WOW. Take THAT, Mike. Thanks for the memories, you worthless piece of crap. Don't let the door hit you on the way back to Omaha. Hope you never make it back. I won't even mention the number and severity of STD's I hope you get because you have offended my baseball sensibilities, you lowdown, dirty, rotten scoundrel.
So, that's apparently how some Royals fans want to react to some expected sophomoric struggles from the man who could have been the MLB Rookie of the Year in 2008, and who was probably the team's MVP last year. Just throw him out like yesterday's trash, huh?? I beg to differ, my friends.
Mike Aviles will be fine. I repeat: Mike Aviles will be fine. Despite the ridiculous, unrealistic, and over-the-top vitriol that has been floating around RR, I think we can all agree on the reasonable conclusion that Aviles had not gotten off to the same incredible start that he did in 2008. But that's not surprising. What IS up for debate (perhaps) is how he will end up performing in 2009 when all is said and done.
So, what's happened with Mike this year? Well, his production is not the same as last year, that's very true. Rather than simply condemning him to a perpetual return to the life of a minor-leaguer, however, I would like to look a little deeper than overreactive, completely emotional responses to in-game results for each plate appearance.
Mike's current BA/OBP/SLG is not good, there can be no argument about that. He's hitting .206/.228/.289 right now (wOBA .231). Ouch. That definitely doesn't look good. But hey, how about this? Let's look beyond that and see what's going on behind those numbers.
First of all, he's been about as UNlucky this year as he was LUCKY last year. His LD% has increased to 21.8% from 20.2%, but his BABIP is .250 this year while it was .359 in 2008. League average is nearly identical at .303 in 2008 and .302 so far in 2009.
Beyond the fickleness of Lady Luck, what else might be happening? Well, as we might expect with a second-year player, the pitchers have learned how to adjust in pitching to him. While 62.4% of the pitches he saw in 2008 were fastballs, this year pitchers are throwing only 58.5% fastballs. Instead, they are trying to mess with Mike on the speed of the pitches he sees, as the percentage of changeups he sees has gone from 8.7% to 13.4%. Nevertheless, Aviles' plate discipline has only gotten better (Seitzer Effect, baby), since he's swinging at 27.3% of the pitches outside the strike zone vs. 35.5% in 2008.
Look, Aviles is obviously aware of the issues that come with his second year in the majors. He desperately wants to avoid experiencing the "sophomore jinx." In fact, I think Mike's only problem may be, in my armchair sports psychologist opinion, that he's pressing so hard to prevent it that the pressure he puts on himself is actually making it happen. He knows that pitchers are adjusting to him and that he needs to adjust to their adjustments. I think he's a smart enough and good enough professional baseball player that he's going to do so. Many of you apparently don't think he's capable of it.
The five projection systems have Aviles wOBA'ing between .328 and .350, all while providing adequate-to-good-SS-defense. I think they'll end up being right. And I think that Mike has earned a little faith from Royals fans. Let's give him at least a little more rope before we hang him in effigy, huh guys?