Geoff Jenkins is in a serious offensive slump.
Who would have thought, way back in March when we were on top of the world because of his resigning, that Jenks would be one of our worst offensive players over the first half? And not because of injuries, mind you... but because of poor performance. Anyone?
I didn't think so.
Regardless of the manner in which you break down his numbers, Jenkins has been a sub-par offensive performer. His month-by-month totals reveal a high degree of consistency.
Month AVG OBA SLG OPS HR RBI BB SO
April .264 .356 .494 851 3 14 12 14
May .257 .292 .381 672 2 13 5 23
June .238 .302 .448 749 5 15 8 28
July .244 .279 .415 694 2 5 2 11
.251 .311 .434 744 12 47 27 81
He has yet to go one one of his "patented Jenks' hot streaks," and even his best month's totals were not on par with his previous performances. Here are Jenkins' season numbers over his career.
Year AVG OBA SLG OPS
1998 .229 .288 .385 673
1999 .313 .371 .564 935
2000 .303 .360 .588 948
2001 .264 .334 .474 808
2002 .243 .320 .444 764
2003 .296 .375 .538 913
2004 .251 .311 .434 745
Since becoming an everyday player in 1999, Jenkins' has never had an OPS as low as 745. His lowest season total came in 2002, but he played only 67 games due to injury, and his 764 mark was still superior to his performance in 2004. In the four seasons he has played more than 100 games, Jenkins' OPS has been 935, 948, 808, and 913.
So how does one explain Jenkins' lack of production?
For one thing, Jenkins is on pace to strikeout 156 times, a total that would shatter his previous high water mark of 135. While he has always struck out more than one would like, he had started to show signs of improved plate discipline in 2003. He is on pace to walk 51 times this season, which would be his second best total of his career, but a 2.65 K:BB ratio would have placed him in the bottom ten players in the NL a year ago.
In addition to his strikeout total, Jenkins is hitting more groundballs than his career norm and has already hit 130, only 26 less than he did in all of 2003. His groundball-to-flyball ratio of 1.60 would be the highest of his career by far, a fact that is confirmed by anecdotal observation; a betting man would place 4-3 as the most likely outcome in any Jenkins' at-bat.
Moreover, Jenkins has been handcuffed by left-handed pitchers. In 85 at-bats, he has an OPS of 599 and has struck-out 32 times against only five walks. While he has always struggled against southpaws, Jenks' line over the previous three seasons was a respectable .272/.320/.441, or an OPS of 761, markedly better production than his total OPS in 2004.
One factor that does not seem to be affecting Jenkins' success at the plate is the number of pitches he sees per plate appearance. While it may appear that he is swinging at too many pitches early in the count, Jenks is averaging 3.67 pitches per PA, a number that is consistent with his totals over the last three seasons (3.65, 3.63, and 3.72 respectively).
In fact, Jenkins has actually had success when swinging early in the count. When hacking at the first pitch, something he has done 52 times, Jenkins is batting .346 with a 985 OPS. After he gets behind in the count 0-1, however, his numbers fall to .212 and 597. Clearly, he is having trouble differentiating between strikes and balls, pitches he can drive and pitches he can't, and the result has been a defensive approach when he falls behind in the count.
Has his position in the batting order been a factor? Apparently not. In 139 at-bats as the #3 hitter, Jenkins has batted .245 with a 744 OPS. In 207 at-bats as the #4 hitter, he has batted .256 with an identical 744 OPS. Whether Lyle Overbay bats ahead of him or behind him, Jenkins has been the same, unproductive hitter.
Just how bad has Jenkins been?
Among qualified left-fielders in the National League, he has the lowest batting average, on-base average, and OPS. He has the second most strikeouts among all NL left-fielders, qualified or not, trailing only Adam Dunn and tied with Pat Burrell. At the same time, he has the fewest walks per plate appearance and has the second most pronounced groundball/flyball ratio. He has created the second fewest runs per 27 outs, besting only Jeff Conine, and has contributed only 3.5 runs above a replacement player at his position.
To put that last figure into context, Jenkins trails players like Charles Thomas, Shane Spencer, Ray Lankford, and John Mabry. Among left-fielders with at least 100 plate appearances, Jenkins is ninth worst in the league. Including only those with 200 plate appearances, Jenkins is third-worst. Change that number to 300 plate appearances, or "everyday players," and Jenkins is the worst left-fielder in the league. And it's not particularly close.
Put another way, Jenkins has made more outs than any other left-fielder in baseball. In fact, only Scott Podsednik has made more outs among Brewers' hitters. The much-maligned catching duo of Chad Moeller and Gary Bennett has combined to make a staggering 234 outs in 328 plate appearances. The percentage of their plate appearances that go for outs, 71.3, is only slightly worse than Jenkins' out percentage, 68.9.
In other words, Geoff Jenkins has not been Geoff Jenkins.
While he has remained a premiere defensive left-fielder, Jenks has been abysmal at the plate, lacking both power and discipline, incapable of generating a hot streak, and skilled only at making outs. It has been a regrettable first half for the Brewers' personable leader, to be sure, and Jenkins will need to rekindle his lost production for the rest of the season if Milwaukee has any shot at a post-season run.
Bill Batterman is a writer for Brewerfan.net. You can get in touch with him by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.