Biggest MLB Duds of Week 23, Position by Position
We've reached the point in MLB's regular season when all duds are no longer created equal. With September pennant races and furious battles for positioning in the wild-card races ongoing, every game takes on more importance than it did earlier in the season.
As such, the struggles of a player on a contending team are, in most cases, going to count more than those of a player on a non-contender when it comes to filling out our 10-player roster, which features one player per position, including a designated hitter and starting pitcher.
In other words, season-long mainstays on our All-Dud squad—such as the San Diego Padres' Derek Norris—need not worry about making a repeat appearance down the stretch. Not unless their performances are so outrageously grotesque that we're forced to take note.
If Norris didn't make this week's roster, who did? Let's take a look.
Catcher: Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals
Wilson Ramos had a lot to smile about Wednesday, as his bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 11th inning gave the Washington Nationals a 5-4 victory over the last-place Atlanta Braves. But that was about the only thing that went right for the 29-year-old last week.
Ramos hit just .111 (2-for-18) with that lone RBI, one walk and eight strikeouts over five Week 23 games, continuing a downward spiral in his production. Over the last three weeks, Ramos is hitting .180 with a .477 OPS and 16 strikeouts.
Stephen Vogt (OAK): 6 G, .048 BA, .214 OPS, 3 BB, 5 K
First Base: Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
The only bright spot in what has been another disappointing season for Ryan Zimmerman has to be Washington's place in the standings, with the Nationals holding a nine-game lead in the National League East heading into Week 24.
But the veteran corner infielder had little to do with padding that lead last week, hitting .143 (3-for-21) with a solo home run, one walk and seven strikeouts over six games against the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies.
Those struggles are nothing new for the 31-year-old, who is mired in the worst season of his 12-year career and found himself bounced from the heart of the Nationals batting order to the bottom third, as he hit sixth, seventh and ninth in Week 23 action.
Brad Miller (TB): 7 G, .040 BA, .117 OPS, 11 K
Second Base: Chase Utley, Los Angeles Dodgers
Chase Utley's struggles last week didn't derail the Los Angeles Dodgers' quest for a division crown, as L.A. went 4-1 in the five games he played and maintained its four-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
While Utley delivered a game-tying RBI single in the bottom of the fifth inning against San Diego last Sunday, he was otherwise a nonfactor in the Dodgers' Week 23 success. The veteran second baseman finished the week 3-for-19 with two RBI, four strikeouts and a .316 OPS.
Jose Altuve (HOU): 7 G, .179 BA, .448 OPS, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB, 5 K
Third Base: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
When you consider that the Toronto Blue Jays probably wouldn't be in the playoff picture without Josh Donaldson delivering another MVP-caliber campaign, it feels a bit disingenuous to include the reigning AL MVP on our All-Dud team.
But when a player goes 0-for-the week, as the Bringer of Rain just did, it can't be ignored.
Donaldson did reach base six times courtesy of walks last week, and he managed to cross home plate twice in the process. But he failed to record a base hit, going 0-for-20 with seven strikeouts and a .231 OPS.
With that lack of production, it's no surprise that the Blue Jays dropped four of the six games in which he played.
Cheslor Cuthbert (KC): .050 BA, .224 OPS, 3 BB, 2 K
Shortstop: Jose Iglesias, Detroit Tigers
Admittedly, Jose Iglesias isn't looked at (or asked to be) a big offensive threat in a Detroit Tigers lineup that features the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Justin Upton. Iglesias' glove has always been the focus.
Still, it'd be nice to get some production from your shortstop, especially when your team is fighting for its playoff livelihood.
That wasn't the case in Week 23, which saw Iglesias hit just .095 (2-for-21) with one RBI, four strikeouts and a .279 OPS. It didn't seem to matter where he hit in the lineup, either, as he went 1-for-14 from the two-hole and 1-for-7 hitting ninth.
