Albert Pujols and Every MLB Team's Biggest Failure
Although he has looked much more like his old self of late, there is no question that it has been a very rocky start for Albert Pujols this season.
Despite blasting home runs in three straight games in late May, the future Hall of Famer has had a subpar initial campaign with the Angels. I guess $254 million doesn't go as far as it used to, does it?
Manager Mike Scioscia is certainly hoping that King Albert has finally turned the corner and has overcome his two-month funk. That being said, Pujols is one of the biggest disappointment in baseball.
However, he is certainly not alone. Now that we're in early June and it's no longer "still early", let's take a look at every Major League Baseball team's biggest failure so far.
The envelope please...
Ike Davis, New York Mets
Mets fans have been left scratching their heads and pondering all season long, "What is going on with Ike Davis?"
Whether he is feeling some effects after being diagnosed with Valley Fever this spring or has not totally recovered from his ankle injury last season, the left-handed hitting first baseman has suffered through a dismal season for the surprising Mets.
The numbers don't lie: a feeble .167 average, one of the lowest in all of baseball. Forty-eight strikeouts in 156 at-bats. A .222 OBP. Even worse—a .295 slugging percentage for the Arizona State product.
Davis has not been sent down to Triple-A Buffalo. Yet. That time may be coming sooner rather than later.
Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals
It's hard to find many players that are having a down season for the first-place Nationals, but Espinosa certainly would be one of them.
The feisty second baseman was batting just .213 with five HR and 12 RBI, far off his pace of 2011 when he clubbed 21 round-trippers and knocked in 66 runs. He hit just .236 last season, but that looks pretty solid compared to this year's meager mark.
Better times may be forthcoming in June—Espinosa batted .274 in that month last year.
Manager Davey Johnson could certainly use a repeat this time around.
Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies
The affable veteran shortstop has had trouble getting his season kick-started in 2012, and the Phillies have suffered greatly because of it.
The switch-hitting Rollins is one of the best shortstops in team history, but this season is one to forget so far for the Oakland, CA native. A career .271 hitter, Rollins was batting just .242 with two round-trippers and 13 RBI, well off his 16-63-.268 pace in 2011.
Not having Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the lineup certainly doesn't help and there is no definitive time table as to when those key offensive cogs in Philly's batting order will be returning.
Jair Jurrjens, Atlanta Braves
From NL All-Star in 2011 to being sent to the minors this season, it's been a roller coaster ride the last two seasons for the talented right-hander.
After a stellar 13-6, 2.96 ERA campaign for the Braves last season, Jurrjens was sent down to Triple-A Gwinett following a brutal 0-2, 9.37 ERA start in late April and has been working to get back to the parent club ever since.
Scouts have mentioned that the velocity on Jurrjens' fastball is down 3-5 MPH this year. He's even struggled at the Triple-A level but finally may have turned the corner with an eight shutout inning performance against Rochester recently.
Whether that helps him get a return call to the majors soon remains to be seen. Remember, Jurrjens struggled in the second half of last season with pain in his right knee.
Heath Bell, Miami Marlins
What has happened to Heath Bell this season?
After leading the majors with 132 saves from 2009-11, the Marlins inked the husky closer to a three-year, $27 million pact last winter. Talk about little bang for your buck.
The Oceanside, CA native blew four of his first seven save opportunities this season and was temporarily relieved of his closer duties in May.
He's pitched better of late with four saves in his last four save opportunities, but the overall numbers are still rather ugly: 2-3, 6.86 ERA and four blown saves in 15 chances. He owns a WHIP of 2.00 (yikes) and opponents are batting .314 against him this season, almost 100 points higher than in 2011.
Carlos Marmol, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have a lot of under-achieving players, but Marmol stands out because, like Bell, he was relieved of his closer duties in May.
Unlike Bell, the 29-year-old right-hander has not gotten his job back.
Marmol was always a high wire act, capable of walking the bases loaded and then striking out the side. His act proved to be too much for Chicago brass though and now he's been relegated to a setup role.
His numbers make you cringe: a 5.02 ERA, 18 walks in 14 1/3 innings pitched and two blown saves in four save opportunities.
It will take some time before he instills confidence in manager Dale Sveum again.
Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds
The Arizona State product has gotten off to a slow start following a fine sophomore campaign last season for the Reds.
In 10 starts, the lanky right-hander owned a 2-5 record with a 4.95 ERA. In 2011, he authored a 12-9 ledger with a 3.86 ERA. Last season, batters hit .250 against him. This season, the mark is up to .284.
Leake still has two-thirds of the season to turn things around. He's in the back end of the rotation so there is not as much pressure on him.
That being said, manager Dusty Baker would like to see more progression from Leake in his third MLB campaign.
Brian Bogusevic, Houston Astros
The burly left-handed hitting outfielder has had a disappointing batting average so far in 2012.
Although he had just 164 at-bats last year, the Tulane University product hit a very respectable .287 with four HR and 14 doubles. This season, Bogusevic's average is wallowing at .220 in 150 at-bats. His slugging percentage has dipped from .457 to .313.
There is still upside though. Bogusevic is getting a chance to play every day and Astros management seems to like his potential.
Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers
Where have you gone, Rickie Weeks?
Here is another talented player that leaves you scratching your head. After an excellent 2010 campaign (29-83-.269), the Brewers second baseman slipped a little bit in an injury-plagued 2011 season (20-49-.269).
This year he has fallen off the cliff.
His numbers are simply brutal: a .168 batting average. A slugging percentage of .307 (down from .468 last year). Sixty-five strikeouts in only 179 at-bats.
Ryan Braun and company hope that Weeks can have a repeat of his June of last season when he batted .273 with five round-trippers.
Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates
The scappy Bucco second baseman had two terrific seasons in a row in 2010-11 but has really struggled to get things going this time around.
The switch-hitting Steel City native has upped his batting average recently to a respectable .261 but his power and RBI numbers are well off pace from last season when he cracked 12 HR and knocked in 83 runs.
His OBP, SLG and OPS numbers are down across the board too. Walker probably can't wait for July when the weather and his numbers heat up. He hit a robust. 366 in July last year.
Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals
One of the best switch hitters of his era, it looks like Father Time is finally catching up with Lance Berkman.
The 36-year-old is currently on the disabled list with torn meniscus in his right knee. He could be out until late July. There is hope he can return sooner and the way the Cardinals have been hitting lately, they sure can use the career .296 hitter back in the lineup.
It's not that Berkman has poor stats—he's hitting .333. It's the fact that he's appeared in only 13 games to date this season with a scant 42 at-bats.
Berkman had a tremendous season last year (31-94-.301). But that was last year. Can he stay healthy enough to be productive for the Red Birds from here on?
Ian Kennedy, Arizona Diamondbacks
There are a couple of candidates here—J.J. Putz and Justin Upton among them—but Kennedy has been especially disappointing so far.
The fomer Yankees right-hander had a glorious season for the D-Backs last year, going 21-4 with a sparkling 2.88 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. His 21 victories paced the NL and the USC product finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting. (I thought he should have finished higher.)
Anyway, Kennedy has been a disappointment for the equally disappointing Diamondbacks in 2012. In 11 starts, he sports just a 4-5 ledger with a 4.26 ERA. Opponents hit just .227 off him last season—this season they are hitting him at a .274 clip.
Marco Scutaro, Colorado Rockies
The versatile infielder has had a slow adjustment to the thin air of Denver and the National League in general after some productive years with the Red Sox.
Scutaro has started to hit better lately for the Rockies but his average is down 42 points from his fine .299 campaign last season. His OBP and SLG numbers have dipped as well.
Let's give the 36-year-old veteran the benefit of the doubt though. He is hitting .350 over his last five games, and sometimes it takes time when adjusting to a new league.
James Loney, Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers first baseman always seems to leave fans wanting in the City of Angels.
A lifetime .285 hitter, the Houston, TX native is batting just .248 for Don Mattingly's squad this season and has clubbed a scant two HR. His slugging percentage has slipped from .416 last year to .358 this season.
After driving in 88 and 65 runs, respectively, in 2010 and 2011, Loney is on pace to knock in just 50 runs this season. With Matt Kemp out again with hamstring issues, it's imperative that Loney step up in a hurry if LA is to maintain their lead in the National League West.
Cameron Maybin, San Diego Padres
The fleet-footed center fielder has caught Padre-itis: he can't hit.
