Along with the good, we have to have the bad.
Very bad, in the case of several major league clubs and players.
We spoke at length to the baseball’s brightest stories of the first half on Independence Day and today we tackle the most abysmal.
For every Houston Astros/Arizona Diamondbacks feel good story there are the doldrums being experienced in Toronto and San Francisco (more on those two sorry clubs later).
As much as we got excited about the great and superhuman feats we witnessed in the first half of the 2017 season, we shook our head in disgust and/or disbelief at some of the most tepid efforts by big league teams and players.
Here are 15 of the worst performances of major league baseball’s first half.
15. The San Francisco Giants Are The Worst Team In Baseball
Yes, the Philadelphia Phillies have the worst record overall at 28-54, but the Giants are a close second at 33-52. And the Phillies aren’t near as good on paper — or were a playoff team in 2016 — as the sorry Giants. Add to that the fact San Fran was picked by many forecasters to top the NL West. How wrong they were, so far. Outside of Buster Posey and a few others, there are far too many regulars who are hitting close to the Mendoza line, including 1B Brandon Belt (.235) and SS Brandon Crawford (.229). As a team, the Giants have the third fewest runs in the NL with 331 and the 11th worst average at .244. The starting rotation and bullpen are a hot mess, with no starters sporting a winning record and the overall staff ERA sitting 4.61, sixth worst in the NL. The Giants are going nowhere, fast.
14. Boston’s Rick Porcello Is Far From Cy Young Material
Guess all Rick Porcello’s detractors were right. A good but not great starter in his first seven seasons, Porcello put together his best season ever in 2016, going 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA to win the AL Cy Young. This year, the $20 million man is leading the league in several categories, none of them good. He is 4-10 in 18 starts, his 10 losses a major league low. He has also surrendered the most hits at 141 and the most earned runs with 62. He has a 5.01 ERA, which is eighth worst in the American League and his 1.48 WHIP is seventh worst. Porcello is tied for fourth most home runs allowed in the AL with 19 and he has been tagged for 37 doubles, by far the worst total in the AL. It’s a good thing the first place Red Sox have other pitchers getting the job done.
13. Chicago’s Kyle Schwarber Is The Worst Batter In The NL
The Cubs surprise hero of the 2016 World Series and overall good playoff performer was supposed to have a breakout season in 2017. So much for that. Schwarber, who broke in well during the 2015 season, had a massive World Series after missing most of the 2016 season, going 7-for-17 with two RBI and three walks against Cleveland. Then 2017 hit and all that goodwill has been washed away. As of Tuesday, Schwarber had the worst batting average among qualified players in the National League, a horrid .171 — 38 points below second worst batter Jose Reyes. He has also struck out 75 times, in just 261 plate appearances and has but 28 RBI, despite hitting well up in the order. The Cubbies are 41-41 and out of a playoff spot and Schwarber can take credit for some of that.
12. The Texas Rangers Have Three Of The Worst Batters In The AL
Nestled in the bottom five batters in the American League are three Rangers, all who we expected much more from this far into the 2017 season. As of Tuesday, highly touted former first round pick Joey Gallo was dead last at .192. If not for his 21 homers and 41 RBI, his season would be a total stinker. Good thing the Rangers are paying him entry level money at just over $500,000. The same can’t be said for high priced free agent signee Mike Napoli, who is hitting just .193 (second worst) and rakes in $6 million this year. His power numbers are good, too, with 17 HR, however that batting average is 55 points below his career total. The player we’re most aghast at is Rougned Odor. He is batting just .213 (fifth worst in the AL) and coupled with his second worst on-base percentage of .251, he’s a bit of a bust. And, he just signed a spanking new six-year, $49.5 million contract in the off-season.
11. Mark Melancon Hasn’t Been Worth San Fran’s Money
San Francisco’s huge free agent fish has turned out to be more guppy than great white. The Giants, seeking a bonafide closer, threw four years and $62 million at 2015 NL saves leader Mark Melancon to be the lock down guy. Unfortunately, he has already blown four of 15 save opportunities and has a lofty ERA of 4.35. He blew just four opportunities all last season (and had 47 saves) and had just two blown opportunities when he led the league for Pittsburgh in 2015. His last blown opportunity this season was a real clunker, where he entered the bottom of the ninth against host Colorado with a 5-3 lead on June 18. He was promptly tagged for four earned runs on four hits, capped by a walk-off three-run blast by the Rockies’ Nolan Arenado. Ouch.
