At some point, enough is enough. The problem is knowing exactly when that point has come.
We saw several managers decide this past weekend that it was finally time to do something about their struggling players. Carlos Marmol was removed from his duties in the Chicago Cubs' bullpen and the Miami Marlins followed suit after another disappointing Heath Bell effort. In Los Angeles, Mike Scioscia decided that Albert Pujols' slump required a complete day of rest -- not even allowing his slugger to take part in batting practice.
But even if a player does make a turnaround, what exactly can you expect from him going forward? Figuring that out is often the key to making the decision to hang tough with a struggling player or moving them out to pasture either via trade or cutting them outright.
Let's take a look at Jose Reyes' preseason projections and compare them to the results thus far in 2012:
Jose Reyes: 2012 production versus projection
The way I see it, you can frame the rest of his season in several different ways. You can decide the original projection was "correct" and simply assume that Reyes will get to those numbers in the end. You can also choose to believe his skills have simply diminished and that he'll simply continue his current numbers the rest of the way. Or you can take the middle ground and say he's had a rough start, but that he'll bounce back a bit toward the projection without quite reaching it.
Here are the results from each of those tactics for rest-of-the-season projections:
Jose Reyes: 2012 adjusted projections
TOP 100 OVERALL PLAYERS
Note: AJ Mass' top 100 overall players are ranked based on statistics that have already been accrued in ESPN standard points formats and should be used as a supplement to the ESPN Player Rater.
In points leagues especially, that middle ground is going to be worth more to you going forward than the middle grounds of most possible waiver-wire replacements. But don't take my word for it. Run the numbers for yourself on whatever duo you are deciding upon and then ask yourself which player you have more faith in on reaching that middle ground.
That's the best way to figure out whether or not to stick with Reyes, Pujols, Alex Avila and Ike Davis, as opposed to guys like Chris Davis, Bryan LaHair, A.J. Pierzynski and Jose Altuve. Take a rational approach to the question and you'll find, more often than not, the guys you've grown to trust over many seasons will not let you down going forward.
Shane Victorino, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: A seven-game hitting streak indicates that the Flyin' Hawaiian is back in a groove, but a better indicator of possible points-league success is the fact the Philadelphia Phillies as a team are finally scoring at a pace we've come to expect from this lineup. During the past week, they've scored 5.7 runs per game, a clip that will lead to more runs and RBIs for everyone, including Victorino, who saw season highs in both categories this past scoring period.
Chris Capuano, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers: Still owned in only 69.7 percent of all leagues, Capuano has now allowed just one run in his past three starts and has raised his K/BB rate to 2.4. Capuano has developed a sinker this season, which in conjunction with his curveball has kept hitters off-balance. That's a trend that should continue as he gets more and more comfortable with his new pitch.
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles: Wieters has had 13 extra-base hits this season, but five came over the past seven days, when he hit .370, with an OBP of .452. Considering he did most of this damage at two parks where he previously had a career batting average of .270, we're thinking that something has finally clicked into place for the Orioles catcher. There's no way we're taking him out of our lineups right now.
Madison Bumgarner, SP, San Francisco Giants: We talk a lot about consistency in weekly head-to-head points leagues. Give Bumgarner a mulligan on his 2012 opener and look at his point totals per start this season: 21, 13, 23, 25 and 22. He keeps the WHIP down and manages to get enough strikeouts to counteract most of the negatives, all the while keeping the ball in the park and stranding 85.1 percent of baserunners. The five straight wins are simply the icing on the cake.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies: Gonzalez's splits at home versus on the road are glaring. At Coors, he's hitting .362 with five home runs and 20 RBIs. Meanwhile, away from the Rockies, he's batting just .237 with two homers and five RBIs. A lot of owners will choose to bench him this week with an eight-game road trip on the horizon, but we're of the mind that he's in such a groove right now that he'll pack his hitting shoes with him on this trip. He's seen these upcoming staffs before and done quite well.
Steve Cishek, P, Miami Marlins: Much of Cishek's value has come in his four wins out of the bullpen, but it should not be overlooked that he's also allowed just one run and five hits in 11 games since April 8. A K/9 rate of 9.4 for the season allows his owners to "double down" on more outs than most short relievers, and now that Heath Bell is taking a break from closing, you can expect Cishek to earn a few "five-pointers," as well.
Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: As if the three hitless games over the past week and a .174 batting average weren't bad enough, Hart has not been making contact at all. Ten strikeouts in 23 at-bats, no extra-base hits and but a single walk? It's bad enough when a hitter doesn't help you. When he actually hurts you with a negative-3 for a scoring period? Bad news.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, Chicago White Sox: He had hits in four of his five starts last week, including a home run. While he continues to be ranked as the No. 7 catcher on the ESPN Player Rater due to solid counting stats, in terms of points leagues, it's far more of a "what have you done for me lately" situation. Since April 28, the only game in which Pierzynski gave you more than one fantasy point was that game in which he homered, and he was at zero or worse in five of his past eight appearances. He's going the wrong way!
Jonathon Niese, P, New York Mets: We don't want to overreact to one bad start, but when you last only three innings against the Houston Astros, bells go off and apparently with a 19.2 percent drop in ESPN ownership, many people have heard those same bells. With four home runs allowed in his past 16 innings pitched, Niese seems to be struggling. After allowing five runs to Atlanta last August, he followed up the poor outing with a trio of games that led to an 0-3 record and a 6.62 ERA. When Niese goes bad, he goes all the way.
Jake Westbrook, SP, St. Louis Cardinals: Maybe it's just that the Pittsburgh Pirates have his number, having handed Westbrook his only two losses of the season thus far, both coming in his past three starts. However, we fear that the recent setbacks are just the tip of the iceberg. His HR/FB rate so far in 2012 is 5.6 percent, far lower than his career average of 11.8 percent and while he's done a good job of limiting fly balls overall, at some point we expect the flood gates to open.
J.D. Martinez, OF, Houston Astros: Sure, he's still in the top 20 in RBIs in all of baseball. That's likely going to distract owners from the fact he's hitting just .140 in his past 12 games and getting benched far more frequently due to the slump. His seven RBIs over that same time help rotisserie owners. The lack of total bases (only one extra-base hit in his past 43 at-bats) completely kills his points-league value.
Craig Kimbrel, P, Atlanta Braves: It might seem strange that we're including a closer who has successfully wrapped up five of his past six save chances as someone who is pointing down, but in points leagues he certainly belongs on this list. Remember, in one inning of work, the most you can earn is 11 points, assuming you strike out the side and get a save. With four hits and three walks in his past five innings pitched, along with a negative-2 for a run allowed in each of his past three appearances, Kimbrel is earning at only 58 percent of "capacity."