MLB Players and Teams Trending in the Right and Wrong Direction

Zachary D. RymerAugust 24, 2022

MLB Players and Teams Trending in the Right and Wrong Direction

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    Anthony Rizzo, Aaron Boone and the previously unbeatable Yankees are going through it right now. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

    As time winds down on the 2022 Major League Baseball season, some players and teams are coasting along as they have been all year. Think the Aaron Judges and the Los Angeles Dodgers of the baseball world.

    This is not about them.

    It's instead about four teams and six players—plus a handful of honorable/dishonorable mentions for the latter—who are suddenly trending in much different directions than the ones they were going earlier in the year. Some, for the better. Others, for the worse.

    Starting with the teams and ending with the players, let's break 'em down.


    Note: All playoff odds are courtesy of FanGraphs.

Right Direction: Atlanta

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    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    The Trend: 13-2 since Aug. 9

    As Atlanta was 64-46 through 110 games, it wasn't exactly struggling before Aug. 9. The reigning World Series champions' mettle was tested, though, when the New York Mets took four out of five from them in Queens between Aug. 4 and 7.

    Well, what was a 6.5-game deficit in the National League East after that is down to two games.

    It helps that the club's abundant cache of 20-somethings is hot to the touch. Offensively, Ronald Acuña Jr., William Contreras and rookies Michael Harris II and Vaughn Grissom have a combined .903 OPS since Aug. 9. On the mound, Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider have allowed five total earned runs over their last 23 innings.

    Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

    Spencer Strider, Filthy 88mph Slider...and Helicopter Sword. 🚁⚔️ <a href="https://t.co/14oebUZEBw">pic.twitter.com/14oebUZEBw</a>

    Even setting aside what recent extensions with Harris and Austin Riley mean for the long term, the immediate future is likewise bright for Atlanta. All-Star second baseman Ozzie Albies (foot fracture) is due back in September, and there's a non-zero chance that right-hander Mike Soroka (torn Achilles) will also make his long-awaited return.

    In other words, FanGraphs is very likely selling Atlanta short in giving it just a 22.1 percent chance of capturing the NL East title.

Wrong Direction: New York Yankees

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    The Trend: 15-25 since July 9

    With wins against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday and the Mets on Monday and Tuesday, the New York Yankees have won three straight for the first time in August. Cue much rejoicing.

    We're being facetious, of course, but can you blame us? These Yankees were previously going where only nine teams had gone before in winning 61 of their first 84 games. Such teams shouldn't find themselves getting pats on the back for winning three in a row.

    ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

    Falling 5-2 to the Blue Jays today, the Yankees have now lost 6 consecutive series within a season for the first time since August 1995. <br><br>Gerrit Cole is winless in his last 6 games, tying his longest winless streak in a single season, set in 2016 with the Pirates. <a href="https://t.co/LYQX6fEanQ">pic.twitter.com/LYQX6fEanQ</a>

    As a frustrated Aaron Boone put it on Saturday, "We got to play better, period." This above all means on the offensive side, as the Yankees are scoring only 2.8 runs per game since losing reborn slugger Matt Carpenter to a broken foot on Aug. 8.

    The good news is that Giancarlo Stanton (Achilles tendinitis) is due to rejoin American League MVP front-runner Aaron Judge in the middle of the lineup this week. Other reinforcements are also due back soon, including closer Clay Holmes from back spasms.

    But while all this plus the team's eight-game lead support the notion that the Yankees are safe atop the AL East, their chances of winning their first World Series since 2009 are down nearly five percentage points since July 12.

Right Direction: St. Louis Cardinals

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The Trend: 20-5 since July 27

    The St. Louis Cardinals were four games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central as recently as July 30. Another loss threatened to put their deficit at a season-high five games.

    "Well then, why lose?" was apparently the question they asked themselves.

    There are a bunch of hitters who can take a bow for helping to drive the bus of late, though it's mostly been NL MVP contenders Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado and a version of Albert Pujols who looks more like a 22-year-old than a 42-year-old. Together, the three of them have 23 home runs in the team's last 25 games.

    We'd also be remiss if we didn't credit the club's hot hurlers. Newcomer starter Jordan Montgomery has a 0.35 ERA in four outings since heading over from the Yankees at the Aug. 2 trade deadline, while relievers Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley and Andre Pallante have a 1.40 ERA in August.

    Between Yadier Molina's arguably misplaced priorities and Jordan Hicks' ongoing ineffectiveness, not everything is in the Cardinals' favor. But with that 5.5-game deficit turning into a five-game advantage and their World Series chances the best they've been all season, the list of things to complain about is short.

Wrong Direction: Milwaukee Brewers

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    AP Photo/Morry Gash

    The Trend: 8-13 since July 31

    With the Cardinals suddenly incapable of losing games, the Milwaukee Brewers have picked a bad time to hit the skids.

