis has been a big key to the Rockies' resurgence and playoff push. He's already tied his career high in wins, and is on pace to finish with a sub-4.00 ERA for just the second time in his career as a starter. Marquis has always been a pitcher whose stuff far outpaced his results and his trademark inconsistency has cropped up again of late with a 6.28 ERA in September. He's given up at least five runs in five of his last 10 starts.
Diagnosis: His velocity is down. In early August, he sat comfortably in the low 90s, topping out at 93, with his fastball, four-seamer, and sinker. In his most recent start, he sat around 89, topping out at 91.6. In addition, he's been walking a lot more people recently. He's walked 19 people in his last five starts, after walking 19 in the ten previous. A guy who is experiencing reduced velocity and diminished control at the end of the year, after pitching 200 innings for the first time in five years... that could be worrisome. Then again, Marquis has always been a first-half pitcher, with an ERA seven tenths of a run higher before the break — he's at 4.16 in the first half, 4.87 in the second half for his career. So this isn't the first time he's struggled as the year wore on. But he's not giving his playoff-bound team much reason for confidence.
Reboot Directions: Marquis was over his head in the beginning of the year, riding 11 wins and a 3.65 ERA into the All-Star Game but unable to keep up that level of protection the whole year. Still, the drop in velocity and control problems suggest that the Rockies may want to handle him with kid gloves. His arm may well be tender after 200 innings in thin air. They should make sure that he's not injured — and, if he is, they should make sure they know that before they give him the ball in a short series.
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Data: .245/.326/.443, 27 HR, 64 RBI, 20 SB
Malfunction: My fellow Big League Stew blogger Curtis Granderson has not exactly had a September to remember. He's just batting .181, with a .566 OPS since the first of the month. He still plays terrific defense in one of the most important spots on the diamond, but this isn't exactly the way he would have wanted to prepare for the playoffs. His OPS has taken major dives in each of the past two years — from .913 in 2007 to .858 last year to .769 this year, a disturbing trend. Will he be able to turn things around for the rest of the month and beyond?
Diagnosis: Unsurprisingly, his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) has decreased at the same time as his OPS. His career year in 2007 was aided by an otherworldly .360 BABIP, which dropped to .316 last year and is at .273 this year. When he has hit the ball, it's gone far, as he's set a new career high in homers. Still, he continues to strike out around twice as often as he walks, and when he's not hitting for average — particularly when he's in a slump as bad as he has been this month — that can be a problem.
ESPN's Rob Neyer is convinced he knows the problem:
"It's fairly obvious what's happened: Granderson is hitting more fly balls. There's nothing exceptional about his strikeout or walk rates. But nearly 50 percent of his batted balls have been fly balls, after entering this season with a career rate slightly higher than 40 percent. More fly balls means more home runs, but they also mean (typically) a lower batting average."
Reboot Directions: Hitting fewer fly balls could certainly help. The BABIP will almost certainly improve next year, making his overall numbers look better. But a little rethinking of Granderson's potential may also be in order. His career year in 2007 was significantly helped by a BABIP that he's not likely to repeat, and fans would do well not to expect those numbers — or a batting average over .300 — on a yearly basis. He's a useful offensive player, but he's not a slugger. The more fans adjust their expectations, the more likely he is to meet or exceed them.
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Fausto Carmona, Cleveland Indians It's looking more and more like the Fausto Carmona of 2007 is a mirage, never to return. The current Carmona isn't always a disaster — he had a 2.79 ERA over five starts from July 31 to August 23 — but since then he's given up 26 earned in 22 2/3, and opponents are OPSing over 1.000 against him. He doesn't strike people out, his control isn't great, and his once-otherworldly sinker is deserting him, as his groundball to flyball ratio has decreased from 1.82 in 2007 and 1.8 in 2008 to just 1.2 this year. If his pitches aren't sinking, what does he have left?
Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants Matt Cain is busy putting together the best season of his career, but I'm sure he'd like a mulligan on the last couple weeks. With his team's playoff hopes fading fast, he's been pitching like a guy who doesn't have a whole lot left in the tank, a 6.91 ERA in his last five starts. This is his fourth straight season with more than 190 innings, and he won't turn 25 for another week. The Giants have ridden their baby aces hard the last couple years. It might be time to rein them in.
Kosuke Fukudome, Chicago Cubs You can write a script for a Fukudome season — a torrid April, followed by slump after slump. In September, he has gone 15-for-81, good for a .185 average and .574 OPS. He also hasn't homered in more than a month. All told, he's hit modestly better this year than last year, upping his OBP by 16 points and his slugging by 32, but few North Siders would argue he's earned the $11.5 million his contract paid this year, or have much faith that he'll be worth the $26.5 he's still owed through 2011. All in all, his offensive profile hasn't much changed from 2008: he has a very good walk rate but below-average home run power, and good range for right field but not great in center. Those walks and his gap power make him useful, but he isn't a star and shouldn't be getting paid like one.