MLB's Fastest Fading Stars for 30 Clubs
Most every team has stars in their prime. Conversely, most every team has fading stars well past their prime and hanging on by the thread from their nearly retired jersey. Sometimes, we can be fooled into believing a guy is still in his prime due to his accolades, big name or simply the favors he's done for our team in recent years... But "recent" is only relative. Is 2007 really all that recent?
Consider Roberto Alomar, who was traded from the Cleveland Indians to the New York Mets after the 2001 season and saw his career fall into quicksand, as he was out of the league by 2004 despite coming off perhaps his best year in 2001...
Many careers, even Hall-of-Fame worthy ones, can collapse faster than the Metrodome.
With that said, here's a team-by-team look at each franchise's players on the greatest declines...
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The X-Man is only three season removed from being a rising star in Pittsburgh. Now, it looks more like he's about three years away from being removed as a major leaguer. His .248/.287/.359 line says 25th man all over it, though he has had his moments for the young D'Backs squad.
However, it looked like he was coming on big after his 25 HR/97 RBI campaign in '08 that prompted a big trade with the New York Yankees in the form of Jose Tabata, Ross Ohlendorf, Daniel McCutchen and Jeff Karstens trade.
While those four look to all be on their way up, Nady seems to be sliding rapidly.
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Chipper Jones has been a long tenured fading star. He's aging and nearly on the wrong side of...40. He's a lock to play under 130 games. And his knees are a catcher's worst nightmare.
With that said, Chipper is still the man in Atlanta. There are obvious up and coming stars in the form of Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward, hometown heroes like Brian McCann and the best bullpen in the league, but Chipper is still the pride of Atlanta.
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Vladdy Daddy is likely a first-ballot hall of famer. He could hit pitches that fell bat lengths short of home plate. He had a cannon for an arm that could be used in war. He was a single home run away from being part of the prestigious 40HR/40SB club. However, those days of Vlad's career are well behind him. A renaissance season in Texas last year sure seemed to make Guerrero look like he was still a star, but Vlad is aging and may find it difficult to find a good deal come this offseason.
Apologies go out to Brian Roberts on this selection.
Boston Red Sox
At age 33, Lackey surely isn't an extremely old pitcher like his fellow right hander, 45-year-old Tim Wakefield is, but Lackey sure has been pitching like he's older than him. Lackey's earned run average has steadily climbed its own monster of a ladder from '07-'11: 3.01, 3.75, 3.83, 4.40, to an ugly 6.02 ERA this year. Yuck.
Chicago White Sox
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His name is an adjective for his season. He may become the poster boy for awful contracts, and his career has slid further than any analogy could tell. His career average stat line looks like this: .245/.375/.507. He's hitting .169, he has 11 HR's and both his OBP and slugging percentages are under .300.
That's about all you need to explain that one...
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You guessed it. Soriano used to be a top-10 talent in all of baseball. He was in the mold of a Vlad Guerrero, as he was always a threat for the 40/40 club.
If Soriano had double digit steals, he'd be more of an asset. His OBP is under .300, he's bad for your eyes to watch in the field and his stats are miles behind where is career statline once was.
And he's owed upwards of $50 million bucks over the next three years.
Jim Hendry had no comment regarding this slide.
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While he was an All-Star this season and still one of the finest glovemen in all of baseball, Rolen is a shadow of his former self, though he's still an effective player.
Injuries have hampered his season, but he's 40 points below his career batting average. He has five HR's and 36 RBI's, and there's no way he'd be protecting Albert Pujols in the lineup like he once did years ago.
Edison Volquez was a close runner-up, but considering Rolen's former star status, he was better qualified.
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Travis Hafner is scratching his head on this pick...
But Sizemore takes the prize. Can you remember the last time he played 120 games or more? 2008, which may be his peak as it seems right now. Sizemore was well on his way to the top as he was only 26 years old when he arrived at the 30/30 Club. Now it seems as though he's an unreliable and inconsistent outfielder, primarily because he can't stay healthy. After one knee recovers, he hampers the other.
Perennially, he is competing less for the MVP award and more for the comeback player of the year award.
That means you're on the downside...
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Todd Helton is the best fading star among fading stars because he is still a borderline All-Star caliber player. His arcade game stat lines are over. He'll never approach 50 HR's again, as he hit 49 in 2001. He may not even ever hit 20 again. After all, he hasn't since 2005. However, Helton is a professional at-bat, gets on base at a fantastic mark, can pick it still at first and is still an incredibly productive player even at the ripe age of 38.
Todd Helton's "faded stat-line" is what some players hope to hit in their prime.
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You could argue Carlos Guillen is more worthy...
But Brad Penny is only 33, and in '07, he had a 16-4 record with a 3.03 ERA.
Since then, he is 28-31 with an ERA well over 5.
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Hanley Ramirez. He's the question and the answer. Is he really fading, or is this just a fluke-awful season? Han-Ram is supposed to be in the prime of his career, though he's hitting just .243 with 10 homers. His stat line looks more like that of Yuniesky Betancourt (minus the OBP) than that of the most talented SS in all of baseball.
