We reach the All-Star break on course for 85 wins, which is about where most fans were expecting us to be before Opening Day. So why is there such a feeling of disappointment? A variety of reasons: the slump over the last two weeks has taken us from contenders to teetering on the edge of irrelevance. The continued struggles of the young players have also hurt: I think most forward-looking fans would be happier if Drew and Quentin were batting .300, rather than Hudson and Byrnes.
But let's go through the roster in a bit more detail, and see what each member has done for us through the first ninety games. Somewhat arbitrary cutoff lines have been drawn at 50 ABs and 15 innings, as that seems to cover all the usual suspects. Grades do not really take into account age or expectations, and are based on actual performance.
C. Chris Snyder .212/.298/.364, 7 HR, 16 RBI
Snyder was expected to be the regular starter, but with that batting average, he won't see much action in the second-half. He has shown good patience at the plate, walking at a faster rate than almost all other NL catchers, and has already surpassed last year's HR total. But it's hard to overlook that .212 average, and he may find himself sitting on the bench more unless that improves going forward. Grade: D+ (but B for defense)
1B. Conor Jackson. .266/.366./.399, 5 HR, 26 RBI.
We all expected Jackson to build on the success of last year, and post an average near .300, with around the 15 homers he hit. Now, we'd settle for .280, and he'll be lucky to reach ten homers. At this moment, he seems a possible contender for trade, to relieve the corner log-jam, but we hope to avoid adding his name to a long list of AZ failures at first [Durazo, Overbay, Cabrera, Lee...] His defense has improved, but we are simply not getting enough production from the position. Grade: D
2B. Orlando Hudson .296/.380./.454, 7 HR, 47 RBI.
O-Dawg is on course for another career year: a 13 HR, 85 RBI pace, as well as near .300. Mind you, he's also on course to hit into 32 double-plays, a figure surpassed by only one player this century [Jim Rice, 36 + 35 in 1984 + 1985] Nominated for his first All-Star game, his defense has mostly been amazing, despite the odd gaffe. But word is, he's not happy here. Be surprised if he was traded by the deadline, but an off-season candidate for sure. Grade: B
SS. Stephen Drew .242/.304/.363, 4 HR, 29 RBI
Shortstop is rarely an offensive oil-well, so we can live with a little weakness here. But we do need an OPS+ in the 90's rather than the current 71. Drew has disappointed at the plate, and it's a toss up between him and Q as to who has been the biggest victim of the Great Satan, Kevin Seitzer. It's far too early to write him off though: bear in mind that, over 2001-2006, only ten full-time NL shortstops were aged 24 or younger. Grade: D+
3B. Chad Tracy .263/.343/.462, 6 HR, 28 RBI
You'd have got long odds befor the season of Tracy having fewer homers than Snyder at the break, but here we are. His slugging percentage hasn't changed much from 2006, but the balls that were leaving the park have turned into doubles. Sidelined for four weeks by a shoulder injury when he was hot (batting .311), Tracy has struggled since, hitting only .205 in June and July. I have to wonder if he's not still carrying an injury. Also has seen time at 1B, so may end up returning there. Grade: C-
LF. Eric Byrnes .306/.363/.496, 14 HR, 49 RBI
Leads the team in BA, SLG, OPS, HR, RBI and stolen bases. Any questions? Doubts about his second-half aside, Byrnes should have been our all-star, and is unquestionably the first half MVP, keeping the offense afloat single-handed. My only qualm remains those flips: as the game against the Dodgers showed, they're not necessary and are needlessly "look at me!"-ish. Byrnes has been good enough not to need that. Grade: A-
CF. Chris Young .233/.277/.427, 13 HR, 31 RBI
Of the rookies, Young has performed best, and is on pace for 23 homers and 16 SB. His average is low, but nobody expected him to hit .300 (well, not immediately, anyway!). Taking a few more walks would certainly be a step forward: he's currently getting one less than every five games. His defense has been mostly solid, but he has also botched some embarrasingly simple plays. Grade: C+
RF. Carlos Quentin .210/.299/.350, 5 HR, 28 RBI
Where did it all go wrong? Expectations were very high for Q, but were dashed almost from Opening Day. It soon became apparent he had no ability to lay off pitches down and away, so opposing pitchers exploited this mercilessly. He was particularly lost away from Chase where he batted .133, going 13-for-98, with 26 K's. Whether it's still an issue with his labrum, I don't know, but whatever it is: get well soon. Grade: F
3B. Mark Reynolds .272/.337 /.517, 6 HR, 23 RBI
An unexpected call-up when Chad Tracy got injured, Reynolds at first looked like the second coming of Mile Schmidt. He had a five-hit outing in his tenth major-league game, and after 15, was batting .426 with a 1.299 OPS. Since then...not so much: .181 with an OPS below .600, about what you'd expect out of a player pulled from Double-A. I'm not convinced he wouldn't be better served with a stint in Tucson, to polish his skills. Grade: C-
LF. Scott Hairston .230/.316/.375, 3 HR, 12 RBI
Another disappointment, though in Hairston's defense, he only got seven starts in May and eleven in June, making it hard to establish a routine. His glove hasn't been as bad as feared in left, but as he's now 27, we need to use this year to work out whether he has any real future with the club. While 150 at-bats isn't enough to tell, the results haven't been awe-inspiring thus far. Grade: D
C. Miguel Montero .243/.303/.404, 6 HR, 23 RBI
There's definitely a trend here, and I'm looking for Montero to be one of the bright spots in the second-half and take over the starter's role. His BA has increased almost fifty points since May 25, though he has been kept carefully away from lefties, only facing them 16 times. His defense is mercurial, capable of amazing and appalling in the same game, but he's one of the few young players not to have been a major disappointment. Grade: C (D for defense)
Inf. Alberto Callaspo: .206/.257/.254, 0 HR, 5 RBI
I'd like to skip the off-field issues, but they certainly didn't help Callaspo's production at the plate. While you'd expect a drop in performance between Triple-A and the majors, he has hit .390 in Tucson, 184 points more. Why can someone who hits so well at Triple-A, fail so miserably at the next step? As the Church Lady might say, "Could it be... Seitzer?" Maybe the next time up, he'll bring his bat, but I wouldn't bank on it. Grade: F
1B. Tony Clark: .211/.267/.450, 8 HR, 24 RBI
The best thing you can say is that he's not Clark v.2006, having already passed that total for HR and RBI. However, neither is he Clark v.2005, with a hacktastic 3:1 K:BB ratio, and an average close to .200. He's had only five hits off the bench, but three of those have left the park: expect more PH for Clark, due to the logjam in the corner infield. He's not the future, and shouldn't be treated as such. Thanks for playing, Tony: fancy a coaching job? Grade: D