Nationals Baseball: Ankiel : Straight to the bench

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ankiel : Straight to the bench

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.

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.


Wally said...

When Ankiel was signed, it was clear that if he got 400 ABs, the Nats were in trouble. A spot starter against righties, with pinch hitting duties - ok, fine. But anything more was not warranted. But I don't agree with the chorus that trading Morgan materially worsened this situation. He is no solution to anyone's problem. So I agree with you. I like Nix, and would give him or Bernadina some time in CF - not because I think that they will play extremely well, just because they are the best option right now (by the way, whatever happened to the 'Werth can play CF' crowd?).

But here is the thing - Rizzo's offseason looks pretty bad. I do not fault him for failing to acquire a top SP (but still shake my head at his bold statement that he would), but he has constructed a bad bench. Ankiel=Stairs=Nix, tying up 3 spots for essentially the same thing, and Cora+Hairston = dog poo. But really, the thing that looks horrible is the wholesale transformation into a pitch to contact, superior defensive team. great idea, and 50% executed, but this defense is just appalling and they are going to struggle reach last year's wins without something major being done. Desmond is a big part of it, but not the whole story.

And lastly, he isn't going with the best bullpen that he can. He is too caught up in the options game, and worried about exposing marginal guys to waivers. He needs to leave Balestar up here, bring up Rodriguez and make room for Stammen.

bdrube said...

I totally agree with Wally. I wasn't terribly thrilled with the platoon of veterans getting the nod over Bernie, Balestar and Stammen in the first place. Time to stop with all that nonsense and let the young guys play. Heck, move Gorzo to the pen and get Detwiler up here too.