Tim Lincecum and MLB's 10 Most Shocking Busts of 2012

Kyle BrownCorrespondent IIIJuly 22, 2012

Tim Lincecum and MLB's 10 Most Shocking Busts of 2012

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    Every year there are a handful of MLB players who turn out to have shockingly bad seasons when no one expected them to.

    This year has been no different.

    Some players such as Ichiro Suzuki might be on the downswing of their careers, while other players such as Eric Hosmer are struggling to make the necessary adjustments that young players routinely need to make.

    Here's a list of the 10 most shocking busts of 2012.

10. Eric Hosmer

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    It was difficult to put Eric Hosmer on this list because it was simply unrealistic to expect him to build upon his fantastic rookie campaign in 2011.

    The young first baseman batted .298 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI last year, but has followed it up with a less-than-appealing stat line of .226/.294/.359 with nine home runs and 40 RBI in 2012.

    Hosmer was the Kansas City Royals' top prospect (it was really a toss-up between him and Mike Moustakas), and he has given the fans a reason to be excited about what the future has in store for the Royals. 

    But baseball is a tug of war when it comes to young players who are trying to establish themselves at the major league level. The league has simply adapted to Hosmer, and now it's up to him to adjust back and fill the holes in his swing.

    Hosmer will be fine in the long run, but the Royals—as well was the rest of baseball—were expecting far more production from him this year.

9. John Axford

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    Closers on a MLB roster have as much job security as a door-to-door salesman: absolutely none whatsoever.

    It takes at least two moderately stress-free seasons in order to earn a reputation as a closer around the league, but teams are endlessly sifting through relievers to find which pitchers have the mentality to make the pitches when the opposition is fighting for its life.

    To put it simply, John Axford—who is currently in the midst of his third season closing out games for the Milwaukee Brewers—is not having a good year.

    "The Axeman" has already blown six saves in 23 chances and has an ERA of 5.17. That's way too high for a pitcher of any sort, let alone the most important arm in the bullpen.

    After Axford blew a save against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 16, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke announced that Francisco Rodriguez would assume closing duties in the near future.

    What a steep fall from grace considering Axford accumulated 46 saves last year.

8. Ike Davis

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    Ike Davis started to turn some heads after his impressive rookie year in 2010. The average wasn't quite there yet, but he still hit 19 home runs and drove in 71 in just more than 500 at-bats.

    Davis missed the majority of the 2011 season with an ankle injury, yet he still batted .302 with seven home runs and 25 RBI.

    This year, however, Davis has taken a step backwards. His average is currently sitting at .207, and he is striking out at an astonishing rate of 25.5 percent.

    The expectations were high for Davis this year. His power numbers are there (14 home runs with 51 RBI), but his .207 batting average just isn't going to cut it.

7. Ricky Romero

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    Ricky Romero started to make people believe that he could emerge as one of the top lefties in baseball in a matter of years, but those expectations have taken a huge hit after his less-than-impressive 2012 campaign.

    After gathering 15 wins, an ERA of 2.92 and an All-Star appearance in 2011, Romero has followed it up with a 5.22 ERA and a WHIP of 1.504.

    Those are both inflated stats coming from a pitcher who was supposed to be the ace of the Toronto Blue Jays staff.

6. Justin Upton

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    Justin Upton, the face of the franchise in Arizona, was well on his way to becoming a household name in baseball. He has all the tools to become one of the best all-around players, and he's still only 24 years old.

    However, Upton hasn't been producing this season like we know he's capable of, and now his work ethic and character are starting to be questioned.

    This has resulted in Upton hearing his name involved in numerous trade rumors, although I find it hard to believe that the Diamondbacks would actually pull the trigger and trade their young star.

    Even though the standings show that the race for the NL West is between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks are still a dark-horse team to make a late-season run at the division.

    Upton's eight home runs and .404 slugging percentage are going to need to drastically increase, however, if the Diamondbacks are going to make a push.