The Padres are the third worst hitting team in baseball (.224) and Maybin's average so far this season fits right in with San Diego's anemic offensive ways.
Maybin is hitting just .223 with one homer and 16 RBI. On the plus side, he has 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts but his OBP, SLG and OPS numbers have all tumbled this season.
At least he's fun to watch when he does get on base—he has speed to burn.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
This one is TOO easy. The former phenom is one of the biggest busts in all of baseball this season.
After being one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball from 2008-11, the slender right-hander has looked like a shell of his former self in 2012.
The numbers are horrific. His is just 2-6 with a brutal 5.82 ERA. That is more than double what it was last year.
Wait, there's more. His strikeouts are way down and his WHIP and batting average against have sky-rocketed up.
He's too talented to have this continue, right?
Mark Reynolds, Baltimore Orioles
What happened to Mark Reynolds' power?
After averaging 38 home runs from 2009-11, the University of Virginia product has smacked just three round-trippers this season. Add in just 13 RBI after knocking in 86 last year and it's amazing the Birds are doing as well as they are.
When you think of Reynolds you also think of strikeouts and this time around his K totals are way down (just 43 so far in 2012). His OBP has actually improved this season to .343 as he's become more selective at the plate.
Baltimore pays him to supply power in the middle of that improved lineup though and manager Buck Showalter's patience must be running thin.
Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
This is a close one between Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis but the nod goes to Gonzalez because Youkilis has been dealing with injuries. Gonzalez has not. He's just had a tough first third of the season.
The San Diego, CA native is one of the best hitters in baseball. He has just not shown it yet.
A 4-29-.269 line is far, far off the pace of his 2011 campaign when the the left-handed slugger belted 27 HR, knocked in 117 runs and hit. 338. He still has time to turn things around.
Gonzalez hit .404 in June last season, his best offensive month of the year. Something close to that would make manager Bobby Valentine very happy.
Russell Martin, New York Yankees
The veteran backstop got off to a very slow start and has not recovered yet for the Bronx Bombers.
Now in his second year in the Bronx, Martin was hitting below the dubious Mendoza Line with a feeble .194 batting average and just four HR and 12 RBI. He drove in just one run in his first 12 games.
He projects to come up far short of his 18-65-.237 line from last year. One positive though is that Martin is drawing more walks this season, which has helped his OBP actually improve from .324 last year to .342 this season.
Martin will remain the main catcher for the Yanks because he handles manager Joe Girardi's pitching staff so well. A few more hits wouldn't hurt though.
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays
The veteran outfielder/infielder enjoyed one of the best years of his career in 2011, pounding 20 homers and knocking in 91 runs and adding 19 stolen bases for the Rays.
Zobrist has not found the same success this season through the first third of the campaign. His batting average is down a whopping 61 points from his .269 mark last year and he is not stealing bases at the success rate he did last season (just five swipes in nine attempts).
The switch-hitter is still hitting in the middle of Tampa Bay's batting order despite his struggles so Rays management still has faith he'll shake his early season doldrums.
Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays first baseman was sent to the minors leagues (Triple-A Las Vegas) on May 17 after a brutal start to his 2012 season.
The left-handed veteran was batting a meager .186 with three HR and 11 RBI in 34 games—far removed from his solid 2011 season.
In 499 at-bats last year, Lind smashed 26 homers and drove in 87 runs while hitting .251. A career .263 hitter, his offensive struggles are a real mystery.
There is no timetable presently for Lind's return.
Alexei Ramírez, Chicago WhiteSox
A notoriously slow starter, the Cuban native has started to pick things up lately but he's still been a disappointment in 2012.
Following seasons in which he hit 18 and 15 home runs, respectively, Ramirez has a lone HR and is batting just .224 so far this year. He has raised his average 23 points in the last 10 days though.
Still, his slugging percentage has dipped over 100 points from last year and his strikeout rate is up significantly.
The right-handed hitting shortstop must improve against southpaw pitching though. He's hitting just .217 against lefties after batting .268 against them in 2011.
Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians
Even though the lanky right-hander had a disappointing first season with the Tribe last year, more has been expected from the former Colorado Rockies hurler as this point.
