A new year of baseball is almost upon us, and I am getting excited to say the least. Today I take a look back at some of the under-performers from 2008, and discuss which players must make adjustments in their game-play to have a successful 2009.
Only a short while ago named the set-up man to Kevin Gregg, Marmol is more frustrated than ever, though he refuses to admit it. Last June/July, Marmol had a midseason implosion and could not seem to find the strike zone...or anywhere near it.
His numbers plummeted, or being a pitcher, I should say they “soared,” and his near perfect season got turned into one that didn’t have many heads turning. Marmol must avoid this meltdown in 2009 and throw strikes throughout.
He has proven several times that he is nearly un-hittable and if he can keep the pitches over the plate, great things will come of his 2009 season.
Like teammate Carlos Marmol, it was only a few horrific months that cost Carlos Zambrano a terrific season. From the start of August to the end of the season, Zambrano lacked control and efficiency. Also like Marmol, Zambrano needs to maintain consistency throughout the ENTIRE season.
His implosion hurt his team as well, costing them a possible advancement into the second round of the playoffs. If Big Z can control his pitches and emotions, the Cubs should be a lock to win the NL Central and once again compete for a WS Championship.
Although the first three players on my list are Chicago Cubs, this is by no means a Cubs preview. It just so happens, that they have more players than any other teams, who need to adjust in order for themselves and the team to be successful. Derrek Lee is another one of these players.
With his swing and bat-speed slowed tremendously by his aging, Lee can no longer expect to be a 35-40 home run threat as he was earlier in his career and before his wrist injury. Instead, Lee must focus on driving in runs and getting on base via base on balls, singles, and doubles to the gap.
Lee must also remember how to drive the balls on the inside into left-field, and go with the pitches to the outside corner. If he can make these adjustments, the Cub offense will be very grateful.
After a fantastic second year season where this young slugger belted 50 home runs, his numbers dropped greatly in the 2008 season. His home runs dropped by 16, RBI by 17, runs scored by 23, and average by 12 points.
These drops were due to the pitchers figuring out all holes in Fielder’s swing, and Prince being unable to respond by getting rid of these holes.
Brewer fans must hope that Fielder’s work over the off-season has eliminated many of the holes in his swing so that he is back to 2007 form.
Jeter is another player who is dealing with the realization that he is no longer 25 years old and close to as agile as he had been in the past. In 2008, fans and competitors alike, saw a drop in almost all of Jeter’s statistics.
Because he has lost some of his speed and will no longer be able to beat out the infield hits that he has in the past, Jeter must utilize his eye and take more walks.
Fortunately for the Yankee captain, his team has a stronger offense than almost all other teams in the league, and if his production drops, many others will be right there ready to pick up the slack.
At the age of almost 35, it is unlikely that we will see another 20 home run 30 steal season for Jeter, but do not doubt what he has left in him.
Burrell is one of the few players on this list (along with Zambrano and Lee) who could be considered a veteran. He is 32 years old, and besides in 2002 and 2005, he has shown no true “breakout year.” Burrell is still at an age where he could really have a great season.
But Burrell tends to start off hot, and then cool down consistently as the season progresses. Every year he is a threat to hit 40 home runs and with an offense like Philadelphia’s, drive in 120 as well.
The key is maintaining his early hot start, and continuing it deep into the summer, rather than letting it simmer away with spring. Burrell is a great talent, and it will be his play that decides if the Rays repeat (and perhaps finish the job) 2008, or if they play in the shadow of New York and Boston.
After a tremendous rookie campaign, few noticed the drop off in Braun’s numbers his second season. People noticed that he drove in over 100, and hit over 35 home runs, but what about that fact that he only hit three more home runs than the year before...in over 150 more at-bats.
Nationally League Pitchers exploited the weaknesses in Ryan Braun in 2008, and this caused a drop in his average, on-base-percentage, and only a slight increase in more playing time in the other categories. Braun along with Prince Fielder is the centerpiece of a Milwaukee offense that could be towards the top in the NL.
If the Brewers wish to challenge the Cubs for the division title, it is up to Braun to respond and make adjustments to his approach at the plate.
In 2007, the Astros traded with the Phillies for highly touted prospect Michael Bourn. Bourn was a sure bet for 60 steals, a sure bet for 100 runs, and a lock for the starting job.
But a free runner like Bourn can only run if he can get on base, and this was the problem for Bourne during the 2008 season. Don’t get me wrong, Bourn still stole over 40 bases, but if he can increase his on-base-percentage from .288 to even just .320, there is no reason he does not steal 60.
Bourn must cut back on his strikeouts and increase his walk total (37 in 2008) to reach base more often.
In addition, he must learn to take advantage of his speed and use it to get on base via infield hits and bunts, which he is very capable of learning.
Mentioned as the Braves next star, Francoeur struggled mightily in 2008 and was sent to the minors to straighten out his batting problems. Still a stud in the outfield, Francoeur must learn to take more walks (39 in 2008) and he must return to 2007 offensive form.
If he straightens out these batting woes, with the improvement of Atlanta’s lineup, there is no reason Francoeur cannot hit 30 home runs and drive in close to 120.
Pence is another player who, after a great Rookie season, saw his numbers drop-off terribly in 2008. Pence upped his power numbers, but his ability to get on base (both in average and on-base-percentage) dropped significantly.
I would always give up power for a good average and getting on base. What we can see in Pence, is the pitchers seeing him for the second, third, and fourth times around, and after watching him on video, figuring out where to pitch him and then hitting their spots.
There is nothing wrong with Pence’s approach, just a need (like many of the other players I have listed) to adjust and eliminate these holes, so that the pitchers are confused for a second time.
If Pence does do this, he will maintain (and perhaps increase) his power numbers, while regaining his average and on base percentage. A pretty good trade off if you ask me.