Expectations are rarely spot on. This realization applies to all aspects of life, but is especially recognizable in sports.
There is a reason why no one ever predicts every playoff team correctly before the season. There is a reason why no one ever finishes the NCAA tournament with a perfect bracket.
It is impossible to predict the future and often times, we are taught the hard way to expect the unexpected.
In team sports, the teams that generally finish around their predicted record are the ones who end up having an even balance of pleasant surprises and major letdowns.
All teams will inevitably have players who perform well below expectations; the teams that can pick up the slack are the ones that succeed.
This list will attempt to distinguish which player has been the biggest disappointment the season.
Without further ado...
In 2006, Baseball America listed Stephen Drew as the No. 5 prospect in all of baseball.
Listed behind him were the likes of: Francisco Lirano, Chad Billingsley, Justin Verlander, Matt Cain, Prince Fielder, Howie Kendrick, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Markakis, Jon Lester, Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez and Ryan Braun. That is just to name a few. He was so highly touted that fellow Arizona prospect Justin Upton was moved from shortstop to right field.
The younger brother of two highly thought of disappointments (Tim and JD), Stephen may just be the biggest underachiever in the family.
Since getting called up mid-way through the 2006 season, Drew has entered each season with breakout expectations. What has he amounted to? How about a .270 career hitter with 70 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 733 career games.
What about this season you ask? How does a whopping .252 batting average and .713 OPS through 354 plate appearances sound to you?
Last season, Jason Heyward was billed as the future of baseball.
The 6'4", 240 pound right fielder was supposed to be the local boy who received the torch from Chipper Jones and led the Braves to another string of 14 straight division pennants. Where did all that hype go?
Heyward has followed up his Rookie of the Year runner-up performance with a pitiful season, hitting a measly .222, with 13 homers and 40 RBI in 111 games.
Atlanta has certainly had other players besides Heyward underachieve this season (Martin Prado, Nate McLouth), but the success of other young players such as RoY hopefuls Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel have helped Braves fans endure the supreme struggles of the J-Hey Kid.
This was supposed to be Brian Matusz's breakout season. All the experts said that he was going to show everyone the potential that he failed to fully capitalize on as a rookie last season.
What has the 24-year-old lefty done with that potential? Well, besides being demoted to Triple-A mid-way through the season, he has worked his way to a respectable 1-7 record with a 9.84 ERA and 6.9 K/9.
Matusz's season has not been a complete disappointment. He did make this list. You may say that is not an accomplishment, but you are clearly undervaluing the challenge that he has withstood from Matt Wieters.
Yes, I know that Matt Wieters was a completely underdeserving All-Star this season. That does not in any way negate the fact that the player who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with a caption saying, "The Perfect Catch," is sporting a .758 OPS.
Despite the stink-job that the "switch-hitting Joe Mauer" has put forth this season, the fact that Brian Matusz has been completely inept all season and was even demoted midseason secures this spot for him.
Like this article if you were expecting to see John Lackey here. Better yet, like this article either way!
Carl Crawford undoubtedly trumps Lackey in this department for two reasons: one, Crawford was the $142 million free agent who has failed to be the dynamic lead-off hitter that he was expected to be; two, after last season's signaling stinker, only a delusional Nation-member would have had high expectations for Lackey entering this season.
Crawford came to Boston as a career .296 hitter with 162-game averages of 14 triples and 54 stolen bases. This season? He has a .251 average with five triples and 17 steals. Does that kind of production seem worthy of $14,000,000 to you? Me neither.
This list spot could certainly have gone to either Alfonso Soriano or Geovanny Soto but both of those players have consistently worked on lowering expectations over the last few seasons.
Since signing a big five-year, $91.5 million deal in 2008, Big Z has repeatedly fallen short in his attempts to become the dominant ace that the Cubbies had expected him to be.
Because he is still just 29 years old entering this season, many people still held out hope that this could finally be the year that he fulfilled his potential. That has not been the case.
Not only has Zambrano had the worst statistical season of his career (4.82 ERA, 6.2 K/9), another midseason emotional blowup further proved that he just does not have the mental makeup needed to be a big-time professional athlete.