Jimenez was skipped from a recent start and is just 5-4 with a 5.79 ERA. Expected to be the number two may in Cleveland's rotation, Jimenez leads the American League in walks (42) and also has thrown seven wild pitches, which also paces the AL.
He looks far removed from the ace of the Rockies staff in 2010 when he fashioned a stellar 19-8 record with a sparkling 2.88 ERA, including two shutouts.
Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers
It's been a real struggle for the disappointing Tigers and no one signifies that struggle more than Peralta.
The Detroit shortstop enjoyed a productive 21-86-.299 campaign last year but this season is quite different.
In his first 49 games, the Dominican Republic native was batting only .247 with four round-trippers and 16 RBI. The biggest drop-off has been in slugging percentage—from .478 in 2011 to .373 this season.
Peralta needs to pick things up away from Comerica Park. He's batting just .212 on the road this year compared to .284 at home.
A lot more was expected of the Tigers this year and a lot more was expected of Peralta.
Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals
After a career year last season, so much was expected from the Royals' very talented outfielder in 2012.
It has not materialized. At least not yet.
After a 23-87-.303-17 SB campaign last year, Gordon has had difficulty being productive this season. Through 53 games, the left-handed slugger had belted only four HR and knocked in just 20 runs. He had stolen but one base.
His slugging percentage really tells the tale. It was a solid .502 last season. Look at it this year—.373. Ouch.
Gordon is too talented to remain in this funk for much longer though. Right?
Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins
The former ace southpaw made his first start since May 7 last week and finally earned his first victory of the season with a 4-0 triumph over Oakland.
The fact that is was Liriano's initial win of the season says it all.
Now 1-6 with a brutal 6.46 ERA, Liriano and the Twins hope his six-inning, three-hit, nine strikeout performance against the A's can be a springboard to a productive rest of the season.
In his prime at 28 years old, Minnesota management is hoping Liriano can more closely resemble the post-surgery starter who authored a 14-10 record with a 3.62 ERA just two years ago.
Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Yes, Albert Pujols finally is starting to smile these days.
Finally, finally King Albert is starting to hit. The future Hall of Famer is still one of the biggest disappointments in baseball though based on the huge free agent contract he signed over the winter.
Despite belting eight homers in May, the powerful first baseman was still batting .241 in his first 56 games, well below his career .325 average. Pujols is not trying to pull the outside pitch anymore and is driving the ball with much more authority.
There is still a lot of improvement that needs to be done—his slugging percentage is off almost a whopping 150 points from last year.
He looks like he's back though.
Coco Crisp, Oakland A's
It's really been a season to forget for Coco Crisp.
Where do we begin? Between a stint on the disabled list and a batting average that anyone but Ike Davis can snicker at (.165), 2012 has been a season to forget for the speedy A's center fielder.
The Los Angeles, CA native enjoyed a productive campaign for Oakland last year (8-54-.264, 49 SB) but has simply not been able to get untracked this season. His 49 stolen bases tied him with Brett Gardner of the Yankees for the AL lead last year.
He has seven this year.
At least he hasn't been thrown out yet.
Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners
This is really a two-season distinction because since leaving the Angels after the 2010 season, the switch-hitting infielder/outfielder has not looked like the same player.
Not even close.
Safeco Field is one of the worst offensive parks in the majors, but Figgins' production has been horrendous—a .181 batting average this season after a feeble .188 mark in 2011. He can't even see the dreaded Mendoza Line.
When you can't get on base you can't steal and after swiping 42 bags for the Halos in 2010, Figgins has just 17 SB since joining the Mariners.
It's been tough to watch.
Derek Holland, Texas Rangers
It's hard to find someone of dubious note on the first place Rangers but the gifted southpaw has failed to match his 2011 effort.
So far anyway.
After compiling a superb 16-5 ledger (including four shutouts) last season, Holland has had a roller coaster campaign this time around (4-4, 5.11 ERA). That stat line is a little deceiving though because his WHIP and batting average against are actually better than last year.
Throw out his abysmal start against Seattle on May 30 when he allowed eight earned runs in 1 2/3 innings and his ERA would be 4.05. It was 3.95 last year.
That's why the 25-year-old lefty should be just fine and help Texas to another divisional crown.