2012 will be a very important potential bounce back season for the former batting champion.
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El Caballo has tailed off somewhat like that slowing horse that you put big money on to win at the track. Or at least that's what it feels like for Ed Wade. He's hit a combined .251 in his last two seasons with 35 HR's. The two years prior to that, he had hit 54 HR's and a combined .305 average.
If he had any value, he'd be out of the Houston's gates like Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourne. The fact that he's not tells you how far he's fallen.
Kansas City Royals
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It's tough to pick a fading star on a team with so many rising ones. With solid players developing like Alex Gordon, Melky Cabrera and others, combined with true potential stars rising like Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, among others, Soria wins by default.
It may be just a down year, or it may be a sign of things to come. His ERA is up nearly 2.5 runs from where it was last year, and he's lost the closer role once already this season. He's only 27, so hopefully, the best is yet to come/return, but for now, Soria looks to be fading.
Los Angeles Angels
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Hunter, a player who was once worthy of his very own self entitled defensive award, is certainly a player on decline. A nine-time gold glover who loses his spot in the outfield must have some signs of decline, despite the fact he lost it to could-be track star Peter Bourjos. Vernon Wells is already a fully faded star, so he is ineligible for the list. We've known that for years, despite his recaptured season in 2010. However, Torii Hunter many people still see as a star, while he may not be much longer...
Torii Hunter is still a major face of baseball. Players and fans love him. He comes up with big hits. And most every team in the league would have him on their club...but he's just not the player he used to be. With less range in the outfield and his lowest power numbers in the last 10 years, the once high flying Hunter is a player soaring only on reputation and name more so than ability.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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Loney came up as a 21-year-old and was primed to win a batting title. He never hit below .281 in his career before last season. He was never a big power hitter, but always a consistent hitter with line drive power that average 89 RBI's over the last three seasons.
However, this year, he's at 39 and on pace for fewer than 60 RBI's. He's hitting a pedestrian .262 for his standards and is coming off a .267 season in 2010.
The "first baseman of the future" tag for Loney will wear off soon, as he may be non-tendered this offseason despite the fact he's only 27 years old and affordable.
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Casey Mac outdid all expectations every season he's been in the majors... that is, until now. He was released by the Cubs and signed with the Brewers. In 2009, he was a top candidate for the N.L. Rookie of the Year. He drove in 104 RBI's last season, protecting Prince Fielder in the lineup and quite well at that.
This year, McGehee has lost his groove. He's shown flashes of the past with a three-HR game and other big hits for the Brewers at times, but a .242 average batting No. 5 behind Prince Fielder is not the way to do it.
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Everybody hopes to see Morneau come back in 2012 and be an All-Star. Unfortunately, his health has been so bad to him after a concussion in 2010. He was hitting a Joe Mauer-esque .345 before the injury in '10, and hasn't been able to rebound since. In 63 games this season, his average stands at .213...
Speaking of that Joe Mauer-esque 2010 batting average, Joe Mauer is about another bad month away from making the list...
New York Mets
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After the '09 season, Jason Bay looked to be a great value at the four-year, $66 million he signed for with the Mets. Now, it looks like money that could've been used to re-sign Jose Reyes, David Wright or simply flush down the toilet.
It's been a tough time for Bay at Citi Field and as a Met. He has only 15 HR's in nearly 200 games over the past two seasons.
If you remember a pitcher by the name of Johan Santana, then you should keep his name close because he too is the next Mets fading star.
New York Yankees
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In 2007, A-Rod was universally considered the best player in the game. While it was debatable then, surely today, he is likely not even in the top 30 players, from a production standpoint at least.
Rodriguez still possess numbers of an All-Star, but certainly not those of the A-Rod of years past. He's 36, and while still one of the top tier third baseman in baseball, he's not the guy that hit 54 HR's, drove in 156 RBI, and hit .314 in 2007.
He's like the cheaper "Lite" version of apps you download on your iPhone (though he gets paid like he's the premium version): He is a cheaper, tinnier, lighter, lesser version of the original model.
A-Rod's down seasons typically included 30 HR's, though nowadays, it seems like his better seasons he'll hit 30 HR's. When the barometer for measuring a player changes this drastically, he surely must be on the decline.
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Matsui is another player who, though on the decline, is still an exceptional ballplayer. His primary duty is (and should be) DHing, and he's hitting .263 with 11 HR's and 63 RBI's, which makes him probably the best offensive weapon on the A's. Considering he plays in a 40-plus year old giant football field, these stats are rather acceptable. However, these numbers are far from his "Godzilla" numbers that made him such a Hollywood hit in New York and even in Southern California last year for the Angels.
Godzilla will never be as lethal as he was with the Yankees, but he is still a solid ballplayer in the bigs.
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J-Roll was once a five-tool ballplayer. He was the 2007 MVP and he's still the on-the-field chief in charge of the Philadelphia Phillies. However, he's also an aging veteran who's seen his share of DL time over the last two years (and again today, as he was placed on it), seen his average dip from .296 in 2007 to .277, .250, .243, to .267 in the four years following his MVP season. He's also seen his once surprising 30 HR season fade to 21 and then no more than the 14 he has this season.
