We're less than three weeks away from this year's All-Star Game in Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, and with that, I've been thinking a bit about the 2011 game at Chase Field in Arizona. The National League won last year 5-1, their second straight win after losing seven games in a row and 12 of 13 (thanks for the tie in 2002, Bud!). With an All-Star selection come a lot of expectations, and some of last season's All-Stars have absolutely not lived up to those lofty standards in 2012, and likely won't be making the trip to Arizona next month. Now, I realize that injuries happen, and for that reason, I'm not going to call out players who have missed significant amounts of time this year because they've been hurt. But here's a team of 2011 All-Stars that have had disappointing years this season.
Catcher: Brian McCann, Braves. I'm a huge Braves supporting, and I'll be the first one to admit that McCann's 2011 season has been awful, and has hardly helped the Braves. A year after a typical McCann season (4.2 fWAR, .817 OPS, career high 24 homers), McCann has slumped mightily this season. Most of his struggles have come from a .230 BABIP, but at any rate, McCann's season has been a downer this year. He's accrued just 1.1 fWAR, homered only nine times (good for third on the Braves), and has a .721 OPS, the lowest mark of his career. Now, the season is still young, and McCann has over three months to get his numbers up to a level more associated with his reputation. But right now, this is not what the Braves expected from their franchise catcher.
First base: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins. As much as I want to give this dishonor to Adrian Gonzalez, Sanchez has just been horrendous for the Marlins. After back to back 19 homer seasons, Sanchez has just one this season, while posting a disgustingly bad .508 OPS. He even lost his starting job at first to Logan Morrison for a spell, leading to a trip to AAA New Orleans for Sanchez. The thing about Sanchez is that he's not a young player going through a rough spell...the man is 28 years old, and will be 29 at the beginning of September. Not only has he been a disappointment for the Marlins this year, he's looking like a nontender candidate after the season if he keeps struggling.
Second base: Rickie Weeks, Brewers. Weeks has had a very erratic career for the Brewers, and has played in more than 130 games in a season just once. When healthy, he's been fantastic...except for this year. Weeks has played in 65 of Milwaukee's 69 games, and has just a .609 OPS. His strikeout rate is 28.7%, which is more than 5% higher than his career average. He's homered only five times after back to back 20 homer seasons, and has just nine doubles after having at least 20 in four of the last five years. Losing Prince Fielder in Milwaukee's lineup has likely hurt Weeks, but it shouldn't affect him this much.
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta, Tigers. This is really a tossup, but Peralta wins by default because of his complete absence of power this season. He hit 21 homers last year, and so far this season, he has a measly four. His defense has also gone in the opposite direction, from a 9.9 UZR last season to a below average -2.1 this year. On the bright side for Peralta, he's walking at near a career high rate, and he's still hitting his doubles. They're just not going over the fence.
Third base: Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox. I said I wouldn't pick on injured players, but Youkilis is a special case. He's missed 27 games this year, and when he's been on the field, he's been awful.The 33 year-old Youkilis has only homered four times, is walking at an 8.7% clip (the first time in his career he's been below 10%), and is striking out 24.2% of the time (only the second time in his career he's been above 20%). Not only has his performance on the field sucked, but he's been mentioned nonstop in trade talks due to the performance of prospect Will Middlebrooks while Youkilis has been hurt. It's just a perfect storm of negativity this season for Youkilis, and he likely won't be a member of the Sox in five weeks.
Outfield: Justin Upton, Diamondbacks. Arizona's franchise player has been a massive disappointment this season. He's dealt with nagging injuries all year (though nothing serious), and has just six homers and a .712 OPS a year after homering 31 times and OPSing .898. This season has actually been much less impressive than Upton's 2008 rookie year, when he was just 20 years old for a good part of the season. Now 24, everyone across the game expects performances much better from Upton, and a season like this one just won't do.
