Chase Utley and Every MLB Team's Most Worthless Player so Far
The 2011 baseball season is just more than a month in and there are already a countless number of players under-achieving for each team.
True, its only been one month and some players (see Dan Uggla) never hit consistently in April, but that's no exception. As the season shifts into May and more players find their groove, the numbers of many of these players will likely improve.
Regardless, here are each team's biggest under-performing players up to this point.
Philadelphia Phillies: Chase Utley
Utley has yet to take the field this season, as he has been sidelined with patellar tendinitis in his right knee since the team's Spring Training began.
The Phillies were counting on Utley, and closer Brad Lidge's arm for that matter, to be consistent parts of their lineup and have yet to see either one of them on the field. Both players will need to return healthy to help the red hot Phillies continue their reign of dominance over the NL East.
But there is good news on the horizon for Phillies fans.
Although Utley admits he is a long way from returning, he began playing in extended Spring Training games on Saturday. In the game, Utley went 5-for-7 with two home runs.
Atlanta Braves: Dan Uggla
After the Braves lost to the Cardinals on April 30th, Dan Uggla was batting .194 with 21 strikeouts. In fact, the only thing he had going for him at that time was his surprisingly good fielding ability at second base.
Since the Braves signed him during the offseason, Uggla has been telling the team's fans that he almost always starts off rough and that his April numbers are, by no means, what anyone should expect of him. Thus far, Uggla has been true to his word.
After that April 30th loss, Uggla has improved his batting average to .213, still not something to boast about, but an improvement from a frigid April.
Florida Marlins: Hanley Ramirez
Ramirez, a three-time All-Star and a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, did not hit his first home run until May 1st against the Reds and has not tacked on another one since.
Currently, Ramirez is batting .195 with that one home run and 12 RBI.
After hitting more than 20 home runs each of the past four seasons, Ramirez's frigid start is surprising to all those who follow the Marlins closely. They'll need him to heat up, and quickly, if the Marlins plan on keeping up their impressive start in the NL East.
Washington Nationals: Ivan Rodriguez
Rodriguez and Wilson Ramos have been splitting time behind the plate this season, but the veteran catcher has suddenly found himself being moved into a backup role after struggling mightily at the start of the season.
As of May 8th, Rodriguez is batting .231 with a home run and 10 RBI in 15 games. Rodriguez was batting right at .200 at the end of April, but has managed to improve his numbers drastically because of his limited plate appearances.
Despite heating up, Rodriguez will likely take a backseat to the up-and-coming Ramos, who is batting .319 in 22 games played this season. Although Rodriguez is still listed as the team's top catcher on their official depth chart, expect a change soon.
New York Mets: Mike Pelfrey
Pelfrey's hot start to last season all but set him up for failure this year. At the time of the 2010 All-Star break, he was 10-1 and one of the best pitchers in the almost tough NL East. Despite coming back to earth and finishing 15-9, he was still expected to overachieve this season.
But he has done everything but overachieve so far this season.
The Mets' ace is currently 2-3 with a 6.06 ERA, which is a drastic improvement to his first three starts of the season, in which he went 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA. As of May 8th, he has allowed 15 walks while recording 21 strikeouts.
He'll have to return to 2010 form so the Mets can remain in contention until Johan Santana returns mid-to-late season.
Houston Astros: Chris Johnson
Johnson, a relative no-name outside of the Houston fan base, had an impressive 2010 season with the Astros. After appearing in 94 games with the team, Johnson finished the season batting .308 with 11 home runs, 52 RBI and .818 OPS.
After posting high numbers last season, Johnson was expected to overachieve again this season. Through 27 games, however, Johnson is batting .192 with three home runs, 12 RBI and 27 strikeouts.
Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Hart
Hart's 2011 got off to a bad start before he could take the field on Opening Day, as he was sidelined with a strained oblique muscle just prior to the season's start.
Hart returned to the Brewers lineup on April 26th, but has yet to find his swing. As of May 9th, Hart has yet to record a home run, an RBI and has only scored once. He's batting a cool .167 through just nine regular season games with the team.
Hart will likely return to All-Star form as the season continues, but up to this point, has been a huge disappointment for a team expected to contend for the NL Central division title.
