Every year a few players that are highly rated going into the year struggle. Often times these players can become underrated the following year. A key principle of sabermetric analysis is that you should look at a player’s weighted average of his last few years, not just his previous year’s performance. With this in mind, we’ll take a look at some guys who did not live up to their 2008 expectations and what their forecast is for next year.
Carl Crawford, OF, Tampa Bay: Many were expecting Crawford to break out last year. Instead he struggled with injuries and ended up with only a .273 batting average and 25 steals. Look for Crawford to bounce back next year. He made gains with his walk rate and strikeout rate and his batted ball numbers were right in line with his previous years. He only had a .297 BABIP, which was likely due to some bad luck and decreased speed due to injuries. While he may never be much of a power hitter, Crawford should be back to the old Carl Crawford, providing a good batting average with plenty of steals next year.
David Ortiz, DH, Boston: Ortiz was an extremely reliable player coming into 2008 and a good example of why past risk should not be used to predict future risk. His struggles can be attributed to his injury and a very low BABIP, which his injury may also be responsible for. Some may see warning signs of another Travis Hafner, but Ortiz was still able to show good power skills last year. Their is always a risk of a collapse with players that are Ortiz’s age and have his skill set, but I think Ortiz will be a safe play for at least another year as he maintained much of his past skill set in 2008.
Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit: Many thought Verlander was ready to establish himself as one of the top aces in all of baseball. Instead, he took a step backwards, putting up an ugly 4.84 ERA. Verlander has never had the peripheral statistics of an elite pitcher and this got even worse with his strikeout and walk rates worsening from 2007. Also, it has been noted that Verlander’s velocity took a one mile dip last year. This would be my biggest concern with Verlander as it might be a sign that the innings are catching up with him. If he can get his velocity back up Verlander should be a good value pick for next year but a lot depends on where he’s available in your league and your risk preference.
Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee: Hart wasn’t terrible last year, providing 20 home runs and 23 stolen bases but many were expecting more. However, his batting average took a hit as his poor approach caught up. Looking for something in between his 2007 and 2008 seasons, with a 25/25 years being in reach. As Hart enters his peak, he offers some interesting power potential.
Huston Street, RP, Colorado: Street entered 2008 as Oakland’s closer but struggled at times and gave way to Brad Ziegler. While his strikeout rate regressed to where one would probably expect it, Street really struggled with his control, which could be due to him trying to pitch through an injury. Despite this, Street still retains a solid skill set, one that’s a bit better than Manuel Corpas. Street’s ERA may not be as stellar as it was in the past due to a move to a tougher ballpark, but he’d be a good value pick for those looking to acquire cheap saves.
Ian Snell, SP, Pittsburgh: After a solid 2007, Snell took a big tumble in 2008. Every one of his statistics took a turn for the worse last year. His BABIP was also a very high .351. His poor 2008 could be due to injury, overwork, decline, or some combination of all three. If Snell was hurt, it wasn’t shown in his fastball velocity, as Fangraphs shows that right in line with his past years. I’m honestly not sure what to make of Snell. This could be a case where a guy who has shown decent skills in the past has a really unlucky year and bounces back like Ervin Santana or Cliff Lee. Of course, it is far more likely that Snell improves slightly or is soon out of the league.
Eric Byrnes, OF, Arizona: Byrnes had a monster 2007 and completely tanked in 2008. His skills declined in almost every category and had a terrible BABIP as well. Of course, a lot of this can attributed to his injuries but how much is the big question. Byrnes needs his legs to be healthy for next year as that’s where a lot of his value is in. He could provide some decent value at the end of a draft if you’re looking for stolen bases, but I wouldn’t invest too much in him. Even if healthy, he’s just not that good a player.