The San Francisco Giants run of playing quality baseball earlier this year lined up perfectly with Alex Dickerson’s presence on the team.
This isn’t particularly surprising. One player cannot lead a team to victory night in and night out in baseball — it’s just not how the sport is designed. But they sure can make a strong difference.
When Dickerson joined the Giants, they were a laughing stock of an offense. And here’s what he did from his debut with the team on June 21 until he hit the injured list on July 30:
34-88, 10 doubles, 3 triples, 6 home runs, 9 walks, 19 strikeouts
That’s a slash line of .386/.449/.773, an OPS of 1.222, and a wRC+ of 209.
And then he spent two weeks hanging out with doctors and physical therapists and what have you, and when he returned everything was different.
The man known for inciting phallic chants that echoed throughout the ballpark was activated on August 14, and here’s how he’s done since then:
7-36, 2 doubles, 0 triples, 0 home runs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Oof. That’s a much less exciting slash line of .194/.275/.250, an OPS of .525, and a wRC+ of 45.
The season has been a tale of two Dicks, one that is impressive and strong, and the other that is . . . you know what, let’s just move on.
So what’s been going on? There are three potential answers:
Baseball gonna baseball
We can probably all accept that Dickerson’s pre-injury performance was unsustainably good, just as we can probably all accept that his last two weeks have been unsustainably bad. Baseball works like that.
Now, despite what professional athletes and broadcasters would have you believe, the law of averages does not mandate that Dickerson have a frigid patch to counter the fiery bat he brought this summer.
But the law of baseball, and, you know, basic variance, dictate that, over the course of a 15-game sample, a player has a pretty decent chance of dramatically under or over-performing his true talent level.
That said . . .
I know I just said that we can all probably accept that he’s not a .525 OPS hitter, but perhaps you’re a bit more pessimistic. Okay, maybe not that pessimistic, but close. Here’s Dickerson’s career slash line, pre-Giants: .250/.321/.429, for an OPS of .749. That’s the very definition of an average hitter.
It may be that Alex Dickerson is an average hitter, and nothing more.
The injury isn’t fully healed
Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere that feels quite pertinent. Dickerson hit the IL with an oblique strain, something that I imagine makes swinging a solid wooden bat very painful and difficult. And something that probably takes more than two weeks to fully heal.
He’s back now, but as we know, baseball players in late August are very rarely healthy. And those who just returned from an IL stint are likely to be even less healthy.
Dickerson has dealt with injuries his entire career, so “don’t worry, he’s not hitting well because he’s hurt” isn’t exactly rosy news that should make you giddy about his performance in 2020. But in all likelihood, he’s a ways away from 100%, and it’s impacting his bat.
As is usually the case, the truth is likely a blend of all three potential answers. Dickerson is probably hurting, he’s surely regressing, and yes: baseball gonna baseball.