This slide should have been harder than it was. As much as it just screams Adam Dunn, it really shouldn't.
Gordon Beckham has been terrible. Alex Rios has been worse. Gavin Floyd is consistently inconsistent. Jake Peavy clearly may never fully recover from his injuries.
Most importantly, what were you really expecting out of Adam Dunn?
That being said, Dunn is still the biggest disappointment on the roster. It largely has to due with his massive offseason contract but also the fact that his classic feast-or-famine style has witnessed less feast and a lot more famine this season.
Being a career .244 hitter with 38 homers and 186 strikeouts per 162 games, it would seem to be tough to have a down year. That's just what Dunn has done (hehe, Dunn and done) to the tune of a historically low .161 average with 11 dingers and 158 K's in 109 games.
Don't worry though South Siders, the 31-year-old is only under contract for three more seasons for $44 million. Have fun with that.
Following the 2007 season, the Cincinnati Reds traded Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez. Which side do you think won that trade?
Hamilton has proceeded to lead Texas to the World Series while hitting .311/.538/.904 and winning the 2010 AL MVP. Volquez has been oscillated between AAA and the big leagues while going 30-15 with a 4.12 ERA. By no means are those numbers out of a 27-year-old pitcher terrible, but they are made worse by comparison.
Although this season has been especially disappointing for Volquez (5-4, 5.93 ERA), he probably does not deserve to be a unanimous choice for this pick. In all honesty, besides the under-appreciated Johnny Cueto, the entire pitching staff for the Reds have been extremely disappointing.
Fair or not, the comparisons to Hamilton, coupled with decreasing effectiveness, make Edinson Volquez the biggest letdown in Cincinnati.
The 2011 Cleveland Indians are really weird. As a team, they have certainly exceeded expectations. On an individual basis, their biggest stars have all been major letdowns.
Shin-Soo Choo has been terrible on the field and irresponsible off of it. Carlos Santana has not played anything like a top prospect. Fausto Carmona has continued his annual decline. Midseason acquisition Ubaldo Jimenez has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball since the trade. None of these players have been the team's most disappointing.
Four years ago, Grady Sizemore was the most exciting player in baseball. Ladies loved Grady and guys wanted to be Grady. He was a fantastic fielder and the most dynamic leadoff hitter in the game.
Due in large part to repeated injuries, Sizemore's abilities have rapidly deteriorated. Still just 29 years young, it now seems that he may never again be the player he once was.
Every season in Cleveland begins with the hope that No. 24 will finally be healthy. In has become abundantly clear that such is merely a dream.
Ah, our first partial-season disappointment. Save for Grady Sizemore's decline, Ubaldo Jimenez most likely would have been the biggest letdown of the season for two separate ball clubs. That would have truly been an accomplishment.
Ubaldo Jimenez is just entering his prime. At least he should be. History has shown that, on average, pitchers enter their prime at the age of 27. Jimenez turned 27 in January.
Using the past to predict the present, Jimenez logically should have been expected to at least repeat his dominance of 2010. Not so much.
It may be possible to argue that Jimenez was not really a big disappointment for Colorado this season because they were able to trade him for good value. That is something that only the future will be able to tell. This article is not written in the future so for now, Ubaldo Jimenez was by far the most disappointing Rockie.
Despite strong challenges from Magglio Ordoñez, Brandon Inge and Rick Porcello, Austin Jackson has been this season's most disappointing Tiger because his lack of production was not as predictable as the rest.
Coming off a Rookie of the Year runner-up campaign, Jackson has regressed in almost every statistical category. Besides a sharp decline in batting average, Detroit's biggest worry regarding A-Jax is that he has shown no improvement in his strikeout frequency. As a rookie, the center fielder led the AL in K's and, while Mark Reynolds' move from the senior circuit makes it highly unlikely that he will repeat, Jackson is likely to finish in the top three once again.
This is not just a case of a player disappointing by not progressing, it is simultaneously a case of disappointment through regression.
