J.J. Hardy won’t run this town any longer. After hitting seven home runs and posting a tremendous .922 OPS in May, Hardy’s followed with an abysmal .498 OPS in June, and an awful .329 OPS in July. Yes, some of this variance is due to fluctuations in his BABIP and home run to fly ball rate, but when you have an OPS that low it is hard to simply dismiss it as bad luck. J.J., can you hit it in the morning (and evening)? This year, his batted ball and plate discipline statistics are roughly in line with his performance last year, when he produced an .801 OPS. However, he appears to be unlikely to approach last year’s performance mainly because his 15.7% HR/FB was a career high. This year he has a 10.1% HR/FB, but that is not necessarily going to increase substantially since he has a career average rate of 11.4%. His upside is likely his career average of .310/.430./.740. Potential injuries aside, he is still serviceable at shortstop, but I’m not going to count on a high OPS, especially considering his typically low OBP. There’s nothing I can do: total eclipse of the Hardy.
Adrian Gonzalez has an OPS nearly 200 points down from last year. At times, he’s looked like a zombie, but there’s still time for a rebound. So, will he be more human than human for the rest of 2012? Since his fantastic 2009 season, his walk rate has been free-falling: 17.5% in 2009, 13.4% in 2010, 10.3% in 2011, and 6% in 2012. In addition, his HR/FB went from over 20% in 2008 and 2009 to exactly 16.4% in both 2010 and 2011. This year his HR/FB is at a meager 7%. One red flag is that he has been swinging at, and making contact with, significantly more pitches outside the strike zone. In fact, both of these areas represent career highs this year, which would hurt his OBP and his slugging if these trends continue. Despite the causes for concern, I’m optimistic that his power and patience will recover because I can’t believe that he will continue to be this bad. He may not post an OPS above .900, but he should approach a line of .370/.510/.880 for the rest of this season. That’s good enough to be the hero we deserve, but not the one we need right now.
Dan Uggla’s walk rate and strikeout rate are career highs. The increased walk rate is sustainable over last year’s rate, although I expect some regression because the number of pitches he’s seen per plate appearance does not indicate any improvement above his career rate. His increased strikeout rate is likely a result of his decreased contact rate and it may be sustainable because his swinging strike rate is at a career high. Going forward, he should roughly maintain his current .350 OBP, which is above average for a second baseman and is in line with his career average. His HR/FB is the lowest of his career and this may finally be the year where Uggla fails to top 30 homers. However, I can’t imagine that his .384 slugging continues and expect him to come close to last year’s .450 slugging for the rest of the season. A line of .340/.440/.780 should be reasonable for the rest of 2012.
Erick Aybar has, after struggling with an OPS below .600 in April and May, produced an OPS above .800 since June. This drastic change is largely due to an increase in slugging. The funny thing is that since Aybar hits so few home runs, hitting any at all will bump his slugging up quite a bit. For example, he hit zero home runs in the first two months and four since then, which suggests that it is hard to project him hitting even two homers a month. On the Mr. Brightside, his contact rate has improved this season and, along with having a BABIP below his career average, there is reason for optimism above his current performance. For the rest of the season, I think he will approach a .320/.400/.720 line. I’ll caveat it by saying that he has the potential to really hurt you in OPS leagues if he goes without a home run for a long time and hovers around a .600 OPS. I’d do anything for love, but I won’t do that.
Ian Desmond is a mirage. At least, I don’t expect him to continue his 18.5% HR/FB rate, when he’s managed less than half that rate prior to this season. For reference, this year he’s hitting home runs at a higher rate than Miguel Cabrera and Edwin Encarnacion. Other than that, his walk rate, strikeout rate, and batted ball profile are fairly in line with his career averages. I know he’s hit 17 home runs, which is an incredible amount, particularly for a shortstop. Still, I have little faith that he will be able to produce much better than his career averages. I project .310/.430/.740 for the rest of 2012.