Monday, May 25, 2009

Jay a Day: It's veheming about Vernon Wells week

Although Vernon Wells is struggling at the plate he is also a very poor fielder. It's a small sample size, but he's the worst in the majors.
"Vernon Wells' days as a good center fielder might be over. Over the last three years: -14.3, -1.1, 7.5, so far this year Wells is showing no signs of bouncing back, and actually seems to be getting worse. Whether that holds up or not is another story."
— R.J. Anderson, FanGraphs
A true Jays fan is sworn to stand by the "putative cleanup hitter for life (who) hasn't driven in a run since May 6" (The Tao of Stieb). He is ours, thanks to that seven-year, $126-million U.S. contract he signed in late 2006 which was universally praised, present company included. The numbers don't lie, though.

Wells is always going to be the punching bag of first resort, thanks to his contract. Please don't classify it as Tall Poppy Syndrome, since he would firs thave to be a tall poppy.

The question is how to reconcile that Vernon Wells, as far as anyone knows, is a decent player who does and says all the right things ("I take a lot of responsibility for what's going on, and it's frustrating for everyone") but not a superstar nor someone who can be easily traded.

He is going to have periods where he hits very well and it will seem like the Wells of 2003 or '06 is coming back ... ah, yes, the real Vernon ... and then regress. He makes better contact than he once did, but it's not clear if that necessarily means he controls the strike zone better. Where once he used to strike out about every seven times at bat, it's now once less every 10. His walk-to-strikeout ratio so far this season is 1:1, but most players' walk rates improve as they get older. Most damningly, he hasn't had an opposite-field hit all season.

It probably will get tougher, from here on out, to justify Wells hitting cleanup and playing centrefield. Flipping him and lefty-hitting Adam Lind in the 4-5 spots could be a temporary salve, since Wells is historically most productive batting fifth or sixth. Alex Rios' fielding in right has raised some hackles, so having him and Wells switch spots might not even be salable.

Anyway, six-game losing skid or not (as soon as Cito Gaston went to Shawn Camp in the bottom of the seventh in the 10-2 loss to Atlanta, it was time to bounce), it's never as bad it seems when it is going bad, just as it is never as good as it seems when it's going well. June and July are typically Wells' best months offensively (career-wise, he was OPS-plused 116 and 122 in those months, compared to 92 and 101 for April and May and 88 and 91 for August and Sept./Oct.). In other words, relax, it's gonna be OK, provided Cito is open to some kind of decisive action.


eyebleaf said...

Vernon's got an RBI today!!!!!1

Tao of Stieb said...

Off the snide! (In a loss!)