Outfield: Shane Victorino, Phillies. It's been a rough year for the Phillies and many of their players this year, and Victorino is no exception. The major drop in his production has come from his slugging percentage, and while he's homered eight times (after 17 last year), he only has two triples after 16 last year. You can't even really blame declining speed either, as Victorino as 15 steals this year already after only 19 all of last year. The balls that were falling for triples last year just aren't doing it this year. and that's something that won't help his stock this offseason, when he reaches free agency.
Outfield: none. Quite frankly, I can't pick a third outfielder. The other outfielders have either been just as good as last year, or hurt but good while healthy. Sorry about the copout. As an apology, I give you....this.
Designated hitter: Michael Young, Rangers. One of two DHs elected to the AL team, the starter (David Ortiz) has been his typical self. The other, professional hitter Michael Young, has been rather awful. Young has a .653 OPS, only three homers, and a career low 4.5% walk rate. When you take into account where Young plays his home games...how can a performance like this be justified from someone who is paid to hit?
Starting pitcher: Kevin Correia, Pirates. Did you know that Kevin Correia was an All-Star last year? Well, he was. It was a bad choice then, and it's a bad choice now. This season for the Pirates, Correia has struck out a whopping 27 batters in 74 1/3 innings this year, and allowed 12 homers. His ERA is actually not half bad at 4.12, but his ERA predictors are much, much worse. It should be a lot higher too, since his BABIP is just .246. Correia could have a massive collapse in the second half to look even worse than he has in the first three months of the season.
Starting pitcher: Ricky Romero, Blue Jays. Despite an ERA under 3.00 last year, his predictors were much higher. Sure enough this year, the strikeout rate fell, the walk rate rose, and the ERA jumped nearly a run and a half...and his predictors are even higher. But yet, he has a 7-1 record, which is yet another example in the neverending saga of how awful wins and losses are to measure a pitcher's ability. However, Romero is still the shining light in a beaten down Blue Jays rotation.
Starting pitcher: Jair Jurrjens, Braves. Oh Jair, where do I begin....ten walks and eight strikeouts in four starts led to a 9.37 ERA and a trip to AAA for Jurrjens, where he only struck out 30 and walked 14 in ten starts. That performance in AAA led him to a recall to the majors, where he'll start for the Braves on Friday in Boston. Fans who knew better knew Jurrjens wouldn't keep his ERA in the low-2's last year after the break, but I don't think anyone expected this much of a crash.
Relief pitcher: Jonny Venters, Braves. The first two years of Venters' career cemented him as one of the best setup men in the league, but this season, that reputation has taken a hit. Venters has upped his strikeout rate to a career best 11.71, but his walk rate is a career worst 4.88. Then, there's the home run issue. He allowed a total of three homers in 171 innings in 2010 and 2011, and has allowed four in just 27 2/3 innings this year. His ERA for the season is also 3.90 after being under 2.00 in each of his first two seasons. The .417 BABIP and 33.3% HR/FB rate signal that his ERA will come down to Earth soon, but this start has just been ugly for the Atlanta reliever.
Photos courtesy of Daylife.com
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I think the Giants' Tim Lincecum should be added to this list, too. I don't know what's bothering him this year, but too often he's found himself having to throw too many pitches to get batters out, leading to high pitch-count innings, 3 - 4 run innings and early exits. Using over 100 pitches before the end of the 5th inning and allowing more than 3 runs time after time is not a way to pick up very many Ws. A pitcher with a less impressive CV would have been consigned to a long relief role by now but Bruce Boche is hoping he'll be able to work things out while still taking his regular turn in the rotation. I hope he'll be able to turn things around so that the relief corps doesn't have to pitch too many innings in games Lincecum should be pitching in for 7 - 8 innings.
@Joe Costello Yeah, Timmy's up there....having a bad year, but his peripherals aren't terrible overall, and the ERA is really the only ugly thing about him. Correia and Jurrjens have been *a lot* worse this year....as for Romero, eh. I wanted to get an AL guy in there, because their staff from last year's game was awesome.