Your Contending Team Is Only As Good As Its Weakest Link

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We can sit here and talk about superstars powering their teams into contention until the cows come home and start demanding grazing benefits, but in reality, if a team wants to make the playoffs they'd better start upgrading at the weak positions. Look at what the Red Sox did when they jettisoned Julio Lugo; in cliched parlance we call that "addition by subtraction". The Brewers also fixed a huge problem when they acquired Felipe Lopez from the Diamondbacks to replace an injured Rickie Weeks and an elderly Craig Counsell at second base. Addition by addition, y'all.

So let's take a look at eight top teams in the majors as measured by overall value and try to figure out who their weakest link is without even attempting to be helpful and suggesting a possible fix. We're bloggers, not scouts or assistant general managers. We're not made of magic. But neither is Ed Wade. I digress. The listicle:

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: Andre Ethier. Ethier had a breakout 2008 that caused many folks to predict an even more improved 2009. Turns out, he's average at best. Of course on a team this good, there are no regulars who stink so for Joe Torre to have a mediocre right fielder is no reason for panic. Ethier has no arm and no range in right, and rates as the worst regular RF in baseball in UZR. Despite nearly matching his homer total from last season, his slugging % has dropped 40 points and he's on pace to strike out 50% more times, dropping his OBP in the process. Worst of all, he hasn't updated his restaurant review blog since January, leaving hungry Dodgers fans in the lurch.

  • Tampa Bay Rays: Dioner Navarro. The Rays catcher was supposed to take the next step after a 2008 year that saw him nail almost 40% of would-be basestealers and collect a tidy .330 wOBA for a pennant-winning team. Tough luck, because his runners caught percentage has fallen off a cliff, his strikeouts have gone up, and his patience is so bad, he probably couldn't even draw a walk if he faced Oliver Perez twenty times. His wOBA this year is a sub-replacement level .250. He is quite possibly the worst regular player in the American League East.

  • New York Yankees: Cody Ransom. This guy would be a mediocre player on a Triple-A team, yet he gets regular appearances at third base to spell Alex Rodriguez and his surgically-repaired graham cracker hip. He can't hit which is just fine on a team when every regular player will surpass 20 tater tots by year end, but his play in the field is simply atrocious. I don't even need to show you the numbers. Just imagine a retarded koala bear with no arms playing the hot corner and you've got Cody Ransom in a nutshell.

  • Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz. What's that you say? Ortiz is back in shape, hitting homers and entertaining the crowds with his cheery smile? Tough nuts, this dude's ouchie wrist and lack of power kept his team down in the dumps for too long. You pay a guy who has zero value with a first baseman's glove on his hand tens of millions to hit tater tots and he can't even do that one thing anymore? Still, he's raised his OPS over 150 points from his season-low .566 back on June 1st and has 11 homers in his last 30 games, so with two more good months he'll cede this position back to whoever is playing shortstop.

  • Philadelphia Phillies: Jimmy Rollins. He's a leadoff hitter with a .290 on-base percentage. He's on pace to draw only 48 walks. He's a former Gold Glove-winning shortstop who's turned only 30 double plays for a pitching staff that gives him ample opportunities. Worst of all, he was caught chit-chatting with Chase Utley while this happened. Get on your horse, Jimmy.

  • Los Angeles Angels: Vladimir Guerrero. A wise old man once taught me to never kick a guy when he's down, but that wise old man is as dead as Vladdy's 2009 season, so here goes. The man who was supposed to lead the Angelheim offensive attack has played just 46 games this year with a microscopic .415 slugging percentage. His DH duties opened up a spot for Juan Rivera to succeed in the outfield, though, so Vlad has actually been quite valuable by incurring various knee and hamstring ouchies and sitting his ass out.

  • Milwaukee Brewers: Any starting pitcher whose name doesn't rhyme with Schmoschmani Schmischmardo. The Brew Crew team ace has stepped up to fill CC Sabathia's enormous pant legs with great success this year, but the rest of the staff couldn't even sniff Teddy Higuera's jock right now. With a combined ERA over 5.00 and terrible K/BB rates, the six-headed monster that is Braden Looper, Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Mike Burns and Seth McClung make an entire populace long for the days of Chris Bosio.

  • Detroit Tigers: Joel Zumaya. The reliever blew his sixth save of the season over the weekend and was immediately placed on the disabled list. All copies of Guitar Hero have been taken from his house. The Tigers haven't had a solid grasp on who should set up for closer Fernando Rodney this year, but Zumaya, who gives up too many walks and tater tots, should not be THE guy. But what else can Jim Leyland do? Count on Brandon Lyon?

So, fans of the Braves, Cardinals, Twins, White Sox, Rangers, Mariners, Marlins, Giants, Rockies, and Cubbies, I ask you: which player on your team would you most like to throw under the bus so hard that he'll smell like bio-diesel fuel for a week?

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Now that the blackhole in the line up is gone, Kotchman is the weakest link. 1b is normally a power position, well ole Crotchman has the 3rd lowest slugging percentage in the NL, with a whopping 4 tatertots, lowest of all NL 1b.

St. Louis Cardinals: Rick Ankiel. When the wall knocks you down, you stay down.

Walkoff Walk: my own stunning combination of statistics with ignorance and invective.

Agree with matt_T: Definately Kotchman, although my rage is currently focused on Greg anti-clutch can one guy be?

Fer the Giants, just line up the entire, er, lineup and get the bus moving. Make sure J Uribe gets it first though.

Dewayne Wise is probably the worst player in the AL, just awful yet Ozzie keeps playing him . Hopefully he'll be gone when The Carlos Quentin comes back

I would like the bus to run over Nick Punto twice just to make sure

LAD: The thing about Ethier there is that if he's down you can slot Juan Pierre in. What do you do, however, about virulent underperformers with no replacement? I'm looking at you, Martin and Furcal.

Martin's rough in particular because:
a) you don't want to be playing Brad Ausmus
b) BECAUSE you don't want to be playing Brad Ausmus Martin plays way too many games (82 so far)
c) For his career his second half OPS is 40 points worse; if that holds up the Dodgers can expect a grisly .640 OPS from him down the stretch.

Hey, J-Roll's OPS+ is up to 72! Seventy-two!

Considering he was at something like 28 earlier in the year, 72 sounds pretty good.

The worst everyday play in the AL is everyone who plays for the Royals.

I'm just not ready to make the admission as to which Tiger really needs to go. The hurt is all too real.

That fact that Cody Ransom is still on the Yankees' roster makes him the luckiest man in baseball.

Now all he needs is ALS

If I could put ALS in a bag, I would throw it at Cody Ransom's face.

For the Marlins, It is Bonifacio. His OPS is .622, his OPS+ is 67. His UZR is -3.2. He just sucks. The only thing he has is speed, but he can't use his speed on the basepaths because he can't get on base.

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