    As there is with any skid, there's plenty of blame to go around. Rowdy Tellez and Hunter Renfroe haven't been getting enough help offensively. On the other side of the ball, left-hander Aaron Ashby had been struggling before he went on the injured list with shoulder inflammation.

    There's also something to be said about the Brewers' general vibe just being off. Especially if you ask lefty starter Eric Lauer, and specifically if you ask him about the club's trade of four-time All-Star closer Josh Hader.

    “It didn’t send us the right message from the upstairs people trying to say, like, ‘We’re doing this and we’re trying to put you guys in the best position and we’re trying to win right now with you guys,'" the lefty told reporters Sunday. "It seemed more of a, ‘We’re trying to develop for the future.'"

    Whatever the case, the Brewers' playoff outlook is officially in trouble. If they can't catch the Cardinals in the NL Central, they'll have to try to get in the postseason via a wild-card picture that has three teams on top of them.

Right Direction: Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Trend: 1.108 OPS, 7 HR in August

    Mac Muncy slugged at least 35 homers for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018, 2019 and 2021, so it was pretty darn weird to see him with only nine long balls coming into August. Much less with a .613 OPS, to boot.

    Clearly, it was high time the 31-year-old slugger made an adjustment. And he did, adapting a new mechanic that Chad Moriyama of Dodgers Digest showcases here:

    Chad Moriyama @ChadMoriyama

    Two angles of Max Muncy's shuffle thing he started that got him on track. <a href="https://t.co/dVhMYrgd8G">pic.twitter.com/dVhMYrgd8G</a>

    Unusual? You bet. Funky, even. And yet also undeniably effective, as Muncy's surging production in August is backed up by elevated marks in exit velocity and hard-hit rate.

    Bully for the Dodgers, who were 35 games over .500 even before Muncy flipped the switch. And for the man himself, who earned a one-year extension for 2023.


    Honorable Mentions

    • Alex Bregman, Houston Astros: The 2019 AL MVP runner-up has some good dad strength going, as he boasts a 1.183 OPS and six home runs in August.
    • Eloy Jiménez, Chicago White Sox: He was slow to get going after returning from a hamstring injury in July, but he's now hitting .380/.452/.580 since the second game of a doubleheader on July 23.
    • Jeff McNeil, New York Mets: A .427 batting average since July 30? That'll play.

Wrong Direction: J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox

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    AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

    The Trend: .567 OPS, 1 HR since June 15

    J.D. Martinez once hit 26 home runs in a 52-game span in 2017, and then 43 more in his first year with the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

    It's been diminishing returns for the 35-year-old ever since, and never more so than right now. Among those who've made over 200 plate appearances, he's one of just six players with one or fewer homers since June 15.

    If it seems like Martinez's bat speed has slowed, well, it's not just you. Pitchers are treating him as if he can't get around on the ball, as he's gone from seeing mainly outside fastballs to mainly inside fastballs.

    Unless Martinez can adjust accordingly, the Red Sox's already diminished playoff chances will continue to fade. And with them, whatever value he has on the upcoming free-agent market.


    Dishonorable Mentions

    • Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants: With just a .465 OPS since July 21, the 34-year-old is going through it as he fights a daily battle against chronic knee pain.
    • Ty France, Seattle Mariners: After making his first All-Star team in July, he's plummeted back to earth in hitting .150 with a single home run since July 26.
    • Gleyber Torres, New York Yankees: Even knowing that he's been up and down all year, 28 strikeouts, two walks and two homers since July 31 is alarming.

Right Direction: Blake Snell, San Diego Padres

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    G Fiume/Getty Images

    The Trend: 33.2 IP, 46 K, 7 BB, 1.60 ERA in 2nd Half

    Blake Snell fell flat with a 4.20 ERA with the San Diego Padres in 2021, so the 5.22 ERA he posted in the first half of 2022 seemed like a clear-cut case of "More of the Frustrating Same."

    Now he's looking more like the guy who won the AL Cy Young Award in 2018.

    As Padres manager Bob Melvin correctly noted, the lefty has done a better job of finding the strike zone early in counts since the break. That's put him in better position to get hitters to chase after a slider that's been nasty.

    Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

    Blake Snell, Vicious Sliders. 😤<br><br>10Ks thru 6. <a href="https://t.co/DIYKtabfrf">pic.twitter.com/DIYKtabfrf</a>

    If this version of Snell sticks around alongside Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, the Padres will be able to throw three aces at opponents in the postseason...if they can get there, of course.


    Honorable Mentions

    • Chris Bassitt, New York Mets: He was wobbling for a while there, but not so much in August as he's pitched to a 0.69 ERA.
    • Ranger Suárez, Philadelphia Phillies: With a 1.54 ERA since July 16, he's surpassed Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler as Philly's hottest pitcher.
    • José Urquidy, Houston Astros: He had trouble getting his ERA under 4.00 in the first half, so the 2.52 ERA he has since the break is a welcome sight.

