Despite all the changes and turmoil, Arizona finds itself at the All-Star break with almost exactly the same record that we had at the same point last year. But as we pause for the All-Star game, it seems an appropriate point to take stock, and give our team members a mid-season report card.
Johnny Estrada: B+ - .315/.337/.465
Chris Snyder: B - .264/.347/.414
Concerns about how Estrada would bounce back from his injury last year have proven largely unfounded, as he leads the team in batting average, and already has more RBIs than all our catchers did for the entire season last year. With eight walks, more patience would be welcome - among all major-league hitters with 250+ PAs, only Jay Payton has fewer - but while Estrada is Pope in the Church of the First-Pitch Hack, he is, at least, good at it. Snyder has turned himself into a solid, reliable platoon partner, getting about a third of the playing time, and no longer an embarrassment at the plate. He has also thrown out 40% of base-stealers, ranking him #9 among catchers with 20+ attempts.
Conor Jackson: C+ - .272/.370/.402
Tony Clark: D- - .190/.292/.371
Jackson's first full season has been a quiet one, not quite the full-fledged Rookie of the Year contender many, including myself, was hoping to see. He has shown the expected good plate discipline (leading all rookies in walks and, consequently, the team in OBP), but we anticipated more power [Our pre-season community projection was .271/.362/.423]. His glove has been barely adequate at first-base, but that is as predicted, and should improve somewhat with time. Tony Clark has been a sad disappointment, a mere shadow of his 2005 self, which appears to have been a flash in the pan. His slugging percentage is barely ahead of Craig Counsell, and he is one game (the June 4 one in Atlanta) away from hitting .160.
Orlando Hudson D+ - .261/.324/.415
The main knock against O-Dawg has not really been his batting. That started very poorly (he was hitting .212 on May 15), but has since come around a bit: now, only Byrnes and Tracy have more home-runs than Hudson. No, the main problem is that his defense has not been as advertised: average, occasionally flashily good, but just as often painfully inept. Obviously, moving house may be part of the issue, but unlike for an outfielder, I wouldn't have thought there'd be all that much difference between infields. With the rise of Alberto Callaspo down in Tucson, Hudson might get traded before anyone else notices his deterioration.
Craig Counsell D- - .276/.331/.365
Damion Easley C - .233/.333/.450
In case you skipped the last few months of this blog, here's my pet peeve from the first half: Craig Counsell should not be batting leadoff. While I love "Rudy" to death, he no longer has the patience for the #1 spot: he has the least walks of any hitter in the majors with 200+ plate-appearances there. The resulting OBP of .322 - dead-last, too - is unacceptable. His speed also seems to have declined, though his glovework remains decent enough. Stick him elsewhere in the order, and he immediately improves a grade. Easley has been the epitome of the bench player, but does take walks (the same number as Counsell, in 40% of the at-bats) and has occasionally surprising pop, with the best HR/AB ratio on the club.
Chad Tracy D - .277/.332/.454
After a brilliant sophomore season, Tracy has entered what could be called a Junior Slump, best illustrated by his charge towards smashing the franchise record for strikeouts. Despite getting signed to a long-term contract extension in May, he's often been painful to watch, and seems to have been pulling his head off the ball. Earlier reports said pitchers had changed their approach to Tracy, and he was going to try and shorten his swing on two-strike counts. So far, it hasn't worked. In his defense, he is ahead in his HR total - he only had 10 HR at the All-Star Break last year, though he was batting .304 at that point. His return to third-base has been okay; errors have still happened, but haven't been at quite the same rate as in 2004.
Luis Gonzalez F - .259/.355/.411
Andy Green D - .206/.333/.302
In pre-season comments, Gonzalez described the second half of 2005 as "horrible". For comparison, his stats after the All-Star Break there were .256/.354/.469, so the first half of 2006 has been equally horrible - and with significantly less power. For a man earning $10m, his performance at the plate has been wretched, there's no other word for it. In the field, too, he's been dreadful: while he was never a Gold-Glover, he used to give it his all, and even that has clearly dissipated. Off the field, things have been no better, thanks to a monumental public spat with owner Ken Kendrick. Chances of his option being picked up: nil. Chances of the word "former" being applied to his "fan favourite" label by the end of the season: about 50/50. Green has seen very limited playing time - only 63 at-bats (Webb has 42!) - but has done little to justify seeing any more.
Eric Byrnes B+ - .292/.352/.522
Jeff DaVanon B- - .276/.360/.425
I'll admit, I was initially dubious about this pair of off-season pickups, but they've been two brights spots through the first half. Wild-man Eric Byrnes has certainly been a lively addition to the roster, and there's no doubting he gives it his all in center-field - whether it's prudent or not! DaVanon is decent at the plate, and Byrnes has been more than that, leading the team in OPS by over fifty points. With future-CF Chris Young lurking in Tucson, if anyone is traded away by Arizona, Byrnes would seem a leading candidate. I wouldn't mind DaVanon hanging around as a fourth outfielder for next year: he has shown himself capable of playing all three outfield positions, which is something I'd like to see more of. Particularly in LF...
Shawn Green: C - .305/.361/.462
You'd generally rate any player hitting .300 as better than average, but Green has shown a remarkable ability to hit the ball when it matters least; he seems to crumple like soggy cardboard in any pressure situations. He has improved a bit there from his early season performance, that saw him post just three RBIs in April [at that point, going back to August 29, 2005, he had only six in 187 at-bats!], however, 38 RBIs and 8 HR is still very disappointing. His play in the right corner has also often left a chunk to be desired. Since he's signed for next season too, if we could get anyone to take him off our hands, I imagine Byrnes would pounce on the opportunity.