by Jason Martinez
In the first of a six-part division-by-division series, I'll be picking my 'Biggest Disappointment' for each team in the majors. I'll start with the AL West ...
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
2B Howie Kendrick
After a career year in 2011 (.285-18-63; 30 2B, 14 SB), Kendrick signed a four-year, $33.5 million contract extension in January to keep him in Anaheim through the 2015 season. The thinking around the baseball world was that the second baseman would at least match his numbers from 2011 and possibly improve while hitting in front of Albert Pujols in the Angels lineup. Kendrick posted a .665 OPS in what was also a terrible April for Pujols and he was removed from the two-spot for good.
The season hasn't been all bad for Kendrick, though. An .893 OPS in August was the high point for the 29 year-old, who had been hitting well over .300 since early June. But things have gotten bad again in a hurry. In September, Kendrick is hitting .209 with 0 HR, 1 BB, and 14 K in 67 at-bats. While he's been able to maintain an overall .280 BA, his power has been almost non-existent (.388 SLG) and his always questionable plate discipline continues to suffer (26 BB, 106 K, .317 OBP). In all fairness, Kendrick has struggled with knee pain throughout the season and it wouldn't be surprising to see him bounce back as one of the top offensive second baseman in the AL once again in 2013. Much more was expected, however, from Kendrick and his team in 2012.
2B Jemile Weeks
The 25 year-old switch-hitter was batting .174 on May 5th and didn't get over the Mendoza Line for good until May 25th. While he's still shown the plate discipline (50 BB, 69 K) and speed (16 SB in 21 attempts) that could eventually make him an ideal leadoff hitter, he has simply not hit the ball with the same authority as he did during his rookie season. His line drive rate is down, resulting in less balls driven to the alleys for extra bases. His ground ball rate is up, but he's not hitting the ball hard enough to get through holes in the infield. Weeks is a hard worker and I wouldn't bet against a solid comeback in 2013. In fact, I wouldn't even count him out for the 2012 playoffs. Pennington and Rosales aren't exactly lighting the world on fire and Weeks was 2-for-3 in his lone start since a September call-up.
|Ackley: Sophomore Slump Victim|
Picture courtesy of US Presswire
Dustin Ackley, 2B
What, did you want me to pick Justin Smoak? He was a disappointment last year so you really shouldn't be that surprised that he was even worse in 2012. But Ackley is a different story. Big things were expected after a stellar rookie season (.273 BA, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 16 2B, 7 3B, 40 BB, 79 K, 6 SB in 90 games) but he's simply been bad this season. In a punchless lineup where John Jaso has easily been the most productive hitter, the 24 year-old Ackley has been surprisingly unproductive. He does have 12 HR and 13 SB but his .301 OBP and 116 K's easily outweigh those positives.
Aside from a strong month of May (.735 OPS), Ackley hasn't been able to get it going for any extended period of time. He's been better from the leadoff spot, where he's been entrenched since Ichiro was traded in early July and I'd expect him to remain in that spot heading into 2013. The Mariners need more production throughout their lineup but it wasn't expected that Ackley would be one of the problems and not the solution.
Michael Young, DH
You want to know how good the Rangers' lineup is? They've had a drop in production from several lineup regulars, yet still lead the majors in OPS. Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, and Mike Napoli have gone from great in 2011 to just pretty good in 2012. Michael Young, on the other hand, has gone from an All-Star season in 2011 when he was 8th in AL MVP voting to just a very mediocre 35 year-old designated hitter. His .671 OPS in 141 games is an unbelievable drop off from his .854 OPS last season.
The lineup surrounding him has not allowed his struggles to be magnified so the Rangers have been able to keep Young in the lineup, which is probably good for team chemistry. And guess what? Young, who still has one year and $16 million left on his contract, is finally starting to hit like the 2011 version. He's 21 for his last 61 with 3 HR, 12 RBI, and 11 BB. If he can keep it up into the playoffs, the Rangers might have a good shot at making a third consecutive World Series appearance. And they might actually win it all this time. That's probably what it would take for Rangers fans to forgive and forget about Young's terrible regular season.