There are a lot more than 10 huge disappointments this season, so I whittled down the list by eliminating players who simply haven't played much, or at all: Jacoby Ellsbury, Evan Longoria, Chris Carpenter, Troy Tulowitzki, Mariano Rivera, and plenty of others.
Even with that, it's not easy to come up with only 10.
It's easy to come up with No. 1, though: Tim Lincecum, whose first half ranks among the most disappointing first halves since disappointing first halves were invented. He's No. 1, and all the rest just pretenders. With him out of the way, though, let's see the other nine guys who have disappointed legions of diamond fans around the world ...
Adrian Gonzalez got off to a slow start in 2011, his first season with the Red Sox. But he signed a huge new deal with the club shortly after Opening Day, and wound up seventh in the Most Valuable Player balloting. The Red Sox, who invested $154 million in Gonzalez -- not to mention the prospects they sent to San Diego to acquire Gonzalez in the first place -- seemed set at first base for many years to come.
But this year Gonzalez hasn't even been adequate. After posting a 940 OPS over the previous three seasons, this season he's at just 745, right around the American League average. Not the average for first basemen. The average for all players. Which isn't worth the $21 million he's earning this season.
Justin Upton isn't making Gonzalez money (yet) but he's supposed to have Gonzalez talent. After posting a 139 OPS+ with the Diamondbacks last season, this season the 24-year-old Upton was supposed to take the next step toward immortality. After all, he was fourth in the MVP voting a year ago, and didn't figure to have peaked yet.
Perhaps, but this season he's been merely average. Most notably, Upton's hit only seven home runs this season, compared to 31 last season. If the Diamondbacks are going to make a move, they'll need Upton to rediscover his power stroke.
Well, the Marlins signed Reyes to a six-year, $106-million contract and no, he hasn't played nearly as well as last year. The good news, though, is that Reyes seems to have been victimized by poor luck, as he's actually hitting more line drives than he hit last year; the hits just haven't been falling in. Last year's .337 batting average (and the attendant batting title) was a mirage, of course. But Reyes has been healthy this season, and eventually the hits should start coming again.
Speaking of the Phillies, last year Shane Victorino led the National League with 16 triples; this year the Flyin' Hawaiian's got two triples. In a related story, his OPS+ has plummeted from 130 in 2011 to 84 in 2012, largely because of a .245 batting average.
If you were looking just at 2010 and '11, you might consider Rickie Weeks the most consistent player in the majors. Here were his batting lines in those years:
Weeks did strike out a huge number (184) of times in 2010, but cut that figure substantially in '11, leading one to wonder if he might still be improving.
His line this year:
Oh, and Weeks' 100 strikeouts leads the National League. Sometimes you have to get worse before you can get better, but this is sort of ridiculous.
In the absence of John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Red Sox were looking to fill their rotation this spring. They brought in a number of candidates, but everyone's favorite was Daniel Bard, a dominant relief pitcher who hadn't thrived as a starting pitcher since his college days. He looked decent in spring training, though, and opened the season in Boston's rotation.
In early June, though, Bard and his 5.24 ERA were shipped back to the minors. And now he's a mess, having given up 13 runs in 14 innings.
In addition to Jose Reyes, the Marlins also signed free-agent Heath Bell last winter. They didn't give him Reyes money, but they gave him enough -- $6 million this season, and a total of $27 million for three seasons -- that the manager felt compelled to use Bell in key situations ... even while he blew save after save.
He blew four saves in the season's first month, then settled down some, but blew two more just before the All-Star break. He's got a 6.75 ERA. And so for the second time this season, Bell's being pulled from the closer's role. We'll see how long it lasts.
And finally, there's John Axford. Last year he saved 46 games. This year he's saved 15. Last year he blew two save opportunities in six months. This year he's blown five saves in three months. With three months to go.
It wasn't fair to expect Axford to repeat his phenomenal 2011 season. But if you're looking for reasons for the Brewers' disappointing 2012, Axford joins Rickie Weeks atop the list.