St. Louis Cardinals: Ryan Franklin
Franklin lost his job as the Cardinals' closer before the calendar even turned to May because of his ineffectiveness at the back end of the team's bullpen.
Although Franklin has shown some glimpses of his prior dominant form, his numbers tell the story of his season so far. Currently, Franklin is 0-3 with an 8.63 ERA, three strikeouts and four walks. He has just one save on the season and has already blown four opportunities.
Mitchell Boggs is currently serving as the team's closer, and he will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Like so many others on this list, Franklin must return to his 2010 form, a season in which he saved 27 of 29 games, in order for the Cardinals to compete.
Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza
When the Cubs shipped off their top-prospect, pitcher Chris Archer, and a countless number of other minor leaguers, one would have thought they were trading for Roy Halladay. But that was not the case. In fact, it was far from it. The Cubs got Matt Garza, a very talented pitcher, but by no means the solution to their 100-plus years of turmoil.
Currently, Garza is 1-4 with a 4.43 ERA. One bright spot to his rough start is that he's struck out 58 players while only walking 13.
Garza's 2011 is far from over, as he has plenty of time to turn his numbers around. He's very capable of it, as we all learned after he threw a no-hitter last season against the Tigers.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Ronny Cedeno
After defeating the Houston Astros on May 7th, the Pirates returned to .500 (17-17) and third in the NL Central division standings.
While many of their players have stepped off to keep the Pirates in contention thus far, Cedeno has struggled mightily. His batting average didn't crack the .200-range until May 1st, and it has hovered there ever since.
Currently, Cedeno is batting .209 with no home runs, 8 RBI and no stolen bases. In comparison to other short stops league-wide, Cedeno is batting .047 points lower to the league average. If the Pirates hope to compete with the Reds, Cardinals and Brewers this season, they'll need everyone, Cedeno included, to contribute almost daily.
Cincinnati Reds: Nick Masset
With Francisco Cordero in top form as the Reds' closer, their bullpen has stepped up to task of serving as the bridge from the starters to Cordero, with the exception of one man, Nick Masset.
In 16 appearances this season, Masset has given up 11 earned runs and is currently 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .247 against him and have taken him deep three times in just over 18 innings pitched.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Joe Saunders
When the Diamondbacks traded their ace Dan Haren to the Angels in exchange for Saunders, the team's front office was expecting Saunders to pitch effectively like he did while playing in Anaheim. Unfortunately, he's had a rough go so far this season.
Saunders has yet to win this season, posting an 0-3 record and a 5.67 ERA through May 8th. He has also allowed almost as many walks as strikeouts - 20 strikeouts and 17 walks.
But what makes it even worse is what Haren is doing for the Angels. Currently, he's 4-2 with a 1.76 ERA and 46 strikeouts and seven walks.
Colorado Rockies: Bench Players
The Rockies are off to one of their best starts in years and have all of their starting nine to thank for putting up impressive numbers thus far into the season.
The weak spot of the team, however, appears to be their bench players. Jason Giambi is batting .130 with only one home run and four RBI in 23 at-bats and Ian Stewart is batting a frigid .073 with one RBI.
Both players will need to step up in order to take the place of 2010 All-Star Ty Wigginton, who was placed on the 15-day Disabled List at the end of April.
San Diego Padres: Ryan Ludwick
When the Padres acquired Ludwick late last season, they hoped he'd allow them to make a run into the 2010 postseason, something the team missed out on after losing their last game of the year.
Ludwick has gotten off to a slow start so far this season, as his batting average currently sits at an even .200. Although he does have four home runs, including a two homer game against the Atlanta Braves on April 25th, he has struggled with runners on base.
He'll need to heat up in order for the team to make a run at the NL West crown and maybe even a late run into the postseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Hong-Chih Kuo
Kuo was dominant in 2010, finishing the season 3-2 with a 1.20 ERA. In fact, he was named to the 2010 NL All-Star team after Braves right fielder Jason Heyward announced his injury would keep him out of the game. In doing so, Kuo became the first Taiwanese-born player ever to be named to an All-Star team.
In the second half of last season, then Dodgers manager Joe Torre announced that Kuo would replace the struggling Jonathan Broxton as the team's closer. By season's end, he'd notched 12 saves and only blown one.
