Players who combine power and speed are fun. There, I said it. I know, shocking stuff. Most of the time such players are good, but not always. I didn’t find any bad offensive seasons with 30 or more home runs and steals, but once I lowered the standard to 20-20, well, let’s just say some guys could stand to take a few more walks. It’s a bit of a random collection, overall, so let’s take a look at the worst individual offensive seasons with at least 20 home runs and 20 steals.
I sorted by the batting runs (park-adjusted wRAA) found in the “Value” section on the player pages. I prefer to rank that way because it adjusts for park, era, and takes the number of plate appearances into account.
From the best-of-the-worst to worst-of-the-worst:
Chris Young, 2007, -4.5 batting runs, 90 wRC+, 32 home runs, 27 stolen bases. Young was part of the Diamondbacks’ touted farm system from about five years ago. He’s had an up-and-down career so far (depending on what you think of his defense). He’s had productive 20-20 seasons in 2010 and 2011, but his first foray into this territory didn’t work out so well during the “Baby Backs” surprising NL West Championship run in 2007. Young has always had power and speed, but his fly ball-based approach leads to BABIP-deflating pop-ups, and back in 2007 his walk rate wasn’t high enough to make up the difference. He made progress in 2008, but after a disastrous 2009, some began to doubt whether he was a full-time player. The Diamondbacks’ patience has paid off, and after a good 2010, his productive 2011 has been an important part of their surprising playoff run.
Jimmy Rollins, 2009, -8.9 Batting Runs, 88 wRC+, 21 home runs, 31 stolen bases. This was Rollins third (and given his age, probably last) 20-20 season, as he also accomplished the feat in 2006 and 2007 (the latter of which was actually a 30-30 season). However, it was his worst offensive season since 2003. The Phillies went to the World Series for the second year in a row anyway.
Marquis Grissom, 1999, -9.4 Batting Runs, 85 wRC+, 20 home runs, 24 stolen bases. In 1991, Grissom stole 76 bags for the Expos. The following season, he heisted 78. In 1999, he was a spry 32, and had the second 20-20 season of his career. He didn’t have that much power otherwise, though, with only a .148 ISO, and he never walked that much. Who knew he had some production left in his bat after 1999?
Joe Carter, 1990, -11.5 Batting Runs, 81 wRC+, 24 home runs, 22 stolen bases. No list of players overrated by their counting stats is complete without Carter, and Carter fittingly has five 20-20 seasons (including a 30-30 season with Cleveland in 1987) on his resume. After this season the Padres traded him to the Blue Jays for Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff. Oh, the Padres also threw in some guy named Roberto Alomar.
Ruben Sierra, 1993, -11.9 batting runs, 83 wRC+, 22 home runs, 25 stolen bases. If Joe Carter shows up on lists of overrated players, Ruben Sierra shows up on lists of random players. He just does, I don’t know why. In 1993 he had his only 20-20 season, but it was, at least from the perspective of WAR, the worst season of his career (-2.2 WAR). Much of that is his -25 runs according to the TotalZone fielding metric, but even if he had been average, he would have been basically replacement level. The As were wise not to cut bait quite yet, though, as he “rebounded” to -0.3 WAR the next season. Regression to the mean: the terrible player’s best friend.