Not everything goes according to plan in all sports, not just baseball. Sometimes, players that are coming off a great season have a disastrous season the next year. Sometimes, players that seemed prime for a breakout year fall flat on their face. And sometimes, the most solid players in the league just struggle and can't live up to expectations. The 2012 MLB season was no different, and there were plenty of players across the league who were disappointing to their teams and their fans. Keep in mind that just because someone is paid a lot doesn't necessary mean they're a disappointment. Angels fans probably aren't too disappointed by Vernon Wells because they didn't expect anything from him. I don't think Phillies fans are overly disappointed with Ryan Howard, considering he's been on a downward trend since winning the NL MVP in 2008 and suffered a serious injury at the end of last season. You get the idea. Here are ten players that I feel had the most disappointing seasons in relation to what was expected from them.
1. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox/Dodgers
You could probably make a list of just the ten most disappointing Red Sox players. In fact, I'm pretty sure I could. But any rate, I'm putting Gonzalez at the top of the list. Gonzalez was fourth in the 2010 NL MVP voting, and the Red Sox acquired him that offseason for four prospects (two of which were top five prospects in Boston's farm system) before signing him to a seven year, $154 million extension. Gonzalez finished seventh in the 2011 AL MVP voting, and it looked like he'd be Boston's first baseman for the rest of the decade. Then this season, he was a different player. Gonzalez's 6.2% walk rate with the Red Sox was his lowest since a 43 game sample he was a 23-year old with the Rangers. His 15 homers were low, considering that his lowest in a full season in the majors was 24 (and he was playing his home games in Petco Park for god's sake). Then, the blockbuster: Gonzalez was sent to the Dodgers in a mammoth deal to clear payroll along with Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto. And here we are, going into 2013 with the Red Sox first baseman for the next decade back in southern California because he had season that didn't live up to any of the expectations set for him after a fantastic 2011 season.
2. Carlos Pena, Rays
You know, deep down, everyone knew Pena was probably close to being done, and wouldn't resemble the player he was from 2007 to 2009 in Tampa Bay. But I don't think anyone could have imagined that Pena would essentially torpedo the Rays season, hitting only 18 homers, striking out 30% of the time, and posting a sub-.700 OPS. It's not fair to point fingers at specific people when a team fails to make the playoffs, but Pena is probably the biggest reason why the Rays failed in 2012.
3. Ricky Romero, Blue Jays
Romero was supposed to be the rock in Toronto's rotation, the guy who could give you 200+ innings without breaking a sweat while keeping his ERA above league average. Romero's 2012 was pretty much an umitigated disaster. His already high walk rate absolutely jumped through the roof, topping five batters per nine innings while Romero threw just three more innings than his previous career low (which came in three fewer starts than in 2012). Romero's strikeout rate also fell by a batter per inning this season, and as a result of all that, his ERA spiked all the way to 5.77, the highest of any qualified starter in all of baseball this season. You can't get much more disappointing than that.
4. Eric Hosmer, Royals
This was a guy that was one of the top prospects in baseball prior to the 2011 season, and had a great rookie season as a 20-year old. With everyone expecting him to become a top tier first baseman this season, he went the other direction. While his walk and strikeout rates remained steady enough, Hosmer's power fell of a cliff and he hit five fewer doubles and five fewer homers in roughly the same amount of playing time. A 60 point drop in BABIP crippled triple slash as the cherry on top of his awful season. It's not the end of the world for Hosmer, who will just be turning 22 in three weeks. Scouts have apparently identified a hitch in Hosmer's swing that can be fixed, which would hopefully turn him into the player that everyone imagined he could be.
5. Mike Napoli, Rangers
Napoli likely cost himself a lot of money in this offseason's free agent market after his 2012. After setting the world on fire in 2011 with a 30 homer, 1.045 OPS season, Napoli came back to Earth with a resounding thud this year. The homers fell from 30 to 24. His doubles total fell from 25 to nine (seriously, just nine doubles). His strikeout rate jumped 10% to a hair under 30% for the season. This season actually lines up pretty well in comparison to Napoli's 2009 and 2010 seasons with the Angels, which tells me that maybe last season was the aberration as opposed to a sign that Napoli was blossoming into a superstar.
