Sunday, August 28, 2011

Most disappointing 2011 Dodgers' hitters and pitchers

In the final part of most surprising and disappointing series, we look at the most disappointing Dodgers' hitters and pitchers.

This list will have no trouble being populated, as this has been one of the most disappointing seasons in the last 20 years.

The most disappointing person in the organization, obviously, is Frank McCourt. But myself and hundreds of others have wasted too much time and too many words on this joke of an owner.

But the play on the field has been so poor that it almost overshadows the debacle that is Frank McCourt.

Most disappointing hitters

1. Andre Ethier
- Ethier started 2010 off on fire and looked like he was about to take full advantage of his prime years. Then he fractured his pinkie and he wasn't the same hitter. He still finished with a .292/.364/.493 line with 23 home runs, 82 RBI and 33 doubles. He had a nice start to 2011, including a 30-game hitting streak. However, there's been a complete power outage from Ethier. He has 10 home runs and 28 doubles, good for a .411 slugging percentage. Most of his traditional numbers are in line with his career numbers, except for the power.

He is hitting ground balls at a career-high rate (1.45 GB/FB, 44.3 GB percent), but he's also hitting line drives at a rate, 25.1 percent (sixth-best in baseball), bested only once in his career (2008, 26.6 percent). He is struggling mightily against sliders this season, as his Slider Runs Above Average (wSL) is at -9.1, which is third-worst in the majors.

And now he tells The L.A. Times' T.J. Simers that he'll need off-season knee surgery, which could explain his second-half slump and season-long power disappearance.

2. James Loney
- We all know Loney is never going to become a 20-home run hitter -- well, unless he plays in Colorado or Arizona for half the season -- but he was expected to do a lot more than he has this season. As was the case with Leon Landry, Loney is on a hot streak right now, including hitting the game-tying home run yesterday. His batting average is as high as it's been since July 8 (.274) and his on-base percentage is as high as it's been since July 5 (.323). His slugging percentage is as high as it's been all season, save for the first game. He's not even hitting doubles this season (17 in 423 ABs). That's how bad it's been for Loney this season. His .694 OPS isn't going to cut it from first base, no matter how good his defense is. The Dodgers were expecting -- and needed -- more from Loney in 2011.

3. Casey Blake
- It's kind of hard to be disappointed in a 38-year-old guy who should be a part-time player, but I'm a little down on The Beard. Even in his limited time, he hasn't put up good numbers: .254/.345/.371 in 61 games. The on-base percentage is good, but like Ethier and Loney before him, the power is all but gone. He has nine doubles, one triple and four home runs. His walk rate is back to his 2009 form (11.1 percent) and his strikeout rate is down just more than 4 percent from last season, but his Isolated Power (ISO, slugging - batting average) is down to .117 (.159 last season and .188 the two seasons before that). Blake's 2009 is a distant memory.

Now, I bet you're wondering why Juan Uribe isn't on this list. Well, I'm not saying I expected him to put up a .557 OPS, but I had a sneaking suspicion that he wouldn't come anywhere close to the 24 HRs he hit last season or the .824 OPS he put up in 2009. He is the worst free agent signing of the Ned Colletti era, and that's saying something considering this is the guy who signed the Jason Schmidt to a $47 million contract knowing full well he had a bum shoulder, Andruw Jones to an $18.1 million a year contract (thankfully only two years) and the noodle-armed wonder and out machine Juan Pierre to a 5-year deal.

Honorable mentions: Tony Gwynn, Dioner Navarro, Marcus Thames

Most disappointing pitchers

1. Hong-Chih Kuo
- A season ago, Kuo was an All-Star and arguably the best left-handed reliever in baseball. Now, he can't get anyone out without giving up a ton of runs in the process. His ERA is 10 runs higher than it was last season. That isn't a typo. He had a 1.20 ERA in 2010 and owns a 11.21 ERA in 2011. In fact, all his rate numbers are through the proverbial roof. All except his K/9, which is actually a career-best right now (13.2). He's dealt with injuries this season, but Kuo has never gotten on track. I wouldn't be surprised if he was non-tendered this off-season.

2. Jonathan Broxton
- Broxton caught a lot of heat last season for being a horrible pitcher after June 27. However, I was still in his corner and as expecting (hoping?) he'd be back to his previous form. He got a chance right off the bat. With a two-run lead, he gave up a solo home run to Pat Burrell but picked up the save. Some folks freaked out, some folks didn't. He started off the season with five consecutive saves (giving up a single run in two of those outings). He wasn't right physically, though, as his average velocity on all his pitches was down from previous years. His fastball clocked in at 94.1 MPH, his slider at 86.5 MPH and his changeup at 88 MPH. In fact, his velocity had been trending down since 2009. I was hoping a restful offseason would get him back on track, but it wasn't enough. He's been out since May 3 and isn't expected to pitch again this season. He might have thrown his last pitch for the Dodgers.

3. Chad Billingsley
- This spot could have gone to Ted Lilly, but I didn't expect Lilly to be all that good this season. I've always been a Billingsley backer, which is why it's tough to watch what he's doing this season. His peripherals aren't that out of sorts from his career numbers, but he's striking guys out at a career-low rate (7.5 K/9). In 2008, Billingsley had a 9.0 K/9 (201 strikeouts) and he's trended down every season since (8.2, 8.0, 7.5). I'm fine with him pitching more to contact, but coming off career-bests in WHIP, HR/9 and BB/9, I was expecting more out of Billingsley this season, especially after signing a long-term deal in Spring Training. He's a good No. 3 starter, but he'll likely not be the ace people were expecting back in 2006. He needs to throw more strikes to pitch deeper into games. He's at 6.12 IP/start, which isn't terrible, but could be better.

Honorable mentions: Lilly, Jon Garland, Vicente Padilla

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