Big League Stew - MLB

There are 17 players in baseball with at least 95 at-bats and an OPS under .600. Four of them are shortstops: Jimmy Rollins(notes), Orlando Cabrera(notes), Mike Aviles(notes), and Alexei Ramirez. Welcome to the all-shortstop edition of SlumpBot .200.

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies

Data: .195/.231/.268, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB, 2 CS

Malfunction: Nothing is going right for Rollins. With a .499 OPS — less than half that of middle infield mate Chase Utley(notes) — he's one of the worst regulars in baseball right now and he's still hitting leadoff for the defending World Champions. Even his base stealing is out of whack. The one thing keeping him at the top of the lineup? Charlie Manuel has no idea what else to do: "I go over that every night," he told reporters. "You tell me where he can go."

Diagnosis: Among other things, Rollins getting unlucky. His line drive rate (percentage of balls in play that are liners) isn't terrible — 17 percent, below his career 22 percent — but his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) of .215 is 81 points lower than his career .296. His strikeout rate is only a little higher than usual, so he's still making contact. However, he's not walking nearly as much as usual and when he does hit the ball it's not falling.

Reboot Directions: Rollins doesn't look comfortable at the plate, and hasn't been successful on the basepaths, which means that the problems may be partly psychological, and the BABIP issue suggests some of it is bad luck. But there are too many things going wrong all at once for there to be just one answer, and the falloff has been so dramatic as to suggest he may be hiding an injury. His MVP season was almost certainly a career year, but he still ought to be able to put up an .800 OPS, which is more than 300 points away. The team doctors may want to go over him from head to toe.

Who are the four other shortstops in need of SlumpBot's help? 

* * * 

Orlando Cabrera, Oakland A's

Data: .223/.278/.248, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 3 CS

Malfunction: Cabrera isn't a great hitter, and aside from a career year in Montreal he struggles even to be an acceptable one. Last year he OPSed .705, which is tough to swallow even from a middle infielder, and he's 34 years old now. He doesn't exactly stand out in a lineup full of disappointments, including possible summer trade bait Matt Holliday(notes). Still, along with double-play mate Mark Ellis(notes), O-Cab is bringing up the rear.

Diagnosis: Strangely, he has the same number of walks as strikeouts (10), which doesn't often correlate with offensive ineptitude. He has also cut his strikeout rate. But Cabrera's problem is just like Rollins'. His line drive rate and BABIP are much lower than usual, respectively 5 percent and 45 points below his career marks. He's not normally a power guy, but he usually gets at least 30 doubles a year, and it's troubling that he has only three extra base hits, all doubles, with almost a fifth of the season completed.

Reboot Directions: He had a slow start last year, with a .575 OPS through May 11, and then "heated up" to a .741 OPS the rest of the way, not stellar but not tragic. So it could be that he's just starting cold again. For his career he has hit almost identically against righties (.712 OPS) as lefties (.733 OPS), but it may be worth platooning him a bit more frequently to give him rest and time to figure out where all the power went. And, as with Rollins, they also need to make sure he isn't hiding an injury.

* * *

Rafael Furcal(notes), Los Angeles Dodgers

Data: .246/.312/.310, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB, 1 CS

Malfunction: Low average, low OBP, almost no power, more strikeouts than usual.

Diagnosis: His BABIP (.297) is just slightly below his career mark (.317), so he's not getting robbed or unlucky. He's just honestly hitting terribly. But Furcal is a really streaky hitter. Last year, in the first month of the season, Furcal hit .203/.272/.243 and followed that up with .371/.441/.467 for May, then .222/.283/.308 for June. His track record suggests that one bad month doesn't mean a bad full season, but he can just kill a lineup for quite a long time until he turns it around, particularly if he's in one of his homer-happy, swing-at-everything phases. As Joe Torre describes: "I think he just tries to get too big."

Reboot Directions: Right now, Furcal's walking at his usual rate, but he's striking out a ton and hitting for very little power, with fewer line drives than usual, after back surgery last year. He does go through these phases. However, in his last full season, 2007, he had a .687 OPS for the year, and he's now a 31-year-old with a history of back problems, which are known to sap power. Don't expect the moon.

* * *

Mike Aviles, Kansas City Royals

Data: .202/.223/.283, 1 HR, 8 RBI

Malfunction: Last year, after a relatively undistinguished minor league career — including a .680 OPS in AAA in 2006, at the age of 25 — Mike Aviles won the Royals' starting shortstop job midseason and finished with a .325 BA and an .833 OPS, both best in the AL among shortstops with at least 100 games played. Right now, Aviles is hitting a lot more like he did in 2006 than he did in 2008.

Diagnosis: This offseason, Rany Jazayerli wrote that, due to the Royals' lack of organizational depth at shortstop, "Mike Aviles is the most irreplaceable player on the Royals' roster." I think Zack Greinke(notes) might have taken over that role. Right now, Aviles is striking out seven times for every walk, which means that despite his very good 20 percent line drive rate he'll have a tough time keeping his average up. As long as that LD percentage stays constant some hits will start falling, as his .244 BABIP creeps back up to the league average of .300. But it's worrisome that his K-rate has markedly increased — his rate of called third strikes has more than doubled over last year — while his low walk rate has gone down even further.

Reboot Directions: Some of the hits will start falling. But he's going to need to control the strike zone better.

* * *

Jhonny Peralta(notes), Cleveland Indians

Data: .246/.306/.325, 1 HR, 13 RBI

Malfunction: Though he's six for his last nine and 10 for his last 23, from April 19 to May 7, Peralta was in an 8-for-63 slump. Tied with Miguel Tejada(notes) for the most homers for a shortstop from 2005-2008, Jhonny Peralta is a really up and down player otherwise. He's really never been as good as he was in his 2005 breakout — he's never come within 25 points of OBP or 40 points of slugging of his personal bests from that year — but no team can afford for one of their hitters to disappear for three weeks.

Diagnosis: This one's easy: he's striking out too much, almost a third more than usual. Right now, he's striking out 29 percent of the time, which is more than Adam Dunn(notes). Believe it or not, his BABIP is .354, 27 points higher than his career average, and his LD percentage is 3 percent higher than average. That would suggest that he's actually been getting lucky and his results are likely to worsen, despite the fact that his SLG is 100 points below his career average.

Reboot Directions: He cannot have success unless he cuts his strikeouts by a lot. He's 10 for his last 23, but he also has seven strikeouts and no walks over that period. That's very hard to sustain. If he doesn't cut down on the Ks, it'll be a long summer for him.

You can read more of Alex Remington at Chop-n-Change, an Atlanta Braves blog. 

Related Articles

Big League Stew

Add to My Yahoo RSS

Related Photo Gallery

Y! Sports Blog