T.S. Eliot said “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.” He really was a Red Sox fan. Here’s 30 players for whom April 2012 has been the cruelest month. They hope. This week’s rankings, with previous rankings (4/20) in parentheses:
1. Texas (1): Mitch Moreland might want to start hitting — everyone else on the Rangers is. Moreland’s .179 average is about the only thing keeping Texas’ team average under .300, and he has just two extra-base hits in 39 at-bats.
2. Tampa Bay (3): Jeff Keppinger has spent most of his career hitting 65 points higher vs. lefties. So what do the Rays do? Give him two-thirds of his at-bats vs. righties. The results — a .204 average, .220 on-base percentage, one walk in 49 at-bats — have been predictable.
3. St. Louis (4): The Cardinals welcomed back Adam Wainwright — 39-19 with a 2.52 ERA in 2009-2010 — after he missed 2011 to injury, but he’s been the weak link in their rotation. Wainwright is the only Cardinal starting pitcher who has more home runs allowed (five) than wins (0-3), and his ERA of 7.32 refelects it. No other Cardinal starter is above 2.49.
4. Atlanta (6): The Braves couldn’t deal Jair Jurrjens during the offseason, and now it’s too late. Minor-leaguers don’t bring much in return. Jurrjens allowed 40 baserunners in 16.1 innings, amassed a 9.37 ERA and was sent to AAA. His collapse wasn’t totally unforseen: his strikeout rate had dropped from 1 every 1.3 innings in 2009, his best season, to 1 every 1.6 last season to 1 every 2 innings this season.
5. N.Y. Yankees (5): Another enigmatic start from once highly touted Phil Hughes, who now goes by highly frustrating. Hughes has failed to complete the fifth inning in three of his four starts, has thrown a home run every 3.1 innings and his ERA is 7.88. The Yankees might want to review Hughes’ career — his six-year ERA is 4.58, and even his best seasons of 2009-2010 were flawed.
6. Washington (7): The Nats could use a little offense, which is more than Xavier Nady has given them. Nady is hitting .149 with two extra-base hits and two walks in 49 plate appearances. The surprise? That Nady has 49 plate appearances.
7. L.A. Dodgers (8): Dee Gordon can’t get on base and has no power, but don’t worry: his fielding isn’t very good either. He’s been almost completely incomplete. Somehow the Dodgers are winning with a shortstop who has as many errors as walks (five) and is hitting .236. Gordon has stolen 10 bases — imagine how many he’d have if his on-base percentage was more than .282.
8. Detroit (2): The Tigers keep trying to give a starting job to Ryan Raburn, and he keeps giving it back. Last year he started in the outfield but was waylaid by a .141 May; this year he started at second base and has been worse, batting .128 in 47 at-bats. Brandon Inge, 2-for-20, must wonder why he’s cut and Raburn still has a job.
9. Toronto (9): J.P. Arencibia homered 23 times last year and in the 16th inning on Opening Day this year; since then, none at all. Arencibia has fanned 18 times and walked only twice and he’s batting .196, which is 133 points higher than the .063 average he held on April 18.
10. Philadelphia (10): John Mayberry Jr., who hit 15 homers in 267 at-bats last year, was supposed to offset the power lost by Ryan Howard’s and Chase Utley’s injuries. The latter two, who have yet to play, have just as many home runs and walks as Mayberry and almost as many doubles. Mayberry has two of the latter, a .244 slugging percentage and little chance of keeping his job at this pace.
11. Baltimore (18): The strikeouts and errors are the tradeoff for Mark Reynolds’ home runs — he averaged 35 a year from 2008-2011. Only what’s the point if Reynolds doesn’t homer? The Orioles are in first place with nary a contribution from Reynolds, who has fanned 25 times in 55 at-bats, has yet to homer and is batting .164. He’s lost playing time to Wilson Betemit, a worse fielder, who strikes out a lot and homers considerably less.
12. Boston (21): Reliever Mark Melancon went from closer to mop-up in about the time it took Carlton Fisk to get comfortable to hit. Melancon lost his first two appearances, but they were good outings compared to his performance against Texas in an 18-3 stomping: Melancon faced six batters, retired none, and threw three of them home runs. Arizona sent Joe Paterson to the minors when his ERA hit 37.13. Melancon is at 49.30. And rising.
13. San Francisco (13): Tim Lincecum cut about four inches of his hair earlier this month; now if he could only cut as much off his ERA. The newly shorn Lincecum hasn’t pitched as well, allowing 17 runs in 18.2 innngs. His ERA is 8.20 and he’s fanned 24, so he should rebound, but somewhere Samson is shaking his head and saying I told you so.
14. Chicago White Sox (14): Now that Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have reversed their poor 2011s, maybe the White Sox can solve the mystery of Gordon Beckham’s disappearing career. Beckham was a former first-round pick who hit .270 as a 22-year-old rookie in 2009. Since then he’s gotten worse every year. That won’t be easy to do off his .230 2011, but Beckham is trying: he’s hitting .170 with three extra-base hits in 53 at-bats.
15. Arizona (11): Josh Collmenter was fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting last year with a 3.38 ERA; everyone behind him will soon be asking for a recount. Collmenter’s 2012 ERA in four starts is 9.82, and he’s given up an NL-high 20 earned runs and six home runs. ERAs don’t normally come in four digits, but the way Collmenter is pitching, his will.