It must be tough being a Marlins fan. Oh, wait... there are no Marlins fans. They draw less than 1000 spectators. Anyways...
What has happened to Hanley Ramirez?
Twenty-seven years old and a .313 career hitter. He has 43 doubles, 24 homers and 42 steals per 162 games. Prototypical five tool player. Suddenly he becomes a .243 hitter with 16 doubles, 0 triples, 10 home runs and 20 steals.
Does anyone know if Hanley was hanging out with Carlos Zambrano this offseason? It seemed as if mental breakdowns like this were only reserved for 270 pound Venezuelan pitchers...
Which is more pathetic, the fact that Carlos Lee is the only Astro who will qualify for the batting title or that the only two pitchers on the roster with winning records are relievers?
The Houston Astros are the worst team in baseball. Sorry, it's just the truth. They are on pace to finish 54-108. That is terrible.
The main reason that J.A. Happ has been the biggest disappointment for a team filled with insignificant contributions is because of for whom he was acquired. You have to feel bad for Happ. When the Astros traded Roy Oswalt for him last season, they were essentially asking (at least in the eyes of the fans) Happ to fill the shoes of one of the franchises best players of all time. That's tough.
This pick may actually be a compliment to Happ in some ways. It is not just that he is Oswalt's replacement that sets high expectations for him; it is also his past success.
He was robbed of the Rookie of the Year award in 2009. Not only was he a better player than Chris Coghlan, he was a well-deserving Cy Young candidate. He clearly has the potential to be a dominant pitcher. His 2011 line of 5-15 with a 5.77 ERA does not support that.
This was an easy pick but a surprising one.
For years, the Kansas City Royals have been the doormat of the American League. Not bad, pitiful. Most would expect that a team that bad would unfairly exploit the "every team must have an All-Star representative" rule; however, that has not been the case.
As terrible as the Royals have been in recent years, closer Joakim Soria has been straight up filthy. He has arguably been the best and most underrated reliever in the game for the past few seasons.
The rest of the Royals have all stunk.
This season has been a complete switch. The roster has been full of unexpected surprises. From Alex Gordon to Melky Cabrera to Jeff Franceour, many Royals have exceeded expectations this season.
Soria mysteriously fell apart. The 27-year-old Mexican with a career 2.01 ERA shocking blew up to a whopping 4.17 ERA. After losing his closing spot, Soria began to turn his season around and has since regained his position, but still, his season has been a major disappointment.
That picture is not meant to focus on any one player. The aging outfield triumvirate has collectively been the most disappointing Angel this season.
Age can probably explain the decline for all three players but that does not excuse how disappointing they all have been. Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu are clearly at the tail-end of stellar, and terribly underrated, careers while the always overrated Vernon Wells is still in the middle of one of the worst contracts in baseball.
For three corner outfielders who all have over 450 plate appearances and are earning a combined $50 million this season, those numbers are just sorry.
How old does that picture make Rafael Furcal look?
It seems like Furcal disappoints every season. It doesn't really make all that much sense. How does a player disappoint every season and still have high expectations? Bueller? Bueller?
However disappointing his career has been, Furcal is a .282 career hitter who is getting paid $12 million this season. All that being said, he has hit a combined .217 this year between the Dodgers and Cardinals (.197 for LA).
Challenges from both Juan Uribe and Jonathan Broxton were surely thwarted due to Furcal's career-disappointer status in Dodgerville.
Brewers fans are not complaining about anything right now. They should be.
At this point, Milwaukee is all but a lock to make the playoffs. They have two top MVP candidates. Optimism is running rampant.
The problem is that in the playoffs, pitching trumps all. With the supposed four-headed monster of Gallardo, Greinke, Marcum and Wolf, the Brewers should feel confident.
All four have been good all year. The problem is that no one has solidified themselves as the ace.
When Milwaukee traded for Greinke prior to the season, they thought that they were acquiring such an ace. The former AL Cy Young winner was supposed to come in a steady all ships.
While Greinke's overall numbers are about average, his inconsistency may end up being debilitating.