Zack Cozart (CIN): 6 G, .083 BA, .237 OPS, 2 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K
Left Field: Michael Saunders, Toronto Blue Jays
Remember that time a few months ago when Michael Saunders was named to the American League's All-Star team? You wouldn't believe it happened with the way he's been swinging the bat lately.
Saunders hit just .235 (4-for-17) with five strikeouts and a .471 OPS while splitting time between the outfield corners last week, a five-game stretch that saw Toronto go 1-4 and lose its place atop the AL East.
That kind of performance is indicative of how things have gone for the 29-year-old since making his first appearance at the Midsummer Classic. He's followed up a first half that saw him hit .298 with a .923 OPS with a .194 batting average and .689 OPS in the second half.
Howie Kendrick (LAD): 6 G, .071 BA, .387 OPS, 5 BB, 3 K
Center Field: Denard Span, San Francisco Giants
It's hard to serve as a team's table-setter when you can't get on base. Such is life for San Francisco's Denard Span, who struck out more often (four times) last week than he actually reached base safely (three times).
To be fair, Span hasn't been playing at 100 percent, as he's dealing with a sore knee suffered in late August, when he was hit by a pitch, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman. That said, most players are dealing with various ailments this time of year.
If he's in the lineup, he has to produce. Span hasn't. With the series finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday and a three-game series against San Diego after that, Span will have a chance to break out of his current 1-for-31 funk before the Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals meet in a crucial four-game series that starts Thursday.
Cameron Maybin (DET): 5 G, .200 BA, .400 OPS, 8 K
Right Field: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
As far as James Rowson, the New York Yankees' minor league hitting coordinator, is concerned, Aaron Judge's current struggles aren't anything to get overly concerned about.
“Everything is new to him and he’s had his battles before and made the adjustments,” Rowson, who has been with the big club all week, told the New York Post's Dan Martin. “He’s been through rough times, especially with the punchouts and he’s always come out on the other side. So I feel like he’s going to do that again.”
While he's probably right, that doesn't change the fact that the 24-year-old behemoth of a right fielder (Judge stands 6'7" and weighs 275 pounds) has done little to contribute to New York's surprising September playoff push.
In six games last week, Judge hit just .176 (3-for-17) with a pair of walks, eight strikeouts and a .440 OPS. Since beginning his MLB career with five hits (two home runs) and three RBI in his first 10 at-bats, he's hit just .123 (8-for-65) with a double, a home run, six RBI, six walks and 36 strikeouts.
Paulo Orlando (KC): 6 G, .222 BA, .474 OPS, 4 RBI, 8 K
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
It'd be easy to give David Ortiz a pass on a down week. After all, the term "home stretch" has taken on a new meaning for the 40-year-old designated hitter, who is calling it a career after the season, with current totals of 45 doubles, 31 home runs and 107 RBI to match a .316/.403/.619 line.
Had Ortiz done his job—produce runs—the Red Sox might have been better than .333 with Big Papi in the starting lineup. But he didn't, going 2-for-12 with two walks, two strikeouts, no RBI and the second-lowest OPS (.536) among qualified designated hitters.
Billy Butler (OAK): 3 G, .143 BA, .393 OPS, 1 BB, 1 K
Pitcher: Marco Estrada, Toronto Blue Jays
Marco Estrada will be the first to tell you he hasn't been pitching well lately. That includes his most recent outing against Boston, which saw the veteran right-hander allow three earned runs and six hits over just 2.1 innings of work, walking three and striking out two.
“Nothing went our way today and obviously it all started with me,” Estrada said after the game, per the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat. “When your starting pitcher is out there making a bunch of pitches like that, it brings everybody down a little bit.”
He wasn't much better in his other Week 23 start, a five-inning stint against Tampa Bay that saw the Rays score five earned runs on seven hits. For the week, Estrada went 0-2 with a 9.82 ERA and 2.53 WHIP over just 7.1 innings of work.
Over his last five starts, spanning 23.1 innings, he's pitched to a 7.71 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.
Zack Greinke (ARI): 1 GS, 0-1, 4.2 IP, 9 H (5 HR), 8 ER, 6 K