16. Colorado (16): Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd said the Rockies wanted “the right kind of guy” when they traded for pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. If that’s Guthrie, then there’s something wrong with being right (if loving him is right, then you want to be wrong). Guthrie twice led the AL in losses with Baltimore, and he’s pitching like that for the Rockies, even if he’s 2-1. His ERA is 5.92, and he’s walked twice as many as he’s struck out.
17. Cleveland (17): Want to know why the Rays are the Rays and the Indians are the Indians? The Rays sign Casey Kotchman as a free agent and he hits .306 for them in 2011. The Indians sign Kotchman as a free agent and he hits .140 for them in April. The latter shouldn’t have surprised the Indians: Kotchman hit .217 in 2010 and has just a .265 career average, with 61 home runs in nine seasons.
18. Cincinnati (20): Like a lot of reserves, Willie Harris typically hits worse the more he plays. That makes you wonder what will happen in May, since Harris is 3-for-29 in April. He’s hitting .103, or eight points less than Homer Bailey, or 64 points worse than Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, or 119 points worse than Bronson Arroyo. That’s four-fifths of the Reds’ rotation which is outperforming Harris, who can take solace from Mat Latos’ 0-for-5 start.
19. N.Y. Mets (22): Ike Davis was lost for the season in May 2011, so it’s logical that his numbers are a little off. But no one has fallen as much as the 170 points Davis has. He was hitting .302 when hurt, he’s at .132 since recovering. He’s walked only five times, and his three homers are his only extra-base hits. Of course, it’s not like he’s had many singles.
20. Milwaukee (19): Brewers outfielder Nyjer Morgan likes to call himself Tony Plush, but this year he should be Tony Flush, because that’s what he’s doing to his season. Morgan is hitting .167 in 48 at-bats, with no walks and no extra-base hits. Let’s see how many Twitter followers Tony has if those number persist.
21. Miami (12): The Marlins are paying new closer Heath Bell $9 million a year, and for that he’s blown three saves in five chances. Thursday he walked four batters and lost to the Mets; afterward manager Ozzie Guillen said he still believes in Bell. We’re not so sure. Next time Bell passes the aquarium at Marlins Park, he might want to take a close look at exactly what kind of fish are in that tank.
22. L.A. Angels (15): You wouldn’t ever expect to see Albert Pujols in this bunch, and the Angels certainly didn’t, not for $240 million. But he’s earned it. Pujols is hitting .224, but even worse, it’s a soft .224. He has no homers, seven doubles and six walks, and a .596 OPS. For that, they moved Mark Trumbo off first base?
23. Seattle (23): Brendan Ryan might not have swung at the last pitch of Phillip Humber’s perfect game, but those are the calls you get when you’re hitting .163. And why you’re hitting .163. Which Ryan is. Why Humber opted for a 3-2 breaking ball, we don’t know. We’re pretty sure Ryan would have swung right through any semi-decent fastball.
24. Minnesota (24): Francisco Liriano pitched a no-hitter last year, but like all of Liriano’s starts, it was imperfect — he walked six. That’s minor, compared to this year, where Liriano’s problems include control, stuff and results. He’s lost three of his four starts, has an 11.02 ERA and has given up 25 hits in 16.1 innings.
25. Oakland (25): If Coco Crisp’s name reminds one of a cereal, his 2012 season has its motto: snap, crackle, flop. Crisp is batting .167 without an extra-base hit and just four walks. His .231 on-base percentage helps explain why the A’s are averaging less than three runs a game. It’s hard to score when your leadoff batter leads off with outs.
26. Houston (26): The luck of his alma mater hasn’t been with Notre Dame pitcher Kyle Weiland in his major league career. He was 0-3 with the Red Sox in seven games last year, and he’s 0-3 with the Astros in three starts this year. However, it may not be all luck, as his career 7.23 ERA would attest, though it’s down to 6.62 this year.
27. Pittsburgh (27): Rod Barajas has hit double figures in homers the last four years, but he’ll have to start soon if he’s going to make it five. Of course, Barajas isn’t hitting much of anything. He has two doubles and three singles in 41 at-bats, giving him seven total bases and a .122 average.
28. Kansas City (28): Jonathan Sanchez has won half his decisions, which seems fitting since he’s thrown little more than half his pitches for strikes. He’s thrown none in the sixth inning, because he has yet to get there, mostly because he’s walked 17 batters in 17.1 innings. Sanchez has averaged almost 23 pitches per inning, or about the total of each at-bat in a Yankee-Red Sox game.
29. Chicago Cubs (29): Marlon Byrd was so bad the Cubs got rid of him. And who can blame them? Byrd was 3-for-43 with the Cubs, and even the 5-for-17 he’s put up with Boston has only raised his average to .133. Plus in 60 at-bats, he has yet to produce an extra-base hit. The Cubs can have another bad season without him.
30. San Diego (30): Jason Bartlett isn’t hitting, fielding or running well. Have we left anything out? Bartlett is hitting .154, and if that’s not creating enough outs, he’s hit into an NL-high four double plays. In the field he’s made four errors. When one of your highest-paid players plays like that, it’s no wonder the Padres are 6-14.