Well hello friends!
It’s been a minute, but we are back with the first edition of Patience or Panic of 2022. We wanted to wait a little bit to allow some trends to start setting in and not have to label someone a “panic” after seven at-bats. Granted, the numbers we discuss today are still a very small sample size, but two weeks (or close enough) gives us at least a better idea of what we’re seeing.
We’ve got a fun group of names today including a high priced second baseman who changed teams over the winter, as well as a young infielder who has scuffled early out of the gate. So without further ado, the first Patience or Panic of 2022!
Marcus Semien, 2B, Texas Rangers
Marcus Semien finished top-3 in MVP voting two of the last three years, first in 2019 and then again in 2021, which set the second baseman up for a nice payday come winter 2021. And what a payday it was, as the Texas Rangers signed Semien to a 7 year, 175 million dollar deal, pairing him with Corey Seager to solidify the middle of the infield.
Unfortunately for the Rangers and Semien, things haven’t gotten off to the best start. Texas currently sits at 2-9 in the basement of the AL West, while their second baseman is slashing just .174/.120/.239 with more strikeouts (9) than hits (8).
There was always going to be an assumed risk signing a 31-year-old second baseman to a seven year deal, but the thought was the Rangers could still get two, maybe three, elite years out of Semien before he started to decline, and this slow start is definitely concerning.
One big reason for the slow start could be Semien’s batting average on balls in play, which sits at a meager .211 at the moment. Significantly lower than average. But on the flip side of that coin, Semien is also drawing walks at a clip of just 6.0%, which is the lowest of his career (min. 50 games).
Another concerning factor is the quality of contact that Semien is making. Right now his hard hit percentage (20%) and average exit velocity (83.9 mph) are both on track to be the lowest of his career. He’s also hitting the ball in the air 60% of the time right now, which in a giant ballpark and with sub-par quality of contact you’re gonna have some issues.
Now if you’re a Rangers fan reading this, it’s not all bad. There is a potential explanation. Semien is currently swinging way more, currently at 54% which is far and away the highest of his career and a 10 percent increase from last year. He’s also swinging way more outside of the strike zone, 11 percent more than last year. That would explain the dip in quality of contact as well as the lower walk rate. He’s been less selective. Once Semien can reign it in and start looking for his pitches, the better contact and the results will come.
Jesse Winker, OF, Seattle Mariners
Our next contestant is another big name who moved over the offseason. Winker broke out for the Cincinnati Reds last year, earning his first All-Star appearance and slashing .305/.394/.556 and setting career highs across the board in home runs (24) RBI (71) and doubles (32).
So once it became clear the Reds were going to sell, the Mariners acted to try and improve on a team that won 90 games in 2020. The addition of Winker seemed to announce that the Mariners were here and ready to break their decades-long postseason drought, adding a player in his prime and starting to play some of his best baseball.
That hasn’t gone exactly to plan. Two weeks into the season, Winker is slashing .158/.373/.158 and has yet to hit a home run for his new team. Which obviously means it’s time for Seattle to cut their losses and trade him.
That was a joke.
Anyway Winker leads the league in walks heading into play on Thursday, which explains the OBP that is leaps and bounds higher than his batting average. He’s also striking out just 10% of the time which is an absolutely spectacular number.
On top of that, Winker is only hitting the ball on the ground 20% of the time and making soft contact only 23% of the time, so the balls he is putting in play are in the air and generally well hit. Which means the hits will come eventually, they just need to not be caught at the wall by Luis Robert.
Brendan Rodgers, 2B/SS, Colorado Rockies
After being the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, Rodgers finally got his shot to be a regular in the bigs last year and had a promising campaign. He slashed .284/.328/.470 overall, but really hit his stride in the second half, especially in the final month of the season when he put up a .299/.325/.490 line and hit 5 of his 15 home runs. Even though Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado had departed, Kris Bryant had been signed and it seemed like he would be creating a new core with Rodgers and Ryan McMahon.
Rodgers hasn’t exactly held up his end of the bargain. He’s hitting a truly miserable .095/.170/.119 with just one extra base hit. In the same vein of truly terrible stats, Rodgers is striking out 32% of the time and walking less than 10% of the time. The lack of walks isn’t the huge issue, as it’s actually an improvement from his 4% walk rate last year, but the strikeouts are a huge jump from the 20% mark Rodgers had in 2021.
Outside of the strikeouts, the big problem for Rodgers is that when he does make contact with the ball, it’s not great quality. He’s currently hitting the ball on the ground 56% of the time, and despite making soft contact just 16% of the time, when the ball is hit on the ground that much, it’s not gonna go super great.
Either the strikeouts or the ground ball rate need to be fixed for Rodgers to have success, and the ground ball rate would probably be the one to pick as we see around the league you can get away with a high strikeout rate. Regardless, Rodgers not being able to build off last year’s success is concerning, especially considering the Rockies haven’t played any particularly tough opponents yet (read as: they haven’t played the Dodgers, Giants or Padres yet).
Graphic by Michael Packard (@designsbypack on Twitter & IG)
What about Mookie?