MLB's All-Dud Team for the Month of July
No matter how many times a player has jogged onto a major league field over the course of their career, everybody struggles at one point or another. Slumps are simply part of the game.
Unfortunately, there's no way to predict when one is going to hit. Players and teams alike hope slumps come early, while there's plenty of baseball left to be played, so they can get it over with and leave it in the past where it belongs.
For the players who have made our All-Dud Team for July, their slumps hit at one of the absolute worst possible times—right before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
These guys have made their general managers' jobs that much more difficult, clouding the picture as to whether they should be looking to buy or sell as the deadline approaches.
Who are the biggest culprits in the game? Let's take a look.
Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
July Stats: 22 G, .250/.267/.318, 2 XBH (2 HR), 9 RBI, 9 R, 57 wRC+
With Kansas City teetering on the edge of contention and having one of the more maddeningly inconsistent (but talented) lineups in baseball, one of the few consistent, reliable options has been Salvador Perez.
That hasn't been the case in July.
Among players with at least 85 July at-bats, Perez's two extra-base hits are tied with Aramis Ramirez for the fewest in baseball. His .585 OPS is the 10th lowest in the game, per Baseball-Reference. No catcher with at least 80 plate appearances has posted a lower wRC+.
It's fair to expect far more from an All-Star in one of the season's most critical months.
2014 Stats: 95 G, .278/.319/.422, 29 XBH (12 HR), 38 RBI, 42 R, 105 wRC+
First Base: Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
July Stats: 22 G, .167/.240/.238, 4 XBH (1 HR), 11 RBI, 5 R, 30 wRC+
Just over a week into July, Adam Kilgore of The Washington Post noted that Adam LaRoche was walking more and striking out less than he ever had before. It led to an increased contact rate and one of the better seasons of his 11-year career.
"Walking’s one of those things, it’s the last thing that crosses my mind until it happens," LaRoche remarked to Kilgore when it was brought to his attention.
The veteran first baseman might want to start thinking about taking some pitches.
July has seen LaRoche post his lowest walk rate (8.3 percent) and highest strikeout rate (18.8 percent) of the season, and his numbers at the plate have suffered as a result.
With every team in the National League East except Philadelphia playing winning baseball in July, Washington needs its best players producing.
LaRoche has failed to heed that call, and the Nationals once again find themselves in a dogfight with Atlanta for the division lead.
2014 Stats: 87 G, .269/.369/.436, 26 XBH (13 HR), 55 RBI, 43 R, 126 wRC+
Second Base: Gordon Beckham, Chicago White Sox
July Stats: 22 G, .128/.151/.198, 6 XBH (0 HR), 8 RBI, 8 R, -16 wRC+
Remember when Gordon Beckham was one of the bright young second basemen in the game?
Nobody would blame you if you didn't, for we are now five years removed from his fifth-place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year race.
If you're not familiar with wRC+, which you'll see included for every position player on our club, it essentially measures how many runs a player creates for his team above the league average, adjusted for park factors. From FanGraphs:
League average for position players is 100, and every point above 100 is a percentage point above league average. For example, a 125 wRC+ means a player created 25% more runs than a league average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances. Similarly, every point below 100 is a percentage point below league average, so a 80 wRC+ means a player created 20% fewer runs than league average.
Now look at Beckham's wRC+ for the month. That's not a typo. He is the only everyday player I can recall seeing post a negative in the category. Ever.
With every plate appearance, Beckham is costing Chicago runs.
If that wasn't bad enough, Beckham is currently riding a five-game hitting streak—and his batting average is still closer to .100 than it is the Mendoza Line.
If you're looking for the face of our All-Dud Team, you've found him.
2014 Stats: 83 G, .225/.271/.358, 29 XBH (7 HR), 31 RBI, 38 R, 69 wRC+
Shortstop: Alcides Escobar, Kansas City Royals
July Stats: 23 G, .210/.220/.247, 3 XBH (0 HR), 2 RBI, 7 R, 24 wRC+
Only a few weeks later, Escobar has proven the powers that be knew what they were doing when they left him off the roster.
The 27-year-old has completely fallen apart at the plate, with a .466 OPS that trails only his double-play partner on our All-Dud team, Beckham, for the lowest in baseball for the month.
While some other struggling shortstops, like Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins, can point to an abnormally low batting average on balls in play as a reason for their July swoon, Escobar's BABIP sits at .284, only 14 points lower than his career .298 mark.
It's not that he's been unlucky—it's that he's simply not been very good.