10. The Toronto Blue Jays Are On The Skids
Yup, the Jays snapped a five-game winless skid on Tuesday, thanks to another good pitching performance by a starter, this time Jay Happ. He handcuffed the Yankees on four hits and a run over six innings as Toronto won 4-1. Four other relievers combined for three shutout innings, with Roberto Osuna collecting his 20th save. That line we saw plenty of over the last two seasons of post-season contention, but this year, the Jays have mostly been awful, except for May. They haven’t hit well as a team, lugging a collective .243 batting average into Tuesday’s contest in the Bronx (third worst in the AL) and they had scored the least amount of runs in the league through their first 82 games with a paltry 338. On too many occasions, the Jays bats have gone silent with men aboard. While their team pitching hasn’t been brutal, it has been too up-and-down, from the starters to the bullpen. We expect the last place Jays to be sellers at the deadline if their malaise continues.
9. Cubs John Lackey Has Most Losses On The Senior Circuit
And we do mean senior. It seems that 38-year-old hurler John Lackey is finally starting to show his age. The 15-year veteran has not been good this season and his record shows it. He is 5-9 (the most losses in the NL), has a 5.24 ERA and has surrendered a league high 24 home runs in 16 starts (92.2 innings pitched). Contrast those numbers to his 2016 campaign for the champion Cubbies, when he was 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and just 23 homers against in 188.1 innings pitched. The wheels haven’t completely come off, but Lackey went 1-4 in June and was shelled in his last start on June 28. In that game against Washington, his worst outing all season, he got tagged for nine hits, including three home runs, and eight earned runs in just 5.1 innings pitched.
8. Kansas City’s Alex Gordon Has Been A Dud At The Plate
The Royals have vaulted themselves back into the picture in the AL Central, no thanks to Alex Gordon. The three-time all-star outfielder has hit just .198 this season, fourth worst in the American League and 63 points below his career batting average. Just about every number on his line is down, except for his walks (25) which have kept only his on-base percentage respectable at .292. He has scored just 26 runs and hit five homers, which puts him on pace to hit a career low 10 for a full season. Gordon has been so mediocre at the plate that he was dropped from the lead-off spot earlier in the season all the way down to ninth. There is time for Gordon to rebound, however, he did hit just .220 last season, setting a bad precedent.
7. Detroit’s Justin Verlander Has Stunk The Joint Out
For what they are paying him, Justin Verlander has been mostly a bust so far this major league season for Detroit. He is just 5-5 through 17 starts and his ERA of 4.96 is 11th worst in the AL. Add to that the fact he has issued the second most bases on balls with 47 and has posted a bloated 1.52 WHIP, fifth worst in the league. Those kind of numbers are a far cry from 2016, when he was 16-9 with a 3.04 ERA and led the American League in WHIP at 1.001. Verlander’s season has been a rollercoaster in which he hasn’t gone beyond the seventh inning — he has 23 lifetime complete games and pitched two last year — and has had more than his fair share of clunkers. Like the last outing, when he was tagged with his fifth loss after giving up nine hits, three walks and seven earned runs in 3.1 innings pitched (no strikeouts) in a 11-8 loss to Cleveland.
6. The Giants Starting Rotation Has Been More Than Mediocre
Little wonder the Giants own the worst record in the NL West and are the second worst team in baseball, wins and losses only taken into consideration. We say that because two of their high priced starters, Matt Moore and Matt Cain, are the two worst on the senior circuit. Moore, a lefty making $7 million this season, owns the worst ERA in the NL at 5.78 and has a dismal 3-8 record to go with it. Cain, a big righty who has seen better days, is being paid $20.83 million for his 3-8 record and 5.58 ERA, second worst to Moore. The younger of the two at 28, Moore has seen more of precipitous decline from the collective 13-12 record and 4.08 ERA he had with Tampa and San Fran in 2016. Cain, 32, has been awful since signing a five-year, $112.5 million contract in 2012. Since then, he has gone 19-36 and his ERA has ballooned from 4.00 in 2013 to his horrid 5.58 mark now.
