They said he couldn't be any worse than he was in 2011. They were wrong. This summer, the LA Angels and Mike Scioscia disdainfully present "Vernon Wells: Suck Harder!"
Yes, it is true. No, that fake movie teaser isn't real, but the part about Vernon Wells actually finding a way to be even worse than he was in his disastrous 2011 campaign is. Yes, his batting average is higher this season, but most everything else about his offensive production has gotten worse.
- His already pitiful walk rate of 3.8% in 2011 is down to 3.2% this season.
- His power has tailed off, as shown by his ISO dropping from .194 to .175.
- He has already grounded into five double plays after rolling into eight all of last year.
- This is where it gets real bad, he is swinging at career-high percentage of pitches out of the strike zone at 36.8%.
- Even worse, he is making contact with 79.0% of those out-of-zone pitches, which blows is blows his former career-best out of the water and is generally just an absurdly high percentage. That isn't a good thing.
The only things he has going for him is a higher average, better BABIP and an improved line drive rate, which surely all go hand-in-hand. I suppose that is reason for hope, but only if you are desperately seeking out such reasons, which I don't think anybody is. The reality is that while his batting average is up, his already miserable plate discipline has eroded further.
To me though, the most telling stat for Wells this season is his fWAR of -0.1. That's not a typo, he has a negative fWAR. He is worse than a replacement-level player, which means the Halos would be better off with a generic AAA scrub in Vernon's place.
That makes me angry. It makes me angry because it isn't as if the Angels have no alternative to Wells other than an anonymous minor league scrub, they have Peter Bourjos who showed last season that he is capable of being a very useful and productive player. But this isn't even about Bourjos and the grave injustice of him being relegated to the bench. No, this is about why Mike Scioscia feels compelled to give Wells the benefit of the doubt at all.
We all know the financial investment involved in Wells and that no doubt plays a role, but listening to Mike Scioscia, he isn't playing Wells out of obligation, he's playing him because, as he said over the weekend, "we have confidence in what he can do." I'm not exactly sure what Scioscia thinks Vernon "can do" but there are mountains of statistical evidence that it isn't playing baseball well.
And like a juror on the O.J. Simpson trial, Mike Scioscia has ignored the mountain of incontrovertible evidence to play Wells almost every single day. Despite his unparalleled ineptitude, Wells has played in 33 of the Angels' 36 games this season. Only Albert Pujols (ugh) has played in more games for the Halos. This is what is known as failing upwards.
There just isn't an explanation. None at all, and that, my friends, is the scariest notion of all. With no valid explanation for why Wells keeps getting playing time, we can't determine what it will take for him to stop getting playing time. It doesn't take a big leap of logic to deduce that there is no criteria that Wells would have to meet, or not meet as it were, for him to finally be banished to the bench.
That feeling you just got was a chill of terror running down your spine.
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Considering we do have a reasonable replacement for Wells in Mike Trout hows about we let Petey play through it in center and have Trout play left? Then Trumbo fills in from time to time in right or left to keep his bat warm and Wells becomes the backup. Having a real center fielder and another guy who can play there is the best and means no one injury should hurt as badly as it might. It is true there are no replacements on the farm other than retread Ryan Langerhans but, in a pinch, he could be brought in to play occasionally. Whoa! Deja Vu! Feels like I've said this before. So...aside from Mike Scioscia what's the problem?
Wow, well, I had no idea it was that bad. Unfortunately, I am drinking the Anti Scioscia Kool Aid. NOT because we are a crap team with SO much talent and payroll, but because of decsions like this. Petey batting .200 has aa better WAR than Wells because he can do more than Wells can. Even if it is only the facts that he can cover more ground in the field and go 1st to third ...better is better. Scioscia plays the vets regardless of what the stats show (case in point, 2011 Bobby Abreu) to the detriment of the team. he has been doing this for a few years now and I am of the opinion that it is all coming to a head.
You mentioned "swinging at career-high percentage of pitches out of the strike zone" and without looking at the stats this has to be a Pujols problem as well. Isn't that what a hitting coach is to notice, address and fix in a professional ball player?? Is swinging at bad pitches in the hopes of getting lucky something that Hatcher is teaching....because it sure looks like it to me.
A few questions for all of us Halo faithful to really ponder...Would Tito Francona allow such a thing? Does Mark McGuire have a more aggressive/hands on approach to taking hitters out of self induced, swinging at bad pitches slumps? Would LaRussa come out of retirement for a return the the West Coast? Is it just me or is this season painfully reminicent of a 2006 season where we had all the reason in the world to think the AL West was ours only to never gain the traction to put together a solid handful of winning months of baseball?