Dayan Viciedo's moonshot home run Wednesday night gives him six over roughly the last month. During that period, since Aug. 3, he's slugged over .580 and brought him one shy of 20 home runs for the season, that magical total that signifies a dangerous power hitter.
The flurry provides a familiar images for Viciedo: putting on a show in meaningless games at the end of the season--often against September call-ups--and providing some late redemption to a challenging year. He finished with near league-average OPS' in 2012 (98 OPS+) when he homered in every game of the concluding three-game set in Cleveland, and 12 hits in the final nine games of 2013--two of which left the yard--gave him a similar figure in 2013 (97 OPS+), and much needed end of year optimism. September, historically, is his second-best month: he's posted a .770 OPS in that time over five seasons.
It takes a lot of power to hit 20 home runs in the majors these days, which is something we were reminded often while being encouraged to dismiss the deficiencies in Viciedo's 23-home run full-season debut in 2012.
This season has seen those deficiencies get more drawn out. Even over this power surge, Viciedo has gotten on base at a .282 clip. In fact, one more dinger makes him eligible to finish the year as the 39th major leaguer since 1901 to hit 20 home runs, finish with a below-average OPS+ and an on-base percentage under .285.
Unsurprisingly, given the new level of statistically-driven tolerance for guys who look completely helpless at the plate until they snap off a 400-foot bomb, eight of these seasons have happened in the last five years, and none before 1960.
It's not a great list to be on. It's got two years of J.P. Arencibia on it, Hank Blalock in his death throes, End Stage Vernon Wells, a couple of 'The Blue Jays aren't good anymore' years from Ed Sprague and Joe Carter, and of course there's plenty of Tony Bautista. There's also one of Aaron Hill's many up and down years, a slump-heavy 2012 J.J. Hardy campaign, and 2007 Juan Uribe, who's almost too good of a comp for Viciedo. The problem with mirroring those guys is they mitigated their struggles with up-the-middle defense. If Viciedo isn't killing the ball, he's killing the Sox.
Chris Davis is on this list as well. As a 23-year-old in 2009, Davis hit 21 home runs, while also striking out 150 times in 419 plate appearances, producing a .284 OBP. That should supply some hope, since Davis wandered in the wilderness until his age-26 season. However, his struggles also came in a year he entered into with only a bit more than 300 plate appearances under his belt, not 1200. Davis is also the only player on this list younger than Viciedo until Cory Snyder in 1987.
Just six of these 38 seasons involved players 25 or younger, as it is performance more typical of the deterioration of skills than early development.
I hate villainizing home runs, but this combination of power sans approach does not seem to correct itself very easily, and the fact that Viciedo's ability to get on -base hasn't even risen to acceptable levels during this recent torrent of power production doesn't bode well.
We know Viciedo has power, a surge would make it closer to 'debatable' whether he could be salvaged, but wouldn't address that functionally no progress has been made in his patience, pitch recognition or contact issues since he got a full-time gig. And just because he might be pulling 2014 from 'career-worst' territory back to the same-old, same-old, shouldn't obscure that.