6. Roy Halladay, Phillies
I think that even the biggest homer of any Phillies fan would even agree with me that Halladay was the biggest disappointment on this team in 2012. Over his first two years in the National League, Halladay won a NL Cy Young and was runner-up once. It completely fell apart in 2012. Halladay, ever the workhorse, threw under 220 innings for the first time since 2005. It's not like he just missed getting there either, as Halladay finished with only 156 1/3 innings pitched for the season. His walk rate was his highest since that same 2004 season, the first time in eight years it's been above two batters per nine innings. His 4.49 ERA was the second worst mark of his career, behind just 2000, when a 23-year old Halladay walked nearly as many batters as he struck out in 67 2/3 innings. By any statistic you can imagine, it was Halladay's worst full season in years, and with him turning 36 next May, it's not exactly a guarantee he'll be the same ace in 2013.
7. Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Nearly all Braves fans knew that Jurrjens' 2.96 ERA in 2011 was a dream scenario, and that it would be difficult to repeat in 2012. But I don't think anyone expected just how much Jurrjens would struggle this season. In 48 1/4 innings, Jurrjens struck out only 19 hitters and walked 18 while he allowed eight homers. Futhermore, his velocity continued to drop, and was down close to three mph since 2010. After a pair of demotions to AAA, Jurrjens was placed on the minor league disabled list, and appears to be on the frontlines for nontendering this offseason. All this after being an All-Star in 2011 and a guy who was talked about as the NL's best pitcher of the first half.
8. John Axford, Brewers
I normally don't like to put relievers on lists like this, but Axford's season was startling. His strikeout rate was just as awesome in the past two seasons, but his walk rate took a huge jump, and he allowed twice as many homers as he did in his entire career this season. Also, Axford blew nine saves, nearly double his total of five from the last two years. Put it all together and you get an ERA that's up nearly three runs from 2011, a neutral fWAR, and season that was a huge part in Milwaukee's lack of playoffs this year.
9. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
Upton was a sexy MVP pick from writers from every walk of life this spring, and with good reason: he was coming off of a 31 homer, 21 steal season after being 23 for nearly all of the year, and had an OPS just shy of .900. This year, Upton has neither hit 20 homers nor stolen 20 bases. He's not going to hit 30 doubles like he did in two of his last three seasons, and his OPS isn't going to get within spitting distance of .800, where it's been in all but one of his full seasons. And after all that, his status as Arizona's franchise player is in question, and GM Kevin Towers is apparently looking to deal him this offseason. It really doesn't get much more disappointing than that, does it? Upton went from the face of the Diamondbacks to potentially not even a Diamondbacks player in the span of just one season.
10. Tim Lincecum, Giants
And here we are, saving the best for last. Lincecum won back to back Cy Young awards before even hitting his arbitration years. Just three seasons after that second Cy Young, there are rumblings that Lincecum's career as a starter are done after his 2012 season, the worst of his career. Lincecum's 5.18 ERA this season was nearly two runs worse than his career mark, his strikeout rate was the second worst mark of his career, his walk rated jumped by nearly a batter per inning over his career mark, and his homer rate was above 1.00 per nine innings for the first time ever. Lincecum's velocity was also way down this season, with his fastball sitting at 90mph after sitting at 94 during his first Cy Young season in 2008. With Lincecum scheduled to make $22.25 million next year, the question remains: is the 2012 Lincecum the pitcher he'll be going forward, or was this just a blip on the radar? Because the 2012 Lincecum would be vastly overpaid at any eight figure salary, let alone a salary over $20 million.
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You know, Melky Cabrera had a monster year too, after mostly mediocre seasons. Not saying Napoli is juicing, but...
Of the list, I'm most disappointed in Lincecum. Not because I'm a Giants fan, but because I really wanted him to show up his naysayers. People always sold him short for that funky delivery, and unfortunately it looks like that funky delivery is catching up with him.
Napoli was a disappointment this season, but due to injuries that kept him out of the line most of the mid to end of the season I am not ready to write him off.
@griffistechnology I only wanted to go with one player per team instead of calling out a couple of teams, and Uggla was (in my mind, at least) behind Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and Brian McCann on the Braves in terms of disappointment. His power was admittedly a disaster this season, but he still took a ton of walks and provided value to the team in that way. After last season, I think Braves fans (myself included) have realized that Uggla is on the downswing of his career already. Disappointment = acceptance? Not sure.
