If you started watching baseball this week, you might think Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier was the worst defensive player in the game.
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That couldn’t be further from the truth. The 27-year-old’s career has been defined by his exceptional defense in center. His tremendous robbery of Manny Machado in 2015 has been immortalized as both a painting and a bobblehead. Both the metrics and the scouts agree that his two Gold Gloves are absolutely justified.
But even the best players go through some rough patches. And when most of your value is tied up in your defense, it’s hard to get much worse than this.
During Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, Kiermaier made one of the worst errors of his career. With one man on, Whit Merrifield slapped a ground ball through the middle of the infield for a single. Kiermaier ran in to field the ball, perhaps thinking he had a shot to try and throw out the runner at home.
He closed in, lowered his mitt to the ground and completely whiffed. The ball rolled under Kiermaier’s glove and slowly dribbled all the way to the wall. Kiermaier peeled off and allowed left fielder Corey Dickerson to field the ball after he realized chasing after it was meaningless. Merrifield easily rounded the bases due to the error, resulting in a Little League home run.
For an elite defender like Kiermaier, you would think this is the most embarrassing thing he’s ever experienced in the field. But there was a reason we said “one of the worst errors of his career” above.
This is, unbelievably, the second time during this series with the Royals that Kiermaier has allowed a Little League home run. He did the exact same thing on a Lorenzo Cain single on Monday.
That time Lorenzo Cain homered on a ground ball to CF… pic.twitter.com/0zlY8wdc0i
— 120 Sports (@120Sports) May 9, 2017
The normally sure-handed outfielder was also charged with an error on Tuesday, giving him a total of three errors during the four-game series with Kansas City. His struggles have been so uncharacteristic that manager Kevin Cash was asked about them following Thursday’s game.
— The Scrum Sports (@TheScrumSports) May 11, 2017
Given all of that, Kiermaier’s reaction to Thursday’s play probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. After he stops giving chase to Merrifield’s hit, Kiermaier jogged away from the action, crouched down, placed his elbows on his knees, pulled his hands to his face and just blankly stared into the abyss.
Kevin Kiermaier is going through an awful stretch on defense right now. And he’s just as shocked as everyone else about it.
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