As is the case with many of the other players on our team, Escobar picked the worst possible time to become a dud for his major league club, doing nothing to help it figure out whether it should be buying or selling as the trade deadline draws near.
2014 Stats: 105 G, .276/.312/.374, 30 XBH (2 HR), 30 RBI, 45 R, 90 wRC+
Third Base: Matt Dominguez, Houston Astros
July Stats: 23 G, .209/.217/.286, 3 XBH (2 HR), 7 RBI, 8 R, 35 wRC+
Matt Dominguez is what he is—a slugger.
He's never going to be a .300 hitter or steal 30 bases in a season, and his strikeout totals are always going to be on the high side. But the 24-year-old can be a run-producing third baseman who plays solid defense at a premium position.
The problem is, Dominguez isn't producing at the plate or in the field these days.
No third baseman has posted a lower wRC+ or fWAR (minus-0.6) in July than Dominguez, whose 1.1 percent walk rate on the month is the second lowest in the game, behind only Detroit's Ian Kinsler (1.0).
Nothing kills an offense's momentum like a double play, and nobody grounded into more of them in July than Dominguez, whose seven double plays are tied for the fifth-highest total by any player in a single month this year.
While the Astros are going nowhere fast this season, seeing Dominguez continue to develop his all-around game would have been a sign that the team doesn't have to worry about the hot corner moving forward.
His July performance only finds us asking whether he's truly a cornerstone piece for the rebuilding franchise or merely a stopgap option until someone better comes along.
2014 Stats: 106 G, .231/.275/.363, 27 XBH (13 HR), 39 RBI, 44 R, 76 wRC+
Right Field: Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds
July Stats: 22 G, .139/.209/.278, 5 XBH (3 HR), 11 RBI, 7 R, 30 wRC+
With franchise cornerstones Brandon Phillips (thumb) and Joey Votto (quad) forced to watch from the sidelines as they nurse injuries, Cincinnati needed Jay Bruce to help pick up the slack.
Bruce has slacked, all right, posting a .278 July slugging percentage that is the 15th-lowest mark in baseball.
That puts him behind such all-world sluggers as Dee Gordon, Billy Hamilton, Jean Segura and Ichiro Suzuki, none of whom you'd ever see in a Home Run Derby (though such an event with that foursome would be entertaining as heck to watch).
That's the same Jay Bruce who averaged 27 home runs and a .482 slugging percentage over his first six major league seasons.
Aside from his struggles at the plate, Bruce's defense has taken a turn for the worse. After posting the third-highest defensive-runs saved mark (18) among qualified right fielders last year, he sits at a minus-two this year, which tied with Hunter Pence for 12th at the position.
That's a pretty drastic change.
Perhaps it's a sign that Bruce's left knee still isn't healed after May surgery, or perhaps it's a sign that he simply needs more protection in the lineup than what Todd Frazier can supply.
Either way, Bruce's performance in July has done nothing to help the Reds take control of a wide-open NL Central, making him one of the duds of the month.
2014 Stats: 87 G, .215/.300/.379, 30 XBH (10 HR), 42 RBI, 48 R, 87 wRC+
Center Field: James Jones, Seattle Mariners
July Stats: 21 G, .202/.227/.245, 3 XBH (0 HR), 2 RBI, 8 R, 36 wRC+
Three full months into his major league career, James Jones no longer looks like part of the answer to what ails Seattle's perennially underperforming outfield—he looks like just another part of the problem.
Even when he wasn't hitting for average, Jones was still getting on base enough to cause problems for the opposition with his speed and providing above-average defense at a premium position. In July, he's managed to steal only three bases while suddenly becoming a defensive liability.
Perhaps even more troubling is his inability to make consistent contact. Jones has struck out 28 times in 94 July at-bats—nearly 30 percent of the time—seven of them coming over his last 13 plate appearances.
Jones simply looks overmatched against major league pitching, making it all the more vital for the Mariners to make a move for an impact bat before the trade deadline passes if they have any hope of reaching the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
2014 Stats: 77 G, .260/.290/.316, 12 XBH (0 HR), 8 RBI, 38 R, 70 wRC+
Left Field: Shin-Soo Choo, Texas Rangers
July Stats: 20 G, .207/.302/.304, 5 XBH (2 HR), 5 RBI, 7 R, 70 wRC+
When Texas signed Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal this winter, the expectation was that he'd be the on-base machine and table-setter the club sorely needed atop its lineup.
The problem is, he hasn't been that player in nearly two months.