Rightfully or not, the Brewers have World Series dreams this season. If they plan on even having a chance, they are going to need the unpredictable Greinke to start pitching like they thought he would.
Four years ago, the Minnesota Twins were arguably the most promising young team in baseball.
Although they were losing one of the best pitchers in the game in Johan Santana, they were loaded with young studs. They had the best young player in the game in Joe Mauer and a fast rising MVP first baseman in Justin Morneau. Francisco Lirano was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and he had just been a rookie.
The 2007 season was supposed to be the beginning of a dynasty. Expectations have not been met.
Yes, Joe Mauer has since won an MVP of his own and become the best catcher in the game. Yes, Justin Morneau solidified himself as one of the best first basemen around. Yes, Francisco Lirano has a no-hitter to his name. Never have the Twins been able to put it all together.
This season, all three could be labeled the most disappointing player on the team. The reason that Liriano bests Mauer, Morneau and center fielder Denard Span, is that he is the only one who cannot blame injuries.
Denard Span and Justin Morneau are clearly still affected by post-concussion symptoms. Unless Sidney Crosby never plays hockey again, Morneau could end up being the face of this generation's concussion issue. Mauer has simply become a walking injury. It seems as if every week brings something new. Nevertheless, Twins fans expected much more this season from all three.
Francisco Liriano has truly never recovered from 2007 Tommy John surgery. Even when having a solid comeback season in 2010, he was nowhere close to the dominant form he once showed.
Still just 27 years old, this was supposed to be the season that Liriano turned it all around. What has come of this? Despite throwing a no-hitter early in the season, Liriano has only been able to muster up a 9-9 record with a 4.84 ERA. Truly sad. Truly disappointing.
This pick was surprisingly obvious. The surprise stems from the fact that it is not Jason Bay. The obviousness comes from years of unfulfilled promise.
David Wright was Evan Longoria long before anyone knew Evan Longoria's name. The young, stud third baseman who had a slick mitt and could hit for average and power. Add in the squeaky clean image and face-of-the-franchise look. That scouting report was most likely copied and pasted from 2004 David Wright to 2008 Evan Longoria.
David Wright hit the ground running in the Major Leagues. Through his first four full seasons, he averaged .311 with 30 home runs and 115 RBI per 162 games. Then something fell apart.
When the Mets moved to CitiField in 2009, a big time pitcher's park, Wright's power number plummeted. In 2009 he hit .307 with only 10 home runs and 72 RBI. Many people blamed the park, Wright clearly blamed himself.
In 2010, he went out to show he still had power. In swinging for the fences, his average suffered. Last season, Wright hit .283 with 29 homers and 103 RBI.
Whatever this fluctuations may be explained by, Wright still had been a dominant player for his entire major league career. Supposedly, at the age of 28, he was supposed to sustain, and maybe even build on that dominance. Such expectations have not been met.
Since August 24, Wright has hit .368 with two homers and 11 RBI. Those are good numbers. Those numbers have been good enough to raise his season statistics to a barely respectable .272 with 12 homers and 51 RBI through 374 plate appearances.
The Mets had a lot of bad luck with injuries this season. It seems that the team had little prospects for success. Still, the struggles of the franchise player, David Wright, have done nothing to stimulate success.
Easy slide of the article? Check.
A.J. Burnett sucks. Is that too mean? Who cares?
In 2009, the Yankees signed the 31-year-old righty to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. That season he helped the team win World Series number 27. He had a career 3.84 ERA with a .541 winning percentage and 8.4 K/9.
Was he worth $16.5 million per season? No. Was he a liability? By no means.
In 2010, New York had thought of a repeat. They were relying on Burnett to be the solid No. 2 guy behind CC Sabathia that he had been the year prior. All Burnett did was finish with a 10-15 record with a 5.26 ERA. He was a complete and utter disaster.
Many people chalked Burnett's 2010 campaign up to a fluke. They contested that he could turn it around this year. He could once again become a consistent force in the Yankees rotation.
Consistent is certainly the right word; it is just in the wrong context. This season, Burnett has produced a nearly identical season as last year. His 10-15 record in 2010 has become 9-11 in 2011. His 5.26 ERA is now 5.27.
