One of the fun (but sometimes agonizing) aspects of baseball is the unpredictability. The thrill of seeing an unexpected player blossom into something great, or at times, the letdown of watching a player fail to live up to expectations.
Thus far, it's been the latter scenario for Elvis Andrus. We've been hearing year after year about how much stronger he's getting heading into the season, about how he's going to add a little more power to his swing, and that while that might not translate into home run power, we've come to expect extra base hits. They haven't happened very often.
While the season is actually more than half over, the ceremonial end of the first half that comes with the All-Star break is upon us, and through July 14, Andrus sits at .242/.300/.280 for an OPS of .580. That OPS is only 15 points above BJ Upton's baseball-worst of .565. On the basis of wRC+, Andrus sits at 55, good for second-worst in baseball behind only Jeff Keppinger of the White Sox.
This was supposed to be the year that Elvis Andrus put it all together. The Rangers believed as much as well, rewarding Andrus with an extension that has the potential to run through the 2023 season with a maximum value of $146 million. That's a hefty chunk of cash for a player that is currently performing among the worst in baseball at the plate.
So what gives? While a .242 average doesn't look good on paper, it's not the average that concerns me. The lack of significant power is what troubles me the most, and only two extra-base hits since May 18 means Elvis isn't just slumping. He's in free-fall mode, and to illustrate, we can see his isolated power (slugging minus average) comparison between this season and last season.
In 2012, Andrus showed an ability to hit for power in multiple locations. In 2013, however, the red flag seems to be pitches right down the middle. He's not doing anything with them, and when he is, they're going right at defenders.
Part of the problem seems to be that Andrus has worked for years on being an opposite-field hitter. Sometimes that has worked to his detriment, and this season is a prime example. Even when pitchers throw inside on him, he attempts to hit it toward right field, sapping a lot of pop from his swing in the process. Whereas many players are straight pull hitters and struggle to develop an opposite-field swing, Andrus seems to have the opposite problem.
As seen above, more often than not, he actually ends up grounding out to the left side instead of pushing the ball right. Now, I'm not a hitting coach and I'm certainly not a scout, but it seems that Dave Magadan might have some work to do with Andrus during the second half of the season. I'm not a big fan of pinning offensive problems on a hitting coach, but one is left to wonder if maybe Elvis is thinking too much instead of reacting. As the struggles build, frustration is finally beginning to show itself visibly, and I can only hope that a guy that has been my favorite Ranger since he came up in 2009 can figure it out.
A BABIP of .285 on the season is a bit below his career average, which means that we might be able to expect some of those swings to start resulting in hits, and maybe that's exactly what Elvis needs to gain some confidence and start reacting instead of over-thinking. Then again, maybe I'm totally wrong and it's just one of those seasons that sometimes happens to good players. That's where I really hope I'm wrong.