Jimmy Rollins is a staple in the Philadelphia llineup, but as he ages into his early to mid 30's, we witness his skills decline. Is he a leadoff hitter? A No. 2 hitter? A No. 5 hitter?
While he may (and teammate Ryan Howard) be fading, he's still a key component to his World Series caliber club.
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Lee was brought to Pittsburgh to bring stability to the infield and to bring veteran leadership. It was not to hit home runs at the rate he did in '05, when he hit 46, or even in '09, when he hit 36.
All the numbers go against Lee: He's 36. And since '09, virtually all his numbers have steadily declined downwards, as most upper 30-year-old's tend to do.
San Diego Padres
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In Arizona, Hudson was perhaps an underrated ballplayer. Since he departed the desert, he may be a bit overrated because he's been on a decline since then.
He's worthy of his own mathematical equation in terms of the consistent regression...
Take his HR total in 2007 and use the formula 10-2(X), X being the years removed from '07...Then that should be plus or minus one of his actual total.
Ridiculous mixing algebra and baseball, right?
But using that formula, he'll have about two homers in 2012, not too far off from the four he's hit all of 2011 thus far. Injuries have gotten to Hudson's production both offensively and defensively.
San Francisco Giants
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Beltran is actually having a great comeback season. He was traded at the deadline for top prospect Zack Wheeler and is still a difference maker, but the fact of the matter is that Beltran is also a player on decline. The Beltran of the early 00's was good for 30-plus HR's and 100-plus RBI's hitting around .290. The "comeback Beltran" of '11 is hitting .284 with 15 HR's and 68 RBI's and another DL stint.
And once upon a time, he even played a very good centerfield.
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The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Of course, there are two things for certain in life: death and taxes. And there are 365 days in a year, unless in leap years.
In baseball, Ichiro hits .300 with 200-plus hits each year.
So is this a leap year? Or did he not pay his taxes? 2012 may explain more on this dilemma, as Ichiro sits here on August 22 with only 138 hits. That does not fit the pattern of Ichiro's career.
Japan's finest has never hit below .302. This year, he stands at .266 with a .304 OBP. That would be a perfectly satisfactory stat line for, say, Franklin Gutierrez, but not for Ichiro Suzuki.
Suzuki's consistency finally seems to be coming to a halt. Do keep in mind, he's 37 and in 11 seasons, has nearly 2,400 hits.
St. Louis Cardinals
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A year ago, it sure seemed like Lance Berkman would've topped this list as the Cardinals representative. However, he has redeemed himself with a stellar season, and Carpenter has lost some of his magic touch.
While Carpenter is having a very fine season, he is giving up a lot more hits per nine innings, and his WHIP is up plenty, too. Hitters are hitting .275 off him, 31 points higher than last season and nearly 50 points higher than two seasons ago.
Carpenter is beginning to slowly slide down the rotation ladder from ace to No. 2 pitcher. Hopefully, he will not slide much more, but the numbers are surely telling...
Tampa Bay Rays
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How do you pick a fading star on such a young team? Johnny Damon is too easy. Had Manny Ramirez not retired, he'd be the choice.
Upton had 24 homers in 2007 in 129 games as a 22-year-old. He hasn't had more than 18 bombs since. Starting in 2007, his batting averages have dwindled each and every year progressively: .300, .273, .241 and .237, to .227 this season.
A player with such athletic ability seems like a waste with contributions like that. He can run with 40-plus swipes in each of the last three seasons, but this year, he is at 26, so unless he takes his Ricky Henderson-ade, he will fall short there as well.
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It's not an obvious pick because it seems all the Rangers are in their prime, but Kinsler comes to mind because of his slide as a consistent contact hitter. He is a leadoff hitter, but with a .244 average, he's tough to consistently get on base despite a good walk rate.
In 2009, Kinsler looked primed to be the best second baseman in the league (outside of maybe Robinson Cano) as he hit 31 HR's, but then slowly faded at consistently getting the bat on the ball (.253 average).
There are more telling stats than just the batting average, but for Kinsler, who could've (and still could be) been a perennial All-Star, at this point, the future looks less than it once did.
Toronto Blue Jays
Injuries have been a derailing factor to Hill's career, so there is still time to recover. To this point, though, Hill's monster 2009 campaign seems like that of a different player.
Hill hit 26 homers in 2010, but he hit just .205.
This year, Hill is hitting .225 with just six homers.
It's tough to know what to expect with Hill after the last two seasons, but one thing for sure is that he is not what he once was offensively.
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The $126 million dollar man is the fading star in Washington, only about seven years too early.
Werth wasn't worth the risk (signed seven-year deal), as he was coming off only one really "great" year and today, looks to be on down side of his career already. He's only 31, so the verdict isn't out just yet, but Werth has been playing like a guy who is 38, not 31. He's hitting over 40 points under his career average, and while he hit 36 homers, then 27, in a stacked Phillies lineup, he's got only 14 for the Nats.
Time will tell whether Werth really is on the decline, as it will for most of these players, but for the time being, they sure look like players on the downsides of their careers.