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Friday Five: The All-Underwhelming Team

In recent days, there have been plenty of articles written about the best and worst players of the season’s first half. It’s natural when one comes to a midpoint – leaving aside the pedantry of pointing out that it was closer to a two-thirds mark this season – to reflect on what’s already happened. It’s useful, of course, for how it informs our expectation of the future.

But today, we’re going to spend some time talking another group of players. Guys who haven’t, you know, been bad or anything…they just haven’t quite delivered on the hype or the acquisition cost. You’d never cut them, but every so often when you’re looking at your roster, you shake your head a little and heave a sigh.

Without further ado, because really, I should’ve written this a week ago: Ladies(?) and gentlemen, your 2018 first half All-Underwhelming Team.

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I'm Not Mad, I'm Just Disappointed

Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds

Votto is frequently cited in conversations regarding the best pure hitter in the game. From 2015 to 2017, he averaged .320-101-31-92-8, which made him a top 15 overall player in standard leagues. Armed with this knowledge and deciding to target him over former stalwart Miguel Cabrera, I forked over a significant amount to snag Votto in my home league auction. That league uses on-base and slugging percentages in lieu of average, but that just made him more valuable. Alas, Votto has merely been pretty good. He’s hit only nine home runs and is batting nearly 30 points below his career .311 mark. The bonus steals have officially dried up as well. An early-season back injury is probably to blame, but Votto is also about to turn 35.

Brian Dozier, 2B, Minnesota Twins

True to the form he’s displayed in recent years, Dozier’s performance since the calendar flipped to July implies he’ll be much-improved in the back half. The run production has still been there despite the early struggles, and the counting stats are a bit lower than in prior seasons, though they remain solid. But...Brian. C’mon, man. .228? I thought we were past this low-average business after you hit .270 the last two seasons.

Kris Bryant, 3B/OF, Chicago Cubs

Like Votto, Bryant can likely point to a nagging injury as part of the rationale behind his relatively underwhelming performance. A shoulder issue landed him on the disabled list briefly but has reportedly been bothering him for most of the year. Nobody’s kicking a .276/.380/.474 hitter with full-season paces of 22 homers, 90 runs, and 90 RBI outta bed – let’s be honest, nobody’s kicking Bryant out of bed in general, he’s a good-looking millionaire athlete – but it’s hard not to be a little underwhelmed after Bryant set the bar so high. He won Rookie of the Year, then followed that up with an MVP season for the Cubs the year they ended their title drought. Realistically, there was nowhere to go but down when you think about it in those terms. He’s still awesome…just not as much this time around. And as of Thursday, he's back on the DL with shoulder inflammation.

Dee Gordon, 2B/OF, Seattle Mariners

In some ways, this has been a typical Gordon season. He’s hitting for average at the top of his team’s lineup and stealing more bags than most players, while providing bubkes in terms of homers or RBI. But while there are no qualms with a .290 batting average in today’s environment, Gordon’s current pace will yield only 75 runs (after averaging 98 across his previous three full seasons) and 36 steals on 49 attempts (61/79). Even in his suspension-shortened 2016, Gordon swiped 30 bags in 37 tries across just 79 games. The specialized dominance just hasn’t been there for his fantasy owners this year.

Noah Syndergaard, SP, New York Mets

Damn it, Thor, stay healthy! The results when Syndergaard has taken the mound have, as usual, been great. He strikes a bunch of dudes out, walks hardly any, and keeps the ball on the ground and in the yard at above-average rates. But he’s also made just 20 starts since the beginning of last season. After returning from a seven-week stint on the disabled list earlier this month, Syndergaard made two okay starts before landing right back on the shelf, this time with hand, foot, and mouth disease. Yep, he contracted a virus that normally only affects toddlers during a youth camp over the All-Star break…because the #lolmets saga is truly never-ending.


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