Rookies Who Are Folding Under MLB Pennant-Race Pressure
As their respective teams battle toward a postseason berth, rookies such as Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Jarrod Parker, Manny Machado and, now, Dylan Bundy, continue to steal the headlines—and with good reason.
However, lost in the mix are several notable rookies on contending teams who’ve struggled down the stretch. While some players have shown signs of life, albeit intermittent, others have been downright bad.
Here’s a look at some of those players faltering in the month of September.
Tommy Milone, LHP, Oakland Athletics
Sept. Stats: 2-1, 20 IP, 4.95 ERA, 5.06 FIP, .420 BABIP, 0.0 fWAR (4 GS)
After allowing only two earned runs over his final two starts in August, Tommy Milone has struggled in September. The 25-year-old southpaw has simply been too hittable, allowing 33 hits in 20 innings.
To his credit, Milone did mix in one solid start on Sept. 9 against the Mariners, when he fanned 10 batters and allowed two runs over six innings. He’s been consistent all year, and the A’s will need him to finish the season that way.
Derek Norris, C, Oakland Athletics
Sept. Stats:.135/.256/.162 (5-for-37), 13 BB, -0.2 fWAR (11 G)
Acquired prior to the season from the Nationals as part of the prospect package for Gio Gonzalez, Norris was called up in late June and made his big league debut on June 21. Although he’s had some big hits for the A’s, Norris’ bat has been hit or miss—literally.
He’s fallen on hard times, especially over the last month, as his batting average now sits at .185, the lowest it’s been since mid-July. Known for hitting left-handed pitching, Norris has split playing time with the left-handed hitting George Kottaras, as Norris is batting just .183 this season against southpaws.
Tyler Skaggs, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Sept. Stats: 0-2, 17 IP, 7.94 ERA, 5.81 FIP, 2.12 HR/9, -0.1 fWAR (4 GS)
Tyler Skaggs allowed a total of five earned runs over his first three starts in the major leagues. Since then, however, the left-hander has allowed 14 earned runs over his last three starts, lasting five innings only once.
Of the 196 strikes he’s thrown over four September starts, Skaggs has only generated 28 swinging strikes (12.8 percent), while opposing hitters sport an .848 OPS.
Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Sept. Stats: 0-3, 16 IP, 7.31 ERA, 5.23 FIP, 10.69 K/9, 5.63 BB/9, 1.69 HR/9, 52.4% LOB, 0.0 fWAR (4 GS)
Moore’s rookie campaign has been a season of ups and downs. After turning in his best month of the year in August (3-1, 2.19 ERA), the highly talented left-hander has seemingly deteriorated in September.
It could be related to fatigue considering that he’s thrown 172 innings this season; or it could be related to his mechanics. Either way, Moore has been less dependable with every September start. He’s averaged only four innings per start this month and has allowed 28 baserunners in only 16 innings.
If the Rays intend to reach the playoffs—and advance beyond the divisional series—they need Moore to regain his command. Everyone saw what he was capable of in 2011 when he shut out the Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS—so will the real Matt Moore please stand up?
Addison Reed, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Sept. Stats: 0-1, 4 SV, 7.1 IP, 8.59 ERA, 4.06 FIP, .440 BABIP, 7.36 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 1.23 HR/9, 0.0 fWAR (10 G)
As so many closers do, Addison Reed has made a habit of making the end of games interesting. The right-hander began the season as a setup man for the White Sox, but he was named the closer in May after not allowing an earned run over 10 April appearances.
However, with the game on the line, Reed has rarely thrown a perfect ninth inning. In fact, the last time he accomplished such a feat was on July 17, meaning that it’s been over two months since Reed has thrown a perfect, one-two-three frame in a save situation.
Todd Frazier, 3B/1B, Cincinnati Reds
Sept. Stats: .211/.274/.263, 3 2B, 2 RBI, 13 K, -0.2 fWAR (15 G)
It’s hard to disagree with the notion that Todd Frazier is the Reds’ MVP this season. After all, with Joey Votto out of the lineup, the 26-year-old carried the offense, posting an .882 OPS with 15 RBI in July and a .981 OPS with 25 RBI in August.
He has drastically cooled off in September, though I assume complacency can come into play when your team clinches the division with roughly two weeks remaining in the regular season.
Although his .537 OPS through 15 games this month should not induce panic, one would like to see him carry some momentum at the plate into the postseason.
Jeff Locke, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Sept. Stats: 0-2, 20.1 IP, 6.64 ERA, 5.67 FIP, -0.1 fWAR (4 GS)
Poor Pittsburgh. It’s hard to isolate a lone determining factor for their late-season collapse. However, inconsistent and inexperienced starting pitching is definitely toward the top of the list.
Beyond the woes of James McDonald, left-hander Jeff Locke has been painfully mediocre since joining the rotation. Of his four starts this month, the 24-year-old has pitched beyond the fifth inning only once and has served up six home runs in 20.1 innings.