Using the best technology available today, SlumpBot .200 identifies a few players who are currently having trouble and then offers solutions for recovery.
Data: 13-7, 3.03 ERA, 1.141 WHIP
Malfunction: Doc Halladay hasn't exactly relinquished his "best pitcher in baseball" crown, which he seems to have worn ever since the Jays' pre-deadline trade talks, but he's definitely hurting his case for the Cy Young Award. His last two starts have been awful: 11 earned runs in his last 11 innings, enough to raise his ERA above 3.00 for the first time since May. Roy is so good that he's gone at least seven innings in all but four of his starts this year, but half of those short starts have come in the last two weeks. What's wrong with Mr. Blue Jay?
Diagnosis: Halladay has always given up his share of singles and solo homers. For his career, he's allowed 8.8 hits per nine innings and 0.8 homers per nine. But he's exorbitantly stingy with the walk — with a league-low 1.2 BB/9 this year — and has markedly increased his strikeouts the past two years, so that his K/BB ratio is leading the majors for the second year in a row. His ERA this month is a disappointing 4.50 (and he's allowed five additional unearned runs), but the hitters have had to earn them. In 36 innings his K/BB has been a stunning 30/4. However, he's allowed 47 hits in those 36 innings, seven of them homers. Some of those hits have been luck — his BABIP this year is .313, nearly 20 points above his career average — but he's also already equalled his entire home run total from last year in 60 fewer innings. The complete collapse of the Jays season, combined with the failed trade talks, would be enough to put pressure on any man, let alone the "best pitcher in baseball."
Reboot Directions: The key now is just keeping the man healthy. The Jays just don't have many valuable assets, as proven by the Alex Rios(notes) dump. They gave Rios a sweetheart contract a year and a half ago, and then jettisoned him to the White Sox for nothing more than the price of his contract. The Jays will still be weighed down by the albatross Vernon Wells(notes) contract for years yet. Other than Travis Snider(notes), Adam Lind(notes), Brett Cecil(notes), and the surprising Ricky Romero(notes), their upper minors and major league roster are extremely thin of young talent. Halladay's the best piece they own, and they'll undoubtedly be trying like hell to trade him again this offseason. There is utterly no incentive for the Jays to ride his arm and if they have any sense of protecting their asset, they'll start a gradual shutdown of the innings as soon as they think they can get away with it without a Canadian riot. What can Roy do? Just try not to get angry that the only franchise he's ever known has so badly bungled his entire career, I suppose.
Who else has been slumping lately?
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Data: .238/.324/.437, 24 HR, 67 RBI
Malfunction: It's become fashionable to proclaim Inge as underrated, but he's really an American League version of Pedro Feliz(notes) — a guy with some pop, stellar 3B defense, but terrible batting averages and an OBP that sink his offensive value. This year is actually his best season since 2006 — he made his first All-Star team —but his batting average and OBP are still so low that, despite his 30-home run pace, he's still a below-average hitter. Yes, his numbers can be deceptive. Before his knee started hurting a couple months ago, he was on pace for the best season of his career, but then two months of catatonic performance dragged him back to career norms.
Diagnosis: Inge's two best seasons as a hitter were actually 2004 and 2005, the only two times in his career that he's hit above .260. This year, his .238 average is right in line with his .237 career mark. But the Tigers just acquired Aubrey Huff(notes), and all of a sudden Inge's norm is looking a bit harder to justify. Inge says his knee has been hurting so much that he hasn't been able to put his legs into his swing for two months — which would explain his appalling last two months, during which he's hitting .188/.260/.318, after he began the season by hitting a surprising .274/.368/.520 through late June. Quite frankly, if his knee is hurting as bad as he says it is, then it's negligent for the Tigers' staff to allow him to hit every day — he's killing the team's offense, not to mention his own health.
Reboot Directions: Let Inge heal and let Huff hit. There's no debate here. Inge is hitting .174 for August, after hitting .182 for July. There's just no way to justify keeping him on the field. Inge claims that he's getting better:
"So now that I have my legs back, my swing's adjusting, so I'm not making contact with some pitches that I should right now... Now it's just timing. I'm starting to feel like I can get my legs again... I'm actually starting to feel healthy, like I feel I can piece it along, and I don't need any days [off] by any means. I feel better than I have in a long time."
If he literally has lost his timing at the plate, he should go on the DL and find his timing in rehab games where he can't kill his club.
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Data: .264/.347/.479, 24 HR, 71 RBI
Malfunction: Just how close is Dye to the end of the line? Since the beginning of July, he's batting .219, and like Inge he's under the Mendoza line for the month of August. Dye has almost never been a 150 game a year player, but even so, the 35-year old outfielder is looking like he's approaching the end of the line for this season, "looking physically and mentally spent," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Diagnosis: He's getting older. He's seeing more pitches this year than he's seen since 2004, and is setting a personal best in walks, taking a free pass in 10.5 percent of his plate appearances. But as he's doing that, his line drive rate has decreased, extra base hit rate has decreased, and ball in play rate (percentage of strikes he puts into play) has decreased. All of this suggests that he's becoming pickier, but having a harder time ripping the ball when he does swing — which suggests that he's beginning to lose his fastball.
Ozzie Guillen recently dropped him from third to fifth in the batting order, and has spelled him in right field with recent pickup Alex Rios, but Dye is no stranger to second half slumps. Last year, his OPS dropped by 73 points in the second half; this year, thanks to the terrible slump, it's almost 400 points lower.
Reboot Directions: He may well have some good baseball left in him, as his first half was still quite good, but Dye might be approaching the age for a platoon, DH, or both. The trouble is that he's in his walk year — he does have a $12 million mutual option — and his performance over the last couple months has undoubtedly cost him millions. The Rios acquisition hurts his chances to make up for it and show that he still deserves starting player bucks.
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Clay Buchholz(notes), Boston Red Sox It's getting to be put up or shut up time for long time BoSox uberprospect Clay Buchholz, whom they refused to consider trading for Johan Santana(notes), Roy Halladay, or anyone else, but who has completely failed to show a consistent ability to get major leaguers out since his 2007 no-hitter. Three straight quality starts in mid-August were bookended by twin seven-run shellackings to begin and end the month. his biggest problem? He just can't strike people out. He averaged 10.3 K/9 in the minors, but has struggled to strike out more than three in the majors. He's not missing bats, he's not commanding his pitches, and he's not fooling anybody. He's still only 25, but the clock is ticking.
Joba Chamberlain(notes), New York Yankees No matter what this guy does, he can't keep people happy. He has too many pitches to stay in the pen, but doesn't seem to have stamina or consistency as a starter. He was 7-2 with a 3.58 ERA through July, but this month he's collapsed, giving up 19 ER in 20 innings and with only two more strikeouts than walks. He's still having a fine year for a back-of-the-rotation starter, and they're having such a great year that it barely matters, but it has to rankle that after three years, no one in New York can figure out where he ought to be.
Rafael Furcal(notes), Los Angeles Dodgers Talk about the post-contract year syndrome. After seemingly re-signing with the Atlanta Braves, then signing back with the Dodgers, Furcal simply fell off the map once the season started. The Dodgers had to believe that his awful 2007 was simply an aberration, and that they'd be getting the player with the stellar 2008 and solid 2000-2006. Instead, they've gotten the other Furcal, the guy who's completely offensively irrelevent, whose 2001, 2007, and now 2009 put him among the worst shortstops in the league. The presence of Manny Ramirez(notes) on the team ensures that the Dodgers will score a lot of runs; Furcal's .319 OBP ensures that he won't account for many of them.