While the 32-year-old has made progress after a truly woeful June that saw him post a .520 OPS, his numbers in July are still awful, especially when you take into consideration both his contract and his sometimes cringe-worthy defense in left field.
Consider this: Of the 172 players who have made at least 75 July plate appearances, Choo's .302 on-base percentage puts him in a tie with Kansas City's Billy Butler for 119th place. His .606 OPS? Good enough for 145th place, behind such offensive juggernauts as Ender Inciarte, Dioner Navarro and B.J. Upton.
2014 Stats: 102 G, .240/.352/.362, 26 XBH (9 HR), 34 RBI, 48 R, 98 wRC+
Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales, Seattle Mariners
July Stats: 20 G, .169/.295/.323, 4 XBH (3 HR), 6 RBI, 11 R, 70 wRC+
Kendrys Morales didn't do much during his time in Minnesota and has managed to do even less upon his return to Seattle, reaching base only twice (one single, one walk) in his first four games back in a Mariners uniform.
That .067 batting average isn't doing much to help his July numbers, that's for sure.
But perhaps the craziest (and most damning) thing about Morales' miserable July is that he put together a 12-game hitting streak and still couldn't crack a .200 batting average or .700 OPS on the month.
It takes a special kind of dud to pull that off.
2014 Stats: 43 G, .219/.250/.302, 12 XBH (1 HR), 20 RBI, 12 R, 49 wRC+
Right-Handed Starter: Edwin Jackson, Chicago Cubs
July Stats: 6 GS, 0-3, 7.50 ERA, 1.80 WHIP, 30 IP, 40 H, 4.2 BB/9, 6.9 K/9
Chicago would love to rid itself of Edwin Jackson and the $22 million that he's owed in each of the next two seasons, as reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, but the 30-year-old, who has played for eight different teams over his 12-year career, is making that impossible.
Jackson has allowed at least four earned runs and/or failed to get out of the fifth inning in four of his six July starts. Over his last 18 innings of work, he's surrendered 20 earned runs, 27 hits and five home runs.
In his latest start against Colorado, Jackson needed 105 pitches to get through four innings of work. If Jackson isn't a dud, I'm not sure who is.
2014 Stats: 22 GS, 5-11, 5.79 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 119.2 IP, 137 H, 4.0 BB/9, 8.1 K/9
Left-Handed Starter: Mark Buehrle, Toronto Blue Jays
July Stats: 4 GS, 0-2, 7.20 ERA, 2.10 WHIP, 20 IP, 36 H, 2.7 BB/9, 5.9 K/9
After getting off to a phenomenal start to the season that saw him make his first All-Star Game appearance in five years, Mark Buehrle has come crashing back down to earth.
The savvy veteran, who had failed to pitch into the seventh inning only once since May 1, has yet to do so in July. Buehrle lasted only three innings in his most recent start, which came against the New York Yankees on July 25. It was his shortest outing since 2010.
Opponents are hitting a robust .396 with a .952 OPS against him, the latter being the highest recorded against any starting pitcher who has logged at least 20 innings in July.
With key players such as Edwin Encarnacion (quad), Brett Lawrie (finger) and Adam Lind (foot) sidelined by injury, the Blue Jays needed to rely on the leader of their rotation to keep the club in games. He's done anything but that, making him one of the game's biggest duds in the fourth month of the regular season.
2014 Stats: 21 GS, 10-7, 3.19 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 135.1 IP, 146 H, 2.4 BB/9, 5.3 K/9
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez, Milwaukee Brewers
July Stats: 8 G, 1-2, 6.75 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 8 IP, 10 H, 1.1 BB/9, 11.3 K/9, 3-of-4 SV
While his bloated July ERA can be largely explained by the three earned runs that he surrendered to his former team, the New York Mets, it has not been a good month for K-Rod.
Rodriguez has allowed at least one hit in seven of his eight appearances and given up three home runs—never a good look for a player coming off the fifth All-Star appearance of his career.
He's making things far more interesting in the ninth inning for Milwaukee than anyone would like, and his inability to seal the deal consistently has helped to allow the rest of the division to make up ground on the Brewers in the NL Central.
Milwaukee needs a far better performance down the stretch from its closer if it's going to clinch a playoff spot, much less the division.
2014 Stats: 50 G, 4-4, 3.04 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 50.1 IP, 38 H, 1.8 BB/9, 10.5 K/9, 30-of-34 SV
*Unless otherwise linked/noted, all statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and are current through games of July 29.
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