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. Today's edition focuses on players who had some unfortunate troubles throughout the first half.
Data: 4-5, 7.11 ERA, 1.790 WHIP
Malfunction: Kazmir is making Francisco Liriano(notes) look competent. The "ace" of the AL Champs' staff has barely looked like a major leaguer. His walks and homers are up, and strikeouts and fastball velocity are way down. As Dave Cameron writes, "those missing MPH are having a pretty big impact."
Diagnosis: Kazmir is a power pitcher who has lost velocity. He never had brilliant control — he walked quite a few people in the best of times — but he made up for it by striking out a ton. As the strikeouts have decreased — helped by a collapse in his swinging strike rate, from a career rate of 19 percent to 13 this year — his numbers have up and died. A monthlong DL stint didn't fix things. After two short but promising starts, he gave up 7 runs in 6 1/3 on July 8. His fastball was slightly faster than earlier in the season, topping out at 92 and sitting around 90, but still not what it was in previous years.
Reboot Directions: "It seems like I haven't gotten one break the whole year," he told the Associated Press. "I'm due." After riding his radar gun roller coaster for much of the year, the Rays may have slightly less confidence in just how "due" he is. If he isn't still injured, then he doesn't have much of an excuse for his poor command and velocity. And it's not like the Rays have any lack of pitching. He may be running out of chances in the starting rotation.
Who else needs SlumpBot's help after a poor first half?
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Data: .229/.286/.353, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 16 SB
Malfunction: M-V-Pee-yew. There aren't too many guys having a worse year than Jimmy Rollins, but Charlie Manuel (of the All-Star IBB) keeps him in the leadoff spot like it's in his contract. Of course, with the Braves and Mets playing as they are, the Phillies don't have much reason to do anything different — but it's hard to see how the Phillies can keep it up all year if Rollins keeps shaking hands with Mr. Mendoza.
Diagnosis: Is he getting unlucky? Okay, yeah, he's getting unlucky. His Batting Average on Balls in Play is .239, 56 points below his career average. His line drive rate is 18 percent, which is pretty good but still 4 percent below his career average. His homer rate is way below what it was during his 2007 MVP campaign but the same as last year. His strikeouts are up and walks are down from last year, but they're not significantly off from career levels. He's hitting into a ton of pop-ups, though. If there were a significant mechanical problem, you'd expect a lot fewer line drives and a lot more strikeouts. But it's clear that there's plenty going wrong.
Reboot Directions: Rollins thinks that he may be onto something. "I'm getting the right stroke down, which is good. I've been doing very well," he told the Delaware County Daily Times. "It's like, 'There it is, you dodo brain ... it took you so long to remember that?'" He seems to have remembered something, all right: he's got a 1.015 OPS in 13 games in July. In baseball, what goes around comes around. The Phillies will be a lot harder to catch in the NL East if this guy comes around.
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Malfunction: Good lord, everything. I don't usually write up people who are currently on the DL, but he's already collected over 250 PA, so I'm making an exception. Before he went on the DL, he was pretty clearly the worst everyday player in the major leagues. If he could come back and get back into the lineup, he can start posting some historic numbers. No one's finished a full season with a batting average under .200 since the legendary Rob Deer in 1991, but Giles has a chance.
Diagnosis: Brian Giles hasn't hit 20 homers since 2004 or slugged .500 since 2003. Since then, his SLG has dropped rather precipitously until completely falling off the map this year. He remained a useful player because he still walked a ton, but this old man's clearly gotten longer in the tooth. He has more strikeouts than walks for the first time since 1998 — back when he was a Cleveland Indian — and he hasn't had a batting average this low since a brief AAA assignment that same year.
Reboot Directions: The Padres would like to trade him, but they don't really want to give him the playing time he'd need to get anyone interested; the San Diego Union-Tribune thinks "the Padres will eat the remainder of his $9 million contract." As Gaslamp Ball points out, perhaps they should have decided to keep Trevor Hoffman instead. The only value that Giles can still provide is comedy value for the rest of us, so that's probably the right baseball move. So, Brian Giles, LVP of the first half: Have fun laughing your way to the bank.
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A few more who have fallen and can't get up ...
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins: He started off the year atrociously, with an ERA over 6 through his first 12 starts. His last few haven't been terrific, exactly, but he's limited the damage slightly and has brought down his ERA more than half a run. He's still working on being crafty rather than overpowering, but the first step to pitching effectively is not getting blown out consistently.
Josh Hamilton(notes), Texas Rangers: Baseball's erstwhile cover boy is having a bumpy road this year. He's hit a few homers and was voted by the fans into the All-Star Game, but not a whole lot else. He has been getting slightly unlucky on BABIP, but more importantly, he's walking a lot less and striking out a lot more. We know how he's dealt with adversity off the field; how will he do when he's failing on the field and battling injuries?
Fausto Carmona(notes), Cleveland Indians: Despite having a stellar year in 2007, Carmona found himself all the way back in in single-A in 2008 and 2009. Both years saw him working his way through the minors, with brief stops in A and AA, and pitching poorly whenever the Indians brought him to the big club. Now he's in AAA, still working out the kinks and trying to find the strike zone. He had a good start on thurs, which must be gratifying to the last-place Indians; he still has two more years on his contract and three more club options. They'd love to see that ace return and earn the money they signed him for.