5. The Texas Rangers Are Not Living Up To Their Contender Status
In the past seven seasons, the Texas Rangers have made believers out of their fans, going to the playoffs five times and twice making it to the World Series. Heady days, indeed. This year, they look more like chumps, than champs, owning a dismal 7-18 record against current AL division leaders. In fact, after losing 11-4 to the surging Boston Red Sox last night, they are 0-5 against them and in danger of being swept in a season series of more than three games for the first time in their history (they have to beat them tonight). As of Wednesday, the big money Rangers are 40-44 and in fourth place in the AL West, 3.5 games out of the last wild card spot. They haven’t pitched particularly well (4.45 team ERA, 10th in the AL) and are hitting even worse (.239 team average, 14th in the AL).
4. Giants Brandon Crawford Has Stalled His Offensive Engine
On the heels of a breakout All-Star season in 2015, shortstop Brandon Crawford signed a six-year, $75 million contract to be an offensive catalyst for the perennially contending Giants. He hit .256 with 33 doubles, (career high), four triples, 21 homers (career high) and 84 RBI (also a career high) in 2015. He followed that up with a MVP worthy effort in 2016, upping his average to .275, along with 28 doubles, a league leading 11 triples, 12 homers and another 84 RBI. However, like his team, Crawford has pretty much stunk the joint out this year, despite getting prime at bats in the middle of the order. In 68 games, he is carrying a lousy .229 batting average (19th worst in the NL), as well as the senior circuit’s worst on base percentage at .270. His power numbers are all down, as he’s hit just 13 doubles, one triple and six homers to go with 38 RBI. So much for that fat contract.
3. Detroit’s Francisco Rodriguez The Worst Reliever In Baseball, Gets Cut
The Tigers, who have the fourth highest payroll in baseball at over $206 million, aren’t getting near their money’s worth, as the team sits fourth in the AL Central at 37-45, seven games back of Cleveland. A big part of their current also-ran status was the performance of the since released closer Francisco Rodriguez. The 16-year veteran and three-time AL saves leader, who was coming off a 44-save season in 2016 (his second in three years), was a mess in 13 save opportunities this season, blowing a league high six. If that wasn’t bad enough, F-Rod gave up nine homers and sported a nasty ERA of 7.82 before losing the stopper status in May. The Tigers were paying him $6 million to close, cut him in late June and are on the hook for the entire salary. He is now in the Washington Nationals minor league system.
2. Jays Bautista Making A Case For His Team Not Signing Him Long Term
In a turbulent off-season, Jose Bautista clamored for a long-term contract, declined a $17.2 million qualifying offer, found no takers in free agency and then settled for a one-year, $18 million deal anyway (with a team option for $17 million in 2018). So far, his vaunted bat hasn’t been cashing the cheques he was making with his mouth after the 2016 campaign. The 36-year-old outfielder and two-time AL home run champ had a bit of down year, injury-wise, in 2016, but still managed to clank out 22 homers and 69 RBI in 116 games for the ALCS bound Blue Jays. He hit just .234 last season, but made up for it by walking 87 times (against 103 strikeouts) to sport a .366 on base percentage. This season, Joey Bats has been pretty quiet at the plate, hitting .239 while walking way less than he is striking out (48 BB to 83 K). In 82 games, Bautista has hit just 11 doubles and 14 homers and has driven in just 37.
1. The Chicago Cubs Are Back To Being Lovable Losers
The Curse of the Billy Goat has been put to rest. What has taken its place at Wrigley is an apathetic performance by the defending champion Cubs. It’s so bad they trail the Milwaukee Brewers — of all teams — by 3.5 games in the NL Central. They are 41-42 and a 6.5 games out of the last wild card spot in the league, which is owned by the inspired Colorado Rockies (49-37). Where to start then, analyzing the quandary the Cubs are in? We’ve already spoken at length about Kyle Schwarber’s miserable season, but he’s not alone. Shortstop Addison Russell has struggled in the power department and won’t likely reach his 2016 totals of 25 doubles and 21 homers (he has 13 and 7, respectively, this year). On the pitching side, we also talked at length about John Lackey’s descent to irrelevancy. He too, is hardly alone, as several Cubs hurlers have underwhelmed. Jake Arrieta has been a mere mortal, going 8-6 with a lofty 4.33 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. All in all, a crappy campaign in the Windy City, so far.