MLB First Half's All-Disappointing Team
The first half of the 2012 MLB season brought us breakout players like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and surprising contenders like the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets.
However, there have also been plenty of disappointments that continue to baffle. Several players that had great seasons in 2011 have dropped off considerably so far this year. Established talents expected to assert themselves have instead taken a step back.
For whatever reason, their skills have failed them in the first half, leaving fellow players, coaches and fans wondering how such a drop-off could occur so suddenly.
Here is our All-Disappointment team from the first half of the season with players for each position, a five-man starting rotation and a closer.
It's an impressive collection of names, but this year, it's a roster that hasn't lived up to expectations.
MLB All-Disappointing Infield
First base: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals (.231 BA, 9 HR, 39 RBI)
After a 2011 season in which he compiled a .799 OPS with 19 home runs and 78 RBI, Hosmer looked ready to take his place as baseball's next great first baseman. In the process, he would carry the Royals to contention in the AL Central. Unfortunately, he got off to an abysmal start, batting .188 in April and has been trying to climb out of that hole ever since.
Second base: Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals (.232 BA, 7 HR, 24 RBI)
With 21 homers and 66 RBI in his rookie season, the Nationals hoped Espinosa would be a dependable top-of-the-order hitter. Considering Espinosa hit .236 last year, perhaps a vast improvement shouldn't have been expected. Moving him down in the lineup may have taken some pressure off, but it hasn't led to better production.
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers (.260 BA, 5 HR, 27 RBI)
Peralta was an improbable All-Star in 2011, making Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski look like a genius for taking a chance on a shortstop whose best days appeared to be gone. At the All-Star break last year, Peralta had an OPS of .891 with 14 home runs and 50 RBI. This year, his OPS is .698, and his power numbers have taken a dive. He has also played much worse defensively.
Third base: Ryan Roberts, Arizona Diamondbacks (.237 BA, 6 HR, 32 RBI)
Roberts was the embodiment of the D-Backs' 2011 season. Nothing much was expected from a career utility man who spent most of 2010 in the minors. But Roberts broke out to become Arizona's everyday third baseman, hitting 19 home runs with 65 RBI. This year, Roberts has a .639 OPS, compelling the D-Backs to look for outside help at third base.
Catcher: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (.221 BA, 5 HR, 30 RBI)
The Tribe did all they could last season to prevent Santana from wearing down, playing their young catcher at first base for 66 games. Yet Santana is batting like someone who is tired out. Last year at the break, he had 13 homers and 41 RBI and went on to hit better in the second half. This year, Santana has five homers and 30 RBI. Is it because he's been catching more?
MLB All-Disappointing Outfield
Left field: Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays (.231 BA, 5 HR, 23 RBI)
After establishing himself as one of the Rays' top position-player prospects, Jennings had a chance to become the team's everyday left fielder. However, he hasn't made the most of his opportunity, compiling a .649 OPS. To be fair, Jennings has struggled with a sprained left knee that kept him out for 21 games. Still, the Rays need better production than that out of their leadoff hitter.
Center field: Shane Victorino, Philadelphia Phillies (.245 BA, 8 HR, 37 RBI)
Victorino caused a mild uproar on Sunday when he was scratched from the Phillies lineup, leading to speculation that he was upset over batting seventh. As it turns out, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, manager Charlie Manuel gave Victorino the day off because "he was down." A career-low batting average and OPS (.680) isn't what a depleted Phillies lineup needs from its veteran All-Star.
Right field: Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks (.273 BA, 7 HR, 37 RBI)
The D-Backs are only four games out of first place in the NL West yet they're talking about trading their young superstar? Upton has performed like anything but a star this season, boasting a slugging percentage (.376) that is 52nd among major league outfielders. He battled a thumb injury early in the season, and seems to be struggling with it much more now.
MLB All-Disappointing Starting Rotation
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants (3-10, 6.42 ERA, 1.58 WHIP)
"What's wrong with Tim Lincecum?" has been a season-long story line. At the All-Star break, he is baseball's greatest mystery. Each subsequent start stokes speculation that he has either turned himself around or is pitching his way out of the Giants' starting rotation. Even teammate Barry Zito is wincing at Lincecum's win-loss record and league-worst ERA.
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies (1-5, 3.98 ERA, 1.19 WHIP)
If not for Lincecum, Lee might be the focus of all the "What's wrong with him?" stories. After all, Lee didn't win his first game of the season until July 4. As ESPN's Jayson Stark pointed out, 279 pitchers (one of whom is a designated hitter) won a game before Lee did this year. Lee is still striking out batters, but he is giving up almost a hit per inning.
Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels (6-8, 4.86 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)
With Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson ahead of him in the Angels' rotation, Haren didn't have the pressure of being an ace, but he was expected to do better than this. As it turns out, Haren has been fighting through a back injury all season and finally acknowledged it was affecting him. If he recovers, the Angels should hang with the Rangers in the AL West.
Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox (5-6, 4.49 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Lester went on the disabled list with a lat strain last week, so perhaps that's an injury he has been dealing with throughout the season. Otherwise, he has been anything but the ace that the Red Sox needed him to be and has done little to erase the memories of last season's clubhouse debacle. The lefty has already given up 122 hits this year after allowing 166 all of last season.
Brian Matusz, Baltimore Orioles (5-10, 5.42 ERA, 1.71 WHIP)
Given, Matusz isn't an ace for the O's, nor is he considered one of the top pitchers in their rotation. But he still looks nowhere close to fulfilling what's been expected of him as a top pitching prospect. Matusz was demoted to the minors last week after compiling horrific stats in 16 starts.
MLB All-Disappointing Closer
Heath Bell, Miami Marlins (2-5, 6.75 ERA, 1.82 WHIP)
Closers throughout baseball were struggling in the early part of this season. But most of the established ninth-inning stoppers have settled in and resumed closing out games for their respective teams.
One guy who hasn't been able to shake off his early-season struggles is Bell. Those problems have been magnified by the three-year, $27 million contract he signed with the Marlins last offseason. For that kind of money, Bell was expected to be among the league leaders in saves, not blown saves.
After giving up three runs and blowing a two-run lead to the Cardinals on Sunday, Bell was tagged with his sixth blown save of the season. That tied the Mariners' Brandon League for the most in the majors.
Those blown saves are arguably the difference between the Marlins being in the NL East race and their current fourth-place standing.
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