This article was originally posted here at Cardinals Front Office.
Since returning from the DL, Rick Ankiel has been dreadful. Ankiel may be one of the more loved players in the league, but he looks bad right now.
He hit the disable list in early May, but Rick is obviously still hurting. And history shows that you do not want Ank in the lineup when he is hurt.
Ricky was DLed after the May 4 game when he crashed into the wall after making a truly outstanding catch.
After 20 days of rest, Ankiel was activated on the 24th. Since his return to the lineup, Ankiel is 1-for-14 and has watched his average dropping 26 points during that time span.
In April, when healthy, No. 24 hit at a decent .264 clip before hitting the wall—in more ways than one.
Ankiel’s May was quite different, as he hit .105. When healthy, there is no question, the guy is a very good baseball player. The problem is, he has had a hard time staying healthy.
“It’s hard not to say that,” Ankiel said when asked if he was rusty. “I can sit here and say…that it doesn’t matter. But come on. If you’re looking at it for what it is, then yeah, it would be hard for me not to say that.”
All you have to do is look at his splits from last year. He had a very good half before the break. His pre-All-Star break average was .270 with 20 home runs and 50 RBI.
After that, he disappeared. In fact, his .245 average, five home run, and 21 RBI second half was one of the worst second-half falloffs in recent history.
Let’s stay with 2008. Last season, he obviously started out healthy with a .290 April. However, that number fell off a cliff with a .241 May, and a .238 June. If you thought that was bad, he followed it up with a .180 August and .133 September!
Ankiel battled injury all season, and those averages just prove that playing him hurt is a bad idea. Not only will he produce while healthy, not keeping him on the DL may jeopardize future healthy at-bats.
The Cards need this guy in the lineup, but they also need to be smart about this. Not only does his leadership provide a great vibe in the clubhouse, the guy is one of the best outfielders in the MLB.
He has definitely brought back shades of Jim Edmonds out there in center field. He has only recorded five career errors in center field. That is still under his error total on the mound (7).
Exacerbating the problem is that before he got hurt, Ankiel was finally beginning to emerge from a slow start to the season. In the last 13 games before he went on the DL, he was batting .310 with a .375 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage.
In his return, Ankiel did everything but continue where he left off. A lot of that could be blamed on the way the Cards brought him back.
It was right in the middle of the latest slump, the team just wanted to get back on track, and instead of sending him to the minors for a rehab assignment, the club only put him on an extended Spring Training workout.
Ankiel acknowledged that his return may have been a tad too quick.
“It may be a little bit faster, but that comes and goes, too, just overall,” he said. “You look up there and you see .220, and if you care, that’s frustrating. So the biggest thing is just being frustrated, trying to push the frustration aside and grind it out. Which I feel like I’m doing. You come here, you get your work in, you do what you’re supposed to do, and then grind it out.”
Rick is on pace for nine home runs and 51 RBI, which is well off his 26/85 162 game averages.
There is no doubt about it; his injury is still bothering him. Looking at seasons past, that means bad baseball for Ricky.
He did have a double tonight and looked much better. Maybe he is figuring it out, who knows? But there is still reason for concern.
If I was John Mozeliak, I would seriously consider another DL stint for Ankiel if he does not get it together soon.
The numbers do not lie. When he is hurt, he is a bad player. When he is healthy, he is a very good one.
There is no denying it, folks. The way I see it, if the Cardinals can rest him to avoid spoiled at-bats down the line, that is the road they need to take.
Cardinals Front Office