I agree Joe, chiefly with 10. In fact, I think Lincecum should have been one. I heard all year Lincecum was not doing well. At least the Giants still have Matt Cain.
I couldn't agree more that Mike Napoli morphed back into the incompetent oaf in clutch situations that he when he was still in an Angel uniform and being platooned by former manager Scioscia. But if you'll recall, Napoli tore up his ankle in last year's World Series and he's had a succession of leg injuries that's caused him to alter his mechanics at the plate all year long--with disastrous results. In fact, correct me if I'm wrong, but Mike was on the injured list for seven weeks between early August and late September-only returning to Texas' lineup 9 days ago. And if it turns out to be true that he's diminished his free-agent value this winter by his disappointing performance this season I think that Napoli would be a good bargain basement pickup by any team in need of a power hitting catcher or DH. But I also think that the Rangers should do their best to keep him--as opposed to a washed up Geovany Soto--given the fact that this club is over-rated offensively; especially because they tend to score runs in bunches, rather than consistently, and then fall asleep for weeks at a time. Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are obvious cases in point--both of whom get hot for two or three game stints followed by long stretches at the plate where they disappear when runners are in scoring position. Add to that the fact that Michael Young, once a money-in-the-bank clutch hitter, now looks like his bat is slow whenever his team needs him most. I've been saying all year that since their 15-4 start, the Rangers have been a mediocre club--certainly not a strong team that looks like it will make it to the World Series for a third consecutive year--let alone win it. And Ron Washington, whose stubbornness regarding who he plays, who he sits and who he platoons, will probably be Nolan Ryan's next pink slip victim--with the Rangers being better off for it in the long run, in my opinion. They've played sloppy baseball--Ian Kinsler in particular who's committed more errors than any second baseman in the American league and has been picked off more than any second baseman in the majors comes to mind as a major emblem of their problem. But when asked about it RW rushes to Kinsler's defense saying that Ian "crosses the plate a lot..." I doubt Ian would get away with that much carelessness in the field and on the base paths if his manager was, say, Buck Schowalter or Davey Johnson or Joe Maddon. I suspect that under THEIR stewardship Kinsler would have been benched for his cavalier play several times.
I could go on, but I won't. The bottom line is that this club's players don't pay attention to particulars well enough to win my endorsement as a World Series champion. I hope I'm wrong, but I doubt it...
@logankeefe we'll see Friday. As an Orioles fan, obviously i like Buck's crew here.
@logankeefe No one really got better for the Rangers, and a bunch of players got worse (including Napoli like we both mentioned and Kinsler as you mentioned). There's still a ton of value and great players on this team, and there's no reason for them to be in the situation they're in now. It'll be VERY interesting to see what they do this offseason with Napoli and Hamilton hitting free agency while Profar is pretty much ready to roll in the majors and Young still under contract.
Fantastic comment, and thanks for leaving it.
@joelucia I agree with you about this club's overall talent level. We need two more bona fide starters in our rotation to go with Darvish--and may have had them had we not lost Lewis and Feliz to injury. But I'd also be the first to say that I've never been a fan of turning a pitcher who loved (and excelled at) relieving into a starting pitcher. The adjustment is too involved for most. And even though Neftali was a starter for a fair amount of his minor league career, it was quite clear that he loved closing. Just look at what the consequences of the Yankees' decision to convert Joba Chamberlain into a starter cost them! Chamberlain looked like the second coming of Goose Gossage when he first came to the majors. NOBODY could get around on him.in the late innings. But the Yankees got the bright idea that they could solve the problems in their starting rotation by plugging Joba in there. He quickly lost his mechanics trying to last six or more innings--not that easy for a man of his size. He hurt his arm a few times and now barely registers 91 on the gun when he's asked to throw the ball by someone. So now New York has TWO holes to fill instead of one...I'm just saying all that to point out that I don't want to see the same thing happen to Neftali Feliz. The Rangers have a huge television contract kicking in soon. They AREN'T cash-strapped anymore. They should just pay the price and get some starting pitchers.And if I was the one pulling the strings I'd channel Branch Rickey, dangle Ian Kinsler as bait, cut my losses with Ian and get a pitcher or two in return for him. That's because, like you, I think Jurickson Profar is going to be an All-Star Most of the scouts who've seen him play think that will be the case.. Indeed, he hit a homer and a double in his first two at-bats, as I recall. But then he was in the lineup as a starter just twice in the three weeks after his debut and lost his timing--kind of like Mike Olt, whose debut , admittedly wasn't as auspicious. (I cannot convey with words how much I dislike Ron Washington. I often think this team has frequently won in spite of his decision making rather than because of it...