To make a long story short, A.J. Burnett gets paid $16.5 million a year and he has been the worst starting pitcher in baseball.
o individual can take the blame for Oakland's struggles this season. Many projected the Athletics to be the surprise playoff team this season. Such projections seem ridiculous now.
Everybody knew Oakland's offense was pitiful and its defense was barely better. What garnered the attention of many was the plethora of stud young pitchers.
From Trevor Cahill (23) to Gio Gonzalez (25) to Brett Anderson (23) to Dallas Braden (27) to Jesse Outman (26) and Branden McCarthy (27), this rotation was supposed to be stacked. Despite limited opportunities by some of those names due to injuries, only the supposed ace, Cahill, has disappointed.
Besides Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson (4.00) is the only starter of the group with an ERA above 3.43. Despite their talent, very few of them had experience entering this season.
They all had projected success and Cahill had expected success. Why would Cahill, the youngest of the group, be the one with expectations rather than projections? It was his dominant 2010 campaign that earned him a top-10 Cy Young finish that created them.
Over the span of one season, Cahill's line fell from 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA to 11-13 with a 4.32 ERA. That is not what a team wants to see from its up-and-coming ace and that is not what the A's expected to see from Cahill.
It still doesn't make sense that Jimmy Rollins won the 2007 NL MVP over Matt Holliday. Aside from runs scored and stolen bases, Holliday completely outclassed Rollins in every statistical category.
That is a different argument for a different time.
Jimmy Rollins is one of the better players in Phillies history. He was never as good as he, or Phillies fans, thought he was, but he was always a well rounded shortstop. In his prime, Rollins was the type of five-tool shortstop that baseball fans had become accustomed to at the turn of the century.
At this point, Rollins is no longer the player he once was. The expectations that the team has for him and that he set for himself seem to never be met anymore.
While he has certainly improved on last season's injury-plagued stinker, Rollins has not played like a superstar this season. Hitting just .267, his power (14 hr) and speed (28 steals) numbers are well below his career standards.
Due to its ridiculous starting rotation, Philadelphia is the likely National League favorite this season. The biggest worry for all Phanatics is the struggling offense. Rollins may not be the team's only issue at the plate, but as the leadoff hitter, he is its biggest.
The Pirates are young. They have time to grow. Eventually, improvements must be made.
This season was supposed to be Andrew McCutchen's breakout year. Following two straight seasons of .286 hitting with averages of 15 homers and 55 RBI to start his career, many expecting 2011 to be the year that McCutchen set the National League ablaze.
Following a hot start to the season—for McCutchen and the Pirates—the fall has been hard and fast. After hitting .291/.390/.505 through the first half of the season, the 24-year-old All-Star has floundered his way down to .268/.371/.471.
The letdown has less to do with the fact that McCutchen has struggled this season and more to do with his lack of improvement. The good news is that, like the rest of the team, McCutchen is still very young and has plenty of time to grow.
Ryan Ludwick is a one-time All-Star. He very much deserved the recognition in 2008.
Aside from the one fantastic season, his career has not been much to speak of. The San Diego Padres know this all too well.
When the Padres traded for Ludwick at the trade deadline last season, they thought that they were acquiring a potent middle-of-the-order veteran bat to support an otherwise young lineup. They did not get what they asked for. In 160 games as a Padre over two season, Ludwick combined for a .228 average with 17 homers and 90 RBI.
San Diego was able to turn Ludwick around to Pittsburgh at the deadline this season but, by all accounts, downgrading in prospects for a year of Ludwick's production was not what they expected.
The picture is not meant to focus on Chase Utley. It is meant to show how the entire Giants offense has been a disappointment.
Aside from Pablo Sandoval, no player has given San Francisco what they expected. To start with, Aubrey Huff is the only player who qualifies for batting title. That, however, is the least of the team's worries. The defending World Series Champions are unlikely to return to the playoffs this season and the offense can most certainly take all of the blame.
