As others have said before me, "The Rick Ankiel Story" would make a good movie. Rookie pitcher stars early, rides the yips right back out of the majors starting in the playoffs no less, fights to remake himself into a major leaguer again at the plate. That's oscar worthy stuff. (You can nominate 10 movies now. This blog is oscar worthy stuff) Too bad the original story has spurned on some terrible sequels.
"Ankiel II : Ankiel Harder", was bad as pitchers now had a bead on how to pitch Rick. Never a high average type of guy he now struggled keeping up his power. Last year, in "Ankiel III: Ankiel takes Manhattan... Kansas" Rick put on a so-so performance. He got a bit of his power stroke back, but not enough to stick on as an everyday player on one of the worst teams in the league, and then he nearly helped drive a team out of the playoffs. And now in 2011, on the set of "Ankiel IV : Citizen on Outfield Patrol", things are looking sad. The actor is too long in the tooth to be playing these roles anymore.
The positives about Rick Ankiel coming over were simple - he'd be good in the field and he would provide some pop at the plate. The former wasn't very true. He has a good arm, supposedly, but as a fielder he's never been better than average. The latter was only true if you limited looking at his stats only against RH pitching. Now even that isn't true anymore.
Yes it has only been roughly 1/8th of the season, but Ankiel has a paltry 0.065 isoSLG number. To say it in a more standard way, he's got only 3 XBH in a month and is slugging the ball with pop that ranges somewhere between Jamey Carroll and Omar Infante. This is true even though the Nats have limited his bats against lefites. Against righties that number only rises to 0.083. Lyle Overbay is at .101. Michael Bourn at .114. True if you look down there you can cherry pick a good player or two having a bad start, Hanley Ramirez, Brian McCann, but these were guys that were good last year. They earn the benefit of the doubt. Ankiel was not and does not.
The fancy stats seem to suggest that he's doing everything right. He's not swinging at bad pitches. He's making more contact. He has bought into the taking pitches philosophy. And it's not as if he's changed his approach and is trying to hit more ground balls. He's hitting more flyballs than ever. There are just a lot more lazy ones than homers or gappers.
If Ankiel cannot slug the ball against right handed pitching than there is no reason to play him. He does not hit for average. He does not walk. A decent arm shouldn't earn him anything more than a spot on the bench, if that. The Nats will probably give him another month so as not to waste money but I'm hard pressed to say that the Nats wouldn't be better off starting Laynce Nix or Roger Bernadina everyday.
FIRST BASE FA UPDATE
Adam LaRoche: .242 / .346 / .377, 3 homers
Josh Willingham: .234 / .326 / .390, 3 homers
Derek Lee: .211 / .294 / .276, 1 homer
Carlos Pena: .169 / .306 / .189, still no homers
Josh has slumped in his pop at the plate, but got his BB mojo back. Adam LaRoche has been hitting like Adam LaRoche which is good enough to take the lead in this motley crew. Derek Lee looks old. Carlos Pena looks like he'll never hit .200.