The world was different 365 days ago. Transformers 4 was in pre-production, not actual production. Other things have changed, too, or whatever. It's completely different around here. This is an article about what's different with the All-Star teams.
Because just 365 days ago, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were Yasiel Puig, bolts of energy who didn't even start the season on their teams' Opening Day rosters. Just 365 days ago, Miguel Cabrera had never been voted to the starting lineup of an All-Star game. Just 365 ago, Rafael Furcal was alive and voted the starting shortstop for the National League.
Here are the players who have had a rough time in the season following their 2012 All-Star appearance. But note that we aren't going to pick on the injured players. So no Furcal, Joel Hanrahan, or Curtis Granderson. No Jeter. These are just the players whose production is much, much different just one year later:
Pablo Sandoval's on-base percentage is .298.
He'll never escape the questions about his weight. And perhaps the lack of physical fitness is the problem, or at least a contributing factor. It certainly can't help. But the weight is secondary to his plate discipline. He's swung at 47 percent of the pitches thrown out of the strike zone to him this season. Sandoval sees fewer pitches in the strike zone than anyone in the National League. That's a baaaaad combination.
It's also the worst it's ever been, even for Sandoval. He's swinging at more pitches out of the zone than he has since his rookie year (when he started the season in High-A), and he's swinging more in general. One month ago, he was leading the All-Star voting. The next day, he tweaked a hamstring, went on the DL, and in the 51 at-bats since coming back, he's hit .118/.182/.137. His last home run was on May 21.
Josh Hamilton had more votes than anyone in Major League Baseball last year. We're a year removed from Josh Hamilton, superstar. No one was more worthy of a starting slot, the masses said. More people associated the words "All-Star" with Hamilton than they did with any other player. Now he's Jeff Francoeur with reverse platoon splits.
Everything up there about Sandoval's plate discipline applies to Hamilton. That part about Sandoval seeing fewer pitches in the zone than anyone in the National League? I had to make that distinction because Hamilton was even worse. Since the start of May, he's hitting .243/.311/.467. I'd say that's a pretty good approximation of what the rest of his career is going to look like. Until his bat speed goes away.
This is fascinating:
Fernando Rodney was the best reliever in baseball last year. Heck, he was close to the best reliever in major-league history. The low runs-allowed and hits-allowed totals were a little fluky, sure, but that doesn't change the ridiculous results. His control was better. His strikeouts were up. He allowed five earned runs last year. This year he allowed five earned runs in four games from May 16 to May 22.
For years, Rodney was one of the more consistent relievers in baseball. This was not a good thing. Then he had one of the flukiest seasons ever when he was 34. Now everything's back to where it was.
When hitters do stuff like that, there are a million "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" columns that dance around steroids. When pitchers do it, people shrug their shoulders and say "baseball is weird." I like it better when pitchers do it.
I'm keeping a running list of players to be suspicious of. So far:
- Pitchers whose walk rate drops dramatically when they arrive in the majors
It's a living document. When Miley came up last year, he was 25 -- not exactly young for a pitcher. There wasn't supposed to be a lot of room for additional development. He walked three hitters for every nine innings he pitched in the minors. Not a bad rate. Not a good rate. A rate.
In the majors, his control was magic. He walked 1.7 batters per nine innings, which isn't exactly historic, but it's close to where control mavens like Mark Buehrle and Cliff Lee usually hang out. If Miley was going to be a perennial All-Star, it was because he could maintain that rate.
He couldn't. Because very few pitchers can. Miley has walked 37 batters this season -- his exact total for the entire 2012 season. He hasn't shown poor control, just average like in the minors. But the difference between average and exceptional control is the difference between the back of the rotation and All-Star.
Theory: Performance-enhancing drugs enhance performance.
Alternate theory: Melky Cabrera doesn't want to be suspended for 100 games, so he's off the juice, and now he's much worse.
Rebuttal to this theory: Bartolo Colon?
Maybe Cabrera was due for a little regression. He hit .346 before he was suspended, and I can personally attest that there were an unbelievable doinks and infield hits mixed in. He still hit the ball hard, but more like the .305 hitter with the Royals, just with a touch of good fortune. He certainly wasn't the neo-Gwynn he was pretending to be.
His power is way down this year, back to where it was when the Braves didn't bother offering him arbitration. PEDs aren't supposed to work like Popeye and a can of spinach, but we're in Occam's Razor territory, here.
Last year, Bryan LaHair was literally an All-Star. He made the team and everything. He will always be Bryan LaHair, All-Star. That's something that Tim Salmon, Kirk Gibson, Tony Phillips, Anibal Sanchez, Matt Garza, and A.J. Burnett can't claim. Here's how he made the team:
It's almost like … like … people pay too much attention to April stats. But I don't want to get nuts.
He's hitting .234/.307/.435 with 11 homers this year for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks. Everyone on this list fell pretty far from what they did last year. But only LaHair is 6,700 miles away.