This season, however, Kuo has yet to earn a win (or a loss, or a save for that matter), currently has a 9.64 ERA and has walked six while striking out eight in eight appearances. With Broxton's struggles continuing, Kuo will need to sharpen up to serve as the club's closer once more.
San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner was a key to the Giants' World Series victory last season, as he, alongside pitchers Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain, all but dominated every team the Giants faced in October.
But Bumgarner's 2011 has gotten off to a rocky start.
After the last game Bumgarner started, a game in which he got a no-decision against the Rockies, he had an 0-5 record and an ERA just over 4.20. Opponents are currently batting .281 against him, about the same as they did last season, but he simply cannot find his way into the win column.
He'll need to if the Giants plan on returning to the postseason this year.
Toronto Blue Jays: Rajai Davis
Rajai Davis has struggled mightily in his first season with the Blue Jays. His batting average currently sits at .182 and he has struck out more times than he has gotten a hit by way of a 14 to 12 margin. Even Davis' OBP, which has been well over .300 each of the past two seasons, currently sits at low .217.
Davis' batting average is well below the average for center fielders in the American League (.259) and he will need to improve mightily if he plans to keep his job in center for the Jays.
Baltimore Orioles: Mark Reynolds
When the Orioles acquired Reynolds from the Arizona Diamondbacks, they knew he would bring a high number of strikeouts with him. Even with that daunting statistic, the Orioles brought Reynolds in in hopes that he would help turn things around in Baltimore. Up to this point in the season, he has unfortunately done anything but help.
Reynolds is currently batting a horrid .187 with three home runs and 15 RBI. He has struck out 34 times through 33 games and only has 20 hits thus far.
The O's have cooled off a bit after starting off the season red hot, and will need Reynolds' bat to come around in order to compete alongside the rest of the AL East.
Tampa Bay Rays: Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez
After losing some of their best players during the offseason, the Rays attempted to reunite Damon and Ramirez in hopes that both players would return to their Boston Red Sox form--something that has yet to happen for the former sluggers.
Damon, currently serving as the club's designated hitter, is batting .256 with five home runs. This is not an awful stat line by any means, but he is clearly struggling both in the batter's box and the outfield.
Ramirez retired not long after the season started after testing positive for steroids for a second time in his career. This was not a huge loss for the Rays, however, because Ramirez could barely put the ball in play during his short stint with the team.
Boston Red Sox: Carl Crawford
It wasn't until May 6th that Boston's $142 million man raised his batting average to above .200, a statistic that caused much of the Red Sox nation to worry about Crawford's reliability as the team seeks to return to the postseason after missing out last year.
Currently, Crawford has been able to pull his batting average up to .211, and he's hit one home run while batting in just seven runs through 32 games with the team this season. As of May 9th, he had also struck out 24 times while recording only 27 hits.
The Sox need Crawford to come around, and quickly.
New York Yankees: Jorge Posada
Posada, nearly 40-years-old, can't buy a base hit this season and is hurting his team every time he comes up to bat with runners on-base. He's currently batting .152, and although he has six home runs, he has really struggled to put the ball in play. He's already struck out 28 times this season and has only recorded 15 hits.
Sure, Posada is a Yankee legend, but all his years of catching have seemingly taken their toll on his body. He'll need to quickly forget his hitting woes in order to get back in track, as Derek Jeter seems to have done after hitting two home runs just the other day.
Cleveland Indians: Austin Kearns
Do the Indians have a weak spot yet this season?
The surprise leaders of the AL Central have had big hits from just about everyone on their roster this year and have not needed to make many personnel moves. This makes Kearns, a backup outfielder, the unlucky winner of the Indians' most worthless player award.
Kearns is batting .159 with no home runs and two RBI in just 44 at-bats this season. After hitting 16 home runs for the Nationals in 2007, Kearns' power numbers have disappeared, as he's hit no more than eight in each of the past four seasons. For the sake of the first place Indians, their outfielders will need to stay healthy so Kearns' playing time will not increase.