Anyway, I'm through soap-boxing for now...
Upton’s power numbers were maybe 80 percent of what they were a year ago because he played the season at maybe 80 percent hand-health-wise. Upton was not really himself until the final six weeks of the season, when his numbers spiked after he was able to remove a brace used to protect the left thumb he bruised sliding into second base on the third day of the season.
@Grendalprime I looked at those September splits like you mentioned, and there's a definite uptick in power. But the main issue in my mind is that two variables changes, not just one. In addition to the removal of the brace like you said, the rosters expanded and there was a lot more filler that he was facing. I'm not going to dig through game logs (because that would be a little excessive), but I will admit that it's a positive sign that his power did trend up at the end of the year. I still think he's the future of the Diamondbacks and that Towers would be a complete fool to trade him, but after reading a comment from him saying the team's second biggest need this offseason was a veteran SP...well, I think that affirms that Towers *is* a fool
@scottinapac I think Jennings was a product of overhype after awesome two months in the majors in 2011. 31/33 on stolen bases is insanely good (94%), and his fielding was fantastic. He wasn't Trout-esque by a longshot, but he wasn't exactly Vernon Wells out there either. Hell, he reminded me a lot of the guy he'll be replacing next year, BJ Upton, minus the power.
#Tanned Tom... don't use a sports venue, or any online blog not related to God the almighty to talk shit about Him. Fuck you bitch, seriously. If Gonzalez wants to say he wasn't spiritually with it, he's essentially blaming himself, not God. He's making enough money to blame it on whatever he wants. God is not invented, but real. He is perfect, I am not, so fuck you.
@cowboysbaby Hahahaha...OH man...You are right....That was far in my hard drive!!
He was the Chief (or President) Richard "Dick" Jones or something like this.
To tell you the truth,I watched it like...2 weeks ago with my GF (god was probably there too,Idk!!)!
@RichardJones loll,that is,seriously...THE funniest shit I have ever read.Call me crazy...but at first I thought you were kidding.
You are comical Jones...
@RichardJones Aw, come on, Richie. Tell us how you really feel. . . .
@RichardJones Never go full retard.
Shut up you twit. You know why he is perfect? Here it comes, because he's imaginary. How the fuck are you to tell anyone what the can or can't say on here? You low life piece of shit!
Hey pagan fago, aka @tystearns, @woodeys , Who are YOU to tell me that that I CAN''T tell him what or what not to say? Kettle, meet pot.
Wow, hard to argue with any of these duds. Gonzalez revealed himself as a loser last year when he essentially blamed the Red Sox swan dive on, get ready for it, God. Yup. Not his own empty September, not a roster full of overrated attitude problems, but the invented omniscient being. Like saying we sucked because the easter bunny wanted it that way.
How about Carl Crawford on this list? Oh wait, that's another Red Sox. John Lackey may have made MORE of a contribution by missing all of 2012.
And players who surprised in a good way? Probably Derek Jeter leads that list. Never been much of a fielder, but what a year and a half for a guy who looked done in June 2011.
@Tanned Tom I'm going to be having a surprises (in the good way) piece coming up tomorrow)...Jeter is definitely a candidate for that list. Like him or not, you have to admit that he's had a great year, and that his career is reaching legendary status.
As for Crawford/Lackey...lets be honest, did you really expect them to do anything this year? Nearly everyone hated both of their contracts from the moment they were signed, and hell, I think everyone would be more surprised if they actually positively contributed to the team.
@joelucia @Tanned Tom I can't wait to see the list of players who performed beyond expectations. About half the Orioles team should be on the list, including every pitcher in the bullpen. If you stick with picking only one player per team it will be interesting to see who you choose off that team.