5. Jon Lester

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    Jon Lester is usually considered to be an early-season candidate for the AL Cy Young Award, but those predictions were quickly shot down this year after he started the season with a record of 0-2 and an ERA of 6.00.

    Things haven't gotten much better for Lester, either; he's currently 5-7 with a 4.80 ERA.

    Sure, Lester's ERA is the one stat that jumps out at you, but the secret behind his struggles this year is that he isn't pitching as well with runners on base. His left on base percentage of 65.7 is the lowest it's been in his six-year career.

    It might be too late for the Boston Red Sox to make a postseason push, but they'll need their ace to return to his old self to have a chance.

4. Ichiro Suzuki

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    No one was willing to write off Ichiro last year when he had the worst year of his career statistically. He batted a respectable .272 last year, but that's considered to be batting below the infamous Mendoza Line for him.

    Ichiro was the definition of consistency, as he batted at least .300 every year during the first 10 years of his career. Heck, he was even an All-Star every single one of those years.

    This year, it's even worse than last season. Ichiro is currently batting .264 with an on-base percentage of .290.

    How the heck does he not have an OBP of more than .300?

    Could we be witnessing the decline of arguably the greatest Japanese player to ever wear an MLB uniform?

3. Heath Bell

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    Out of all the signings that the Miami Marlins made this offseason, my honest opinion was that Heath Bell was the best one.

    Mark Buehrle is a solid pitcher, but he certainly wasn't worth the money. The same goes for Jose Reyes, but the "not being worth the money" part was taken to another level.

    Then there was Bell, a top-five closer in the league who was automatic during his time with the San Diego Padres. He saved at least 40 games for three straight years prior to coming to Miami, but the wheels came off as soon as he put on the Marlins uniform.

    Bell's ERA is an astonishing 6.05, and he has blown six saves in only 25 chances. He only blew five saves the entire 2011 season.

    Bell could turn out to be the most disappointing free-agent acquisition from the 2011 offseason. 

2. Rickie Weeks

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    When playing to the best of his ability, there aren't many second basemen better than Rickie Weeks.

    The 2010 season was a prime example of this, as Weeks batted a respectable .269 with 29 home runs and 83 RBI. Those are exceptional numbers, especially coming from the second base position where power isn't necessarily expected.

    Hitting for a high average was never Weeks' forte,—he's a career .246 hitter—but Weeks has been abnormally bad this year. He's batting a lowly .194, which is the lowest batting average in the NL with enough at-bats to qualify. Moreover, his 110 strikeouts are tied for the most in the NL, with Dan Uggla being the other.

    It's hard to pinpoint why Weeks has been struggling so much this season; he's 29 years old, which means he's right in the middle of his prime.

    Either way, there's no doubt that Weeks is having one of the most disappointing seasons this year.

1. Tim Lincecum

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    No one knows how to explain it.

    How can a back-to-back Cy Young Award winner from 2008 and 2009 be reduced to statistically the worst starting pitcher in the majors just three years later?

    Some blamed his drop in velocity, while others blamed it on the inevitable happening—he's just too small to maintain pitching at a high level for an entire career.

    However, the optimists liked to blame his struggles on his "bad luck," as his BABIP of .323 and his FIP of 3.75 show that he just might be getting some unlucky bounces of the ball when it's put in play.

    Whatever it is, Lincecum is having not only the worst year of his young career but one of the worst-ever years statistically for a pitcher.

    There is reason to be optimistic now, however. Lincecum has complied a couple of very impressive starts in his last two outings. He had the best fastball command he's had all season and a newfound confidence that is needed in this game.

    He's done that before this season, however, and followed them up with another disastrous start, so it's not safe to say that Lincecum is back quite yet.

    If Lincecum is able to carve up the San Diego Padres during his next start and pitch well against the New York Mets in the following start, at the very least one could say that Lincecum has officially returned to his 2011 form.

    It just doesn't make sense for such an elite pitcher to fall off the map so quickly at such a young age. Lincecum is just 28 years old, which means he hasn't even entered his prime years yet.