While many ballplayers try to not think about the past, there are a handful of that’d like to hit the rewind button and start the 2018 season all over again. There’s still plenty of time to climb out of an early-season slump, but they haven’t put themselves in the best position as we approach Memorial Day. If these players can’t turn things around, then their fans certainly won’t be making wagers at ladbrokes to bet on the team.
For one reason or another, the following 10 MLB players fall into that group. After a rough month-and-a-half, they’re looking for ways to kickstart their respective seasons into high gear (and since we already dug deeper into the struggles regarding Paul Goldschmidt and Matt Carpenter, they’re not included on this list).
Sonny Gray, SP, New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have one of the league’s best starting rotations, but 28-year-old right-hander Sonny Gray has barely contributed to that effort.
He’s struggled to a 6.39 ERA and 5.32 SIERA to go along with a suppressed strikeout rate (17.2%) and inflated walk rate (12.9%) through 38 innings. While he’s allowing hard contact (36.4%) at a much higher rate than usual, there are two things that really stick out about his poor performance: fewer ground balls and a shift in pitch mix.
With the Oakland Athletics, Gray’s ground-ball rate never dipped below 52.7%. After last year’s trade, that number went down to 47.3%, and it’s even lower at the moment (44.1%). His four-seam fastball usage is down to just 33.9% in 2018, and the results haven’t been good. After inducing ground balls with that pitch at a 55.6% clip in 2017, it’s currently sitting at 37.8%, which would easily be a career-worst mark.
Marcell Ozuna, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
Although the Miami Marlins traded just about everyone last winter, dealing Marcell Ozuna at that particular time made sense. Based off his slow start with the Cardinals, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect with regard to his trade value.
The outfielder’s quality of contact is among the league leaders upon looking at his 50.0% hard-hit rate, but it’s also accompanied by a 49.2% ground-ball rate. Plus, his .301 BABIP doesn’t look terribly out of whack (last year’s .355 mark has been the outlier so far).
Something that does need to make its return is his patience. After posting a career-high 9.4% walk rate in 2017, it’s currently at 4.6%. He is working his way back, though — after watching that number dip down to 2.7% in April, it’s up to 8.1% through 62 plate appearances in May.
Marcus Stroman, SP, Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays placed Marcus Stroman on the disabled list last week with shoulder fatigue. While that’s likely a legitimate ailment since he was shut down for a few days following the move, it’s also giving him a mental break from what’s been a horrendous start to the year.
Among starting pitchers with at least 30 innings of work (Stroman has thrown 37.1 frames), the right-hander’s 7.71 ERA is third-worst in baseball. His 4.29 SIERA indicates he’s run into some tough luck, but it’s not as if he’s been pitching particularly great. Although his 60.5% ground-ball rate and 18.2% strikeout rate are close his career norms, his 10.2% walk rate and 46.8% hard-hit rate would both be career-worst marks.
Those batted-ball numbers have led to what would be a career-high .339 BABIP and a career-low 52.6% strand rate (78.1% in ’17).
Kole Calhoun, OF, Los Angeles Angels
When your team is playing well while having both the best player on the planet (Mike Trout) and possibly the most interesting player on the planet (Shohei Ohtani), struggles from other players can get overlooked. Still, it’s impossible to ignore the .163/.196/.206 triple slash and 9 wRC+ that Kole Calhoun has produced thus far.
That wRC+ is easily the worst in baseball among qualified hitters.
Calhoun’s overall production has been a bit of a roller coaster throughout the years, but he’s hit at least 17 homers in each of the last four seasons. He has just one so far this year, and his 56.9% ground-ball rate isn’t helping. Neither is his 24.5% fly-ball rate. His 40.0% hard-hit rate on fly balls isn’t that bad, but he’s hitting 52.0% of them the opposite way while pulling just 12.0% of them.
His pull rate on fly balls last year was 25.3%.
Danny Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals
The Royals aren’t going to be close to contending in the near future, so it makes sense to trade away whatever veteran talent they have to bulk up their farm system. Southpaw starter Danny Duffy qualifies based on his past track record, but that’ll be hard to do if his early-season performance continues.
Following a career-best 3.4 fWAR through 146.1 innings last season, Duffy has posted a -0.4 fWAR through 47 innings. Remember how high Stroman’s ERA was? Well, Duffy’s 6.51 mark would be among the 10 worst for starters with at least 30 innings of work.
His strikeout rate (18.7%) and walk rate (10.1%) are both worse than 2017’s year-end numbers (21.4% and 6.7%, respectively), but it’s been a drastic increase in homers allowed that’s stuck out like a sore thumb. He surrendered 13 dingers in 146.1 frames last year, and he’s already watched 12 sail out of the yard in just 47 innings. This has been made possible by an increased fly-ball rate (44.8%) and hard-hit rate (39.4%).