Kansas City Royals: Kila Ka'aihue
Last season in Triple-A, Ka'aihue hit 24 home runs in only 323 at-bats, leading all Royals fans to believe he was part of their team's future. However, 2011 has been a struggle for Ka'aihue, who was recently demoted back to Triple-A.
At the time of his demotion, Ka'aihue was batting a mere .195 and the Royals, currently in second place in the AL Central, were taking a lot of heat from their fans about his play, especially because of the build-up surrounding one of their top prospects, Eric Hosmer.
With Hosmer taking over at first base, Ka'aihue will likely remain in Triple-A until an everyday player on the Royals' 25-man roster succumbs to injury.
Detroit Tigers: Brad Penny
Penny, currently 3-3 with a 4.78 ERA, is a real hit or miss for the Tigers.
In his three victories, especially his latest on May 8th, Penny has been overpowering to say the least. He's allowed zero earned runs in two of the starts starts and walked no more than two batters.
But in his loses, Penny is horrible. In his first four starts of the season, Penny allowed eight, four, three and five earned runs respectively. During that run, he lost two games and received no decisions in the other two.
Penny has made his way onto this list because the Tigers never know which Brad Penny they'll be getting when he takes the mound - dominant Brad Penny or horrible Brad Penny.
Chicago White Sox: Matt Thornton
Since the 2007 season, Thornton's season ending ERA has been right around 2.70. This is a statistic White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen likely took into consideration when he named Thornton the team's closer this season.
Although Thornton has earned saves in each of the past five seasons, the transition to the team's full-time closer has been a rough one for him.
Currently, Thornton is 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA and four blown saves. In addition to his rough start, Thornton has yet to save a game for the Sox this season. On a team featuring dominant starting pitchers such as Mark Buehrle and Edwin Jackson, Thornton will need to step it up to ensure the White Sox can hold on late in ballgames.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer
Mauer, a four-time All-Star and former AL MVP, has only appeared in nine games with the Twins this season, accumulating only 34 at-bats. As of May 10th, Mauer has no home runs, four RBI and six strikeouts. In addition to the low power numbers, Mauer's OBP currently sits at .289.
Members of the Twins front office said they did not want Mauer to return until he could return to duty behind the plate, as they did not want a not fully recovered Mauer taking swings as the team's designated hitter.
Once he returns from injury, he'll likely become the Mauer of old and lead the Twins back into the postseason.
Los Angeles Angels: Vernon Wells
When the Angels acquired Wells, they hoped to add a power bat to a lineup already featuring Torii Hunter and other strong hitting players. However, the team has yet to see Wells' power that he displayed so frequently while playing for Toronto.
Wells' batting average currently sits at .183 and his OPS at .527. In 142 at-bats with the Angels this season, Wells has struck out 30 times while accumulating just 26 hits and 13 RBI.
On May 10th, Wells pulled his right groin and landed on the 15-day Disabled List. Once he returns, the Angels are hoping he'll be at full health and ready to return to the All-Star form he was once capable of.
Oakland Athletics: Mark Ellis
Through 35 games, Ellis has already struck out half of the number of times he struck out all of last season His 22 strikeouts and inability to come up with a base hit have lowered his batting average to .190 and his slugging percentage to .273.
Ellis, who has never been a much of a power threat, has yet to record a home run this season and currently only has six RBI.
Seattle Mariners: Chone Figgins
Through 31 games with the Mariners this season, Figgins is batting .217 and has a .269 OBP--one of the lowest in all of the American League. Although Figgins had a strong 2011 Spring Training, he has yet to show signs of anything positive thus far this season.
There is good news for Figgins, however. His one home run this season already matches his total from all of last season. See? So not everything has worsened for him.
That, ladies and gentleman, is what we call sarcasm.
Texas Rangers: Mike Napoli
Almost all of the Rangers' starting nine have contributed in some form or another, so finding their most worthless player was more of a challenge than finding one on a weaker team.
Napoli has never been very good against righties, and this has only been magnified by being a bench player for the Rangers.
His at-bats are down drastically from his playing days with the Angels, and he appears to be struggling to adjust. Although he does have six home runs, Napoli is struggling at the plate--a disappointing start for a man trying to earn a spot on a team loaded with offense.
Look for Napoli to continue to play against and pound left-handed pitching, however.