Wrong Direction: Lucas Giolito, Chicago White Sox

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    Nick Cammett/Getty Images

    The Trend: 28.0 IP, 30 K, 12 BB, 7.39 ERA in 2nd Half

    Before earning votes for the AL Cy Young Award in 2019, 2020 and 2021, Lucas Giolito was one of MLB's worst pitchers in 2018. So if nothing else, where he is isn't uncharted territory.

    As to what's afflicting the Chicago White Sox's 28-year-old righty, his fastball velocity is on a downward trend. Here's Trey Mancini demonstrating how less velo tends to mean a smaller margin for error:

    Houston Astros @astros

    Trey really is the truth. <a href="https://t.co/bvXCGjcVTw">pic.twitter.com/bvXCGjcVTw</a>

    Giolito's trademark changeup is likewise a problem all of a sudden, as four of its worst monthly run values have come in the last four months.

    “I feel fine,” Giolito told reporters after flopping at the outset of Chicago's 21-5 loss to the Astros on Thursday. But even if that's true, he's presently not the ace the White Sox need him to be as they attempt to come from behind in the AL Central.


    Dishonorable Mentions

    • Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks: The rebound year he was having has since been interrupted with a 7.94 ERA in August.
    • Logan Gilbert, Seattle Mariners: With a 7.97 ERA this month, the young righty is looking out of gas.
    • Pablo López, Miami Marlins: His struggles run even deeper, as he's pitched to a 6.00 ERA in seven outings since the All-Star break.

Right Direction: Andrés Muñoz, Seattle Mariners

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    Steph Chambers/Getty Images

    The Trend: 29.1 IP, 54 K, 7 BB, 0.61 ERA since June 13

    The Seattle Mariners bullpen has been stellar since the start of June, collectively posting a 2.87 ERA and by far the most win probability added of any pen.

    For this, Andrés Muñoz deserves even more than a lion's share of the credit. He's been close to unhittable, which is surely what you'd expect for a guy whose fastball has been sitting at 100.7 mph.

    Yet the fun part about Muñoz is that his fastball is actually his secondary offering. He much prefers his slider, throwing it more than 60 percent of the time.

    Rob Friedman @PitchingNinja

    Andrés Muñoz, Filth 😷 <a href="https://t.co/HZNzGZhHuK">pic.twitter.com/HZNzGZhHuK</a>

    “When I go out there, I have the mentality that I’m going to strike the whole world out,” Muñoz recently said through interpreter Freddy Llanos. The longer he continues to live up to that goal, the better chance the Mariners have of snapping their 20-year playoff drought.


    Honorable Mentions

    • James Karinchak, Cleveland Guardians: His last 16 outings have seen him strike out 33 batters and allow zero earned runs.
    • José Leclerc, Texas Rangers: After missing all of 2021 and most of the first half of this year, he's rolling with a 1.10 ERA in his last 12 appearances.
    • Caleb Thielbar, Minnesota Twins: He's been on one since June 22, whiffing 29 batters and posting a 1.29 ERA over 21 innings.

Wrong Direction: Josh Hader, San Diego Padres

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    The Trend: 19.2 IP, 35 K, 11 BB, 10.07 ERA since June 7

    Look at it this way, Brewers: At least you're not missing out right now.

    Indeed, Josh Hader was Milwaukee's problem before he was San Diego's. After allowing exactly zero earned runs through his first 19 appearances, the lefty has been touched up for 22 earned runs over his last 23 outings. That's as many as he gave up throughout all of 2018 and 2019.

    Velocity-wise, Hader is fine. But even with a fastball that sits up around 100 mph, it's not recommended for any pitcher to be living in the middle of the zone like he has been.

    Washington Nationals @Nationals

    Alex Call drinking that Haderade for his 1st career <a href="https://twitter.com/MLB?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MLB</a> home run.<a href="https://twitter.com/ACAD_27?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ACAD_27</a> // <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NATITUDE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NATITUDE</a> <a href="https://t.co/ddPoC3Ykmp">pic.twitter.com/ddPoC3Ykmp</a>

    The Padres decided over the weekend that they'll give Hader a break from closing for a little while. If that doesn't get him back on track, the club's bullpen will be significantly less fit for a deep playoff run.


    Dishonorable Mentions

    • Génesis Cabrera, St. Louis Cardinals: His velocity is down, so it's perhaps not surprising that he's struck out just three of the last 40 batters he's faced.
    • Austin Davis, Boston Red Sox: He's gone from being a sneaky-good weapon to a guy with a 10.89 ERA since July 8.
    • Mychal Givens, New York Mets: The 10 appearances he's made for the Mets have seen him give up three home runs and nine earned runs.

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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