Paul Janish hits a single off Darren O'Day, March 2011
Paul Janish turns 29 today. Seems like a good time to look back over his season. Plus, Rangers-Tigers is in rain delay.
Janish started out the year well enough. He hit a very respectable .286 in spring training. However, even back then, I noticed something odd. It was almost all singles. Janish is not known as a slugger, but he hit his share of doubles in previous seasons, and even a few home runs. Also, he hardly walked in spring training, when he's always had a good walk rate. His numbers for spring were .286 / .314 / .306 for an OPS of .620 - good batting average, the rest a bit disappointing.
Of course spring training stats don't mean much. But when the regular season started, it was the same. Good batting average, no power and almost no walks. Still, he was hitting .289 at the end of April, so it was hard to complain.
The trouble started in early May, when Janish sprained his ankle. He missed four games in the second week of May, and was just never the same after that. Maybe the sore ankle threw off his swing. Maybe it was just a fluke. But he went into a long, deep funk after the injury. He OPS'd .342 in May and .537 in June, instead of the .700 I was hoping for. Even worse, he seemed to be taking his struggles at the plate into the field. He had 12 errors this season, some of them just inexplicable.
In July, Janish lost his job to Zack Cozart. He was sent down to AAA. His struggles continued there...at first. He started out 1 for 22. However, he seemed to settle down after that. He started walking, then he started hitting. And hitting for power: he even hit his first home run of the season. For his last 10 games in Louisville, he hit .303 / .400 / .455, for a .855 OPS.
He spent just two weeks in Louisville. He probably should have spent more time there, but Zack Cozart injured his elbow in a collision at 2B, and Janish was called up again. He went 3 for 4 with a double his first game back, then fell back into his slump. In August, he hit just .125 and OPS'd an abysmal .399.
He finally seemed to come out of it in September. Perhaps the pressure was off by then; the Reds were out of contention, and Cozart was the presumptive starter for next year. Janish started 11 games in September, and got on base in 10 of them. (And he had a RBI in the 11th - a reached on error that could easily have been ruled a hit.) He just looked so much better in September - more relaxed. Even when he made outs, they were louder outs. Instead of popups or weak grounders, he was hitting them pretty deep in the outfield. He hit .281 / .324 / .313 - not great, but much better than the previous month. And he had no errors in September.
So, what went wrong this year? Darned if I know. Exposed by playing (almost) every day? Just bad luck? The pressure got to him? Maybe a little of everything.
Despite the errors, Janish was a plus defender at shortstop this year. He was also a good baserunner. But not good enough to make up for his struggles at the plate. I do think he'll likely hit better next year, if only because he could hardly be worse. But whether he'll get a chance is another story.
I hope he does. It often takes awhile for players to adjust to the big leagues. Janish has been around for three years now, but spending weeks at a time on the bench is no way to learn to hit major league pitching. It's not like slugging shortstops are thick on the ground. If he can hit even a little, he'd be a decent player, with that glove.
Labels: Paul Janish