Most of the struggles on this list are disappointing; this one is just plain unacceptable. If the Giants wish to regain their form as a perennial contender, this offense is going to need to improve by leaps and bounds.
The decline of Ichiro may be shocking to some but please consider that he is now 37 years old. Meanwhile, Justin Smoak, the top prospect who was acquired in the Cliff Lee trade last season, has been terrible.
Smoak was touted as the next Mark Teixeira. Supposedly, he would be a dominant middle of the order hitter for years to come. Not only has Smoak struggled to be a middle of the order hitter since arriving in Seattle, he has struggled to even stay in the lineup altogether.
The most shocking fact is that Smoak's .231 average with 14 homers and 50 RBI this season are all improvements on his rookie campaign.
Smoak still has time to improve and turn things around but if he doesn't, this trade could end up being as one sided as they come.
Boy does Colby Rasmus need an attitude adjustment.
Rasmus is rightfully a top prospect. He has all the ability in the world and, eventually, could be one of the best outfielders in the game. As of yet, he hasn't proven a single thing.
For some reason, Colby Rasmus acts as if he is a five-time All-Star and reigning MVP.
After completely under-performing while simultaneously burning every relationship he had in the organization, St Louis finally dealt Rasmus to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline. He has proceeded to stink it up in Canada too. Good luck in the future Colby, you'll need it.
It makes sense that Evan Longoria is viewed as an above average player. As of yet, he has shown no reason to believe that he can be the perennial MVP-caliber player that Tampa Bay seems to think he will be. Sure Longoria has put up some good number in his four year career, but to say, at this point, that Longoria can be more than an All-Star third baseman in unsubstantiated.
That diatribe was not meant to discount Longoria's ability as a player. He will be a perennial 30-100 guy throughout his career and he will hit around .290. Those are good numbers. The problem is that he is exactly a 30-100 guy.
Longoria is in a lose-lose situation. His expectations are through the roof so there is no way to overachieve. The guy is expected to hit .315 with close to 40 homers an 125 RBI. Realistically, his 2009 line of .281 with 33 and 113 may be the best the Rays ever get out of Longo.
Aside from his potential career disappointment, this season has been especially rough. An expected .290 average with 30 homers and 100 RBI is now hovering at .242 with 25 and 83.
Tampa Bay has been a pleasant surprise this season but if they want to remain competitive in the best division in baseball they are going to need a lot more out of Longoria than they are currently getting.
That is Ian Kinsler's career breakdown. Essentially, he has never has a bad season. Every year that he has a bad average he hits tons of homers and every year that he has bad power numbers he hits for a high average.
This trend is a problem for two reasons. First, it makes it harder to know what you are going to get from one of your best players. Second, it makes you question why he can't put it all together.
Ian Kinsler is one of the top five second basemen in all of baseball. He clearly has the ability to hit for average or power. Until he is able to hit for average and for power, Kinsler will continue to be leaving something on the table.
When the Blue Jays acquired hard-throwing Brandon Morrow from Seattle prior to the 2010 season, they expected him to build on his early success. They have not yet gotten what they asked for.
In two seasons in Toronto, Morrow is 19-17 with a 4.81 ERA. By comparison, in Seattle, he was 8-12 with a 3.96 ERA.
Morrow was not fully expected to be the ace of the staff but the Blue Jays did expect to be getting a solid No. 2 pitcher. Not only has Morrow not performed to that level, he has actually been below average so far.
Oh, Jayson Werth.
The disappointment by Jayson Werth is truly caused by three factors: poor play, overstated expectation and a wildly undeserving contract.
Werth is earning $10 million dollars this season. Not only has he never had a season deserving of $10 million, he will actually be getting paid $21 million in six years...when he is 38 years old. Oh, boy.
Washington's logic in signing Werth makes sense. They wanted a veteran presence and a face of the franchise. Jayson Werth is not the man for that job.
Hitting .230/.333/.394 is completely unacceptable for such a highly paid player. However, Werth may not deserve all of the blame it may be the Nationals' fault for giving a career .265/.361/.467 hitter a seven-year, $126 million contract.