Using the best technology available to us, SlumpBot .200 identifies a few players who are currently having a bit of trouble and then offers solutions for performance recovery.
Data: .260/.330/.344, 4 HR, 28 RBI
Malfunction: The biggest malfunction may be his contract. He's making $18 million this year for a team in GM's hometown that's also paying $10 million to Dontrelle Willis(notes) and already had to swallow Gary Sheffield's(notes) $13.6 million contract. Sheffield, meanwhile, already has 10 homers and an .868 OPS for the injury-ravaged Mets. But the unfortunate money issues exacerbate the fact that Maggs has been awful this year. The Tigers should be hoping for a bailout.
Diagnosis: His Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is .298 and his line drive rate is 17 percent — both are slightly below his career average, but not overly so, and neither number is beyond the pale by itself. He's striking out more than usual but still less than most. The biggest problem is his power outage — his home run rate taken a nosedive and his extra-base hit rate is less than half what it was last year. Right now, he's an $18.5 million singles hitter. Is it age? Injury? Something else?
Reboot Directions: The Tigers have tried a lot of solutions: Benching him indefinitely, changing his haircut, and most recently platooning him in right field with Clete Thomas(notes) (who isn't exactly a worldbeater himself). "Everything was about timing. I have the same bat speed," he told MLive.com. The Tigers had better hope so, or they may need to think about transitioning from a platoon to a permanent pinch-hitter role.
Who else is SlumpBotting these days?
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Data: .262/.326/.528, 20 HR, 50 RBI
Malfunction: Nelson Cruz was one of the best stories of the first two months of the season — he was AL player of the month for May — but he's quietly been pretty awful since the calendar hit June: a .267 OBP and 107 at-bats. His OPS has dropped 100 points since then, as he's managed six homers but precious little else. Cruz isn't doing as badly as teammate Chris Davis(notes), who literally has swung and missed on more than a third of all the pitches he's seen this year, but Davis's better-known failings have obscured Cruz's quiet slump.
Diagnosis: Cruz is still thumping the ball when he gets ahold of it and he may be getting a little unlucky. For the year, his BABIP is .274, well below his career mark of .293, and since June 1 it's been an awful .208. He's still striking out and walking at near-career rates, which is to say that he's striking out a lot and not walking a ton, but still hitting enough homers to be useful — except for the fact that nothing else is falling.
Reboot Directions: Cruz left a game on July 1 with a stiff back, and that's never good. The Rangers will have to hope it's a fluke rather than a recurring problem. Cruz knows that the batting average is the biggest problem, telling the Dallas News, "I'm trying to get my singles. I'm not trying to hit home runs. The fly balls just come." That's just what happens with an uppercut like Cruz has. Right now, there's nothing to suggest he's any different than he was a month ago.
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Data: 3-2, 7.43 ERA, 1.80 WHIP
Malfunction: Hill has given up at least six runs in his last three starts. He's out of options, but he clearly isn't a major league starter right now. His next start will be skipped; his next destination will likely be the bullpen or out of Baltimore altogether.
Diagnosis: His breakthrough season with the Cubs in 2007 seems to be a real thing of the past. He's giving up more than twice as many walks a game, and his velocity is down, too. He never got a ton of swinging strikes, but those are down too; he still gets a decent number of strikeouts, but they're mostly looking. Batters have wised up and learned that if they give him half a chance, he'll issue a free pass. With Hill's 47 percent first pitch strike percentage (league average is 58 percent), the smart money is almost always on keeping the bat on your shoulder.
Reboot Directions: Throwing strikes would be a good place to start. Unfortunately, the minors aren't an option (unless they're able to find an excuse to send him to the DL), so he'll have to try to relearn how to throw strikes in the pen, when he can worry less about pacing himself and more about just spotting his fastball. If he can't command his fastball, he can't pitch in this league. Unfortunately, Hill appears to be in denial: "It's just a few execution things here and there. I really don't think it's something where they think that I can't start," he told the Baltimore Sun. "So I'm not too concerned about it." He probably should be.
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A few other players who could use Slumpbot's help ...
Orlando Hudson(notes), Los Angeles Dodgers Like Nelson Cruz, O-Dog was red hot in April and May, and has been ice cold since: he's in a 25-for-122 slump since June. He'd better hope that Manny helps him see better pitches. Of course, with the way the Dodgers have been playing, they don't have to worry much about his offense.
Hunter Pence(notes), Houston Astros Recently named to his first All-Star team, Pence is 12 for his last 62. He's hit safely in 11 of his last 16 games, but only one was a multihit game, and he has only managed two walks over the period. He'll have to hope the Midsummer Classic can help get his results back.
Ivan Rodriguez(notes), Houston Astros Despite the performance-enhancing drug allegations, and the fact that he's been a subpar hitter since his 33rd birthday, Pence's teammate Pudge Rodriguez should be a Hall of Fame shoo-in. But that doesn't mean he still deserves the lion's share of starts behind the dish. He's working on yet another OBP under .300, with the highest strikeout rate of his career. It's an axiom as old as time that catchers age poorly. Ivan's an old catcher. If J.R. Towles(notes) hadn't spat out the bit, things might be different. But Ivan isn't doing his team any favors at the plate.