MLB 2011 Recap: The All-Disappointment Team
It's been a fantastic season of baseball; two wildcard races are going to go down to the very last day (and maybe one more). We've seen two triple crown pitchers, a triple crown chase from Matt Kemp, the Diamondbacks go from last to first, and whole host of other spectacular scenes.
We've also seen some performances that let us down, so before we debate the worthiness of MVP candidates based on several different quantitative and qualitative measures, let's look at the gentlemen who didn't impress in 2011.
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
In his first year of an 8-year, 184 million dollar deal, Joe Mauer found himself banged up and bruised during the 2011 season, spending far more time on Head & Shoulders commercials than actually out on the field. When he did play, he did not live up to his usual standards of excellence; his 103 OPS+, while solid for a catcher, is not what the Twins spent $23 million per year on.
First Base: Daric Barton, Oakland Athletics
Daric Barton led the American League in walks in 2010, leading to the league’s fifth best on-base percentage at .393. The very next year, he struggled to produce, hitting just .212 and slugging .267 in 67 games before being sent down to the minors. The A’s – picked by some fools to win the AL West – ended up finishing a distant third.
Second Base – Kelly Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks and Toronto Blue Jays
Kelly Johnson was a diamond(back) in the rough in 2010, leading the team in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage at .370 and .496 respectively. The next year, it was the opposite.
The Diamondbacks surged from last-to-first in the National League West. Meanwhile, Johnson watched his team clinch a post-season berth on TV, as he had been traded to Toronto after a very unproductive season as a Diamondback, hitting just .209.
Third Base: Casey McGehee, Milwaukee Brewers
2010 saw Casey McGehee hit 25 home runs, drive in 104 runs, and be named team MVP; 2011 saw him produce the worst season of any regular third baseman, currently rated at -1 Wins Above Replacement.
Don’t sing any sad songs for Casey though; after playing for a third-place team in 2010, Casey is on his way to the postseason as a member of the National League Central Champion Brewers.
Shortstop: Miguel Tejada, San Francisco Giants
This one didn’t disappoint a ton of baseball fans per se, as Miguel Tejada wasn’t even owned in most fantasy leagues. Still, Brian Sabean brought the six time All-Star for 6.5 million dollars hoping he would add some offense to the shortstop position. Tejada ended up hitting just .239 with a .270 on-base percentage and four home runs in 91 games while his team failed to defend its title.
Left Field: Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Carl Crawford made it a race, but this one had to go to Vernon Wells. Having missed out on the aforementioned free agent Crawford, the Angels desperately sought to upgrade their outfield by trading Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells’s massive contract (owed over 20 million a year through 2014).
The Angels got basically zero value out of Wells, who hit .218/.249/.415; meanwhile, they saw Napoli end up with their division rival and put up an OPS over 1.000; without this trade, Los Angeles might very well be playing ball in October.
Center Field: Angel Pagan, New York Mets
Angel Pagan had been called upon by the Mets to fill in for Carlos Beltran while he was hurt, and he ended up earning the starting center field job following a very good 2010. But just when it looked like he was filling out Beltran’s shoes beautifully, Pagan came back to Earth; his offensive numbers fell across the board, while defensive metrics saw him go from one of the game’s best outfielders to one of its worst.
Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners
It had to happen sometime, right? After a solid decade of hitting at least .300 with at least a .350 on-base percentage and over 200 hits, Ichiro finally started to act his age. His durability certainly didn’t suffer, but with a .273/.310/.337 line, Ichiro did not provide the kind of production you expect from a Major League corner outfielder – though, admittedly, it’s par for the course for a member of the Seattle Mariners.
Designated Hitter: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox
If ever there was a player that you didn’t think would just completely fall off, it was Adam Dunn. His home run totals since 2004? 46, 40, 40, 40, 40, 38, 38. With big slugging and on-base numbers year-in and year-out, Adam Dunn was the definition of consistency and certainly seemed worthy of the 4-year, 56 million dollar deal that the White Sox extended his way. Dunn ended up with just 11 home runs and the lowest batting average (.160) of any regular player in the game’s history.
RHP: John Lackey, Boston Red Sox
John Lackey took advantage of a weak free-agent market after the 2009 season to secure himself with a five-year, 82.5 million dollar deal. His first season was very average. Just a transition year, right? Getting used to new teammates, new surroundings, etc before really turning it on for 2011…or something like that.
Except that he has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball all year long. In fact, probably the worst. His 6.41 ERA and 1.619 WHIP both ranked worst among starters. It’s one thing if your big contract pitcher just doesn’t live up to expectations; it’s something completely different if he puts up historically awful numbers.
LHP: J.A. Happ, Houston Astros
The Astros' whole year has been awful, but very few of their regular players even had the ability to disappoint. J.A. Happ is one of those players. The Astros thought so highly of the 2009 Rookie of the Year-runner-up that they traded longtime ace Roy Oswalt to bring him south. Happ’s 6-15 record isn’t actually that awful considering his teammates, but his 5.35 ERA, 1.535 WHIP and 1.61 K/BB ratio rank among the league’s worst. Definitely not what Ed Wade thought he was getting.
Closer: Ryan Franklin, St. Louis Cardinals
Ryan Franklin saved 38 games and earned an All-Star selection in 2009. Even though he saw his saves drop in 2010, he actually improved his WHIP.
But in 2011, he was atrocious. Franklin blew four of his five save opportunities, lost the ninth inning, and found himself out of a job before the All-Star break. Franklin gave up at least one run in 14 of his 21 appearances and won’t exactly get a lot of free drinks in St. Louis if the Cardinals miss the playoffs by a single game.