Five Worst 20-20 Seasons of All-Time

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.

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

23 Responses to “Five Worst 20-20 Seasons of All-Time”

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  1. Mike says:

    I am guessing the AL is a typo and you know they are in the NL.

    “during the “Baby Backs” surprising AL West Championship run in 2007.”

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  2. mattsd says:

    Marquis Grisson is remarkable.

    His 2001 is probably pretty close to the worst 20 home run season, too.

    -16.5 batting runs.

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  3. Yirmiyahu says:

    You sabermagician people are silly. In 1993, Ruben Sierra had 22 homers, 101 RBI’s, and 25 stolen bases.

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    • CheeseWhiz says:

      …. and was generally worthless. What was your point again?

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      • Adam D says:

        I believe he was being “ironical”… obviously his traditional stats look good, so it must have been a decent year. How dare you say a man who drove in 100 runs had no value (or worse, negative value).

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      • James says:

        I think I get it. There simply are no advanced metrics that account for leg kick height/projection.

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      • SC2GG says:

        A long time ago, Rob Neyer wrote something for ESPN about the value of something or other, but I ended up asking him what the worst seasons ever by someone to get 100+ RBI was, and his answer? Joe Carter, haha.

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    • Person says:

      101 RBI?! What a clutch player he was! My MVP for sure.

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  4. Robbie G. says:

    I’m at work, otherwise, I would answer this question for myself… anyway, my question is this: what were the career WARs posted by Tony Fernandez, Fred McGriff, Joe Carter, and Roberto Alomar after that blockbuster deal was made? My guess is that the recipient of Alomar is considered the winner but Fernandez is one of the most underrated ballplayers of the past 30 years, in my opinion, so I think that trade might’ve been more even than most folks think.

    Anyway, if somebody is bored, feel free to answer this question for us; otherwise, I’ll just figure it out tonight when I get home from work.

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    • Damaso's Burnt Shirt says:

      I’m only basing it on WAR for the seasons they played with SDP or TOR post trade.

      SDP total 12.7 WAR
      Fred McGriff 2 1/2 Seasons/10 WAR
      Tony Fernanadez 2 Seasons/2.7 WAR

      Toronto total 25.8 WAR
      Alomar 5 Seasons/20.1 WAR
      Carter 7 Seasons/5.7 WAR

      Joe Carter has two seasons with the Jays of 100+ RBI and a negative WAR (-1.3 and -1.2) which were at the end of his time with the Jays in 96/97 and three seasons like that in his career so I’m not really surprised he’s on this list.

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    • Matt says: is pretty sweet for questions like that, they have a real nice system for displaying trades and post-trade WAR. Here’s the trade in question:
      (I think by default the page displays Win Shares — I’ve changed it to WAR by using the select box at the top of the page, but I don’t think that part gets added to the link I just posed, it’s just a cookie. Also, I don’t know exactly how they calculate their WAR if you are concerned about the differences between fWAR and rWAR.)

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  5. Robbie G. says:

    Also, regarding Jimmy Rollins: I suspect that his 2007 WAR is one of the lowest single-season WARs put up by an MVP winner. So, again, if somebody out there has nothing better to do, feel free to enlighten us on the worst WARS posted by MVP winners from the past 20-25 years or so. My guess is that Rollins may well be the most undeserving MVP winner in recent memory. I remember arguing with a friend of mine (a big Phillies fan) about this in 2007 and I remember pointing out that Rollins’ OBP was barely in the top 100 in MLB (and it might have even been slightly outside of the top 100). If your OBP is that mediocre than you have no business winning an MVP award.

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    • exxrox says:

      Justin Verlander?

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      • Ian says:

        Verlander (2011) – 7.0
        Pedroia (2008) – 6.8
        Rollins (2007) – 6.9
        Howard (2006) – 6.2
        Morneau (2006) – 4.0
        Guerrero (2004) – 6.3
        Tejada (2002) – 4.7
        Suzuki (2001) – 6.1

        There have been a lot of lesser (and successful) candidates for MVP than Verlander in 2011. No shame in that choice.

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    • Phrozen says:

      Yeah, as the Phillies’ Designated Hitter, Rollins’ only job is to get on base…

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    • Paul says:

      Jimmy Rollins put up 6.9 WAR in ’07, hardly the lowest for an MVP. Sure, there were more deserving guys, but he had a hell of a year, backed by good defense and power. OBP is incredibly important, but it’s not the be-all, end-all of value, either.

      If you want to talk about someone who shouldn’t have even been in the discussion for MVP, that would be Justin Morneau in ’06 (4.0 WAR).

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    • DavidJ says:

      Rollins was worth about 7 WAR in ’07, which is an MVP-quality season most years (it’s about the same total Joey Votto won the MVP with last year). Sure, there were guys who were probably more deserving (e.g., Pujols, Utley, Wright), but there have been far, far worse selections. When I think of bad MVP selections, I think of Dawson, Eckersley, Juan Gonzalez, and Justin Morneau.

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  6. shthar says:

    Did carter also have the worst 30-30 season?

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    • RobMer says:

      Carter did have a 30-30 season in 1987, although it wasn’t a bad season, producing a 105 wRC+. He just missed another one the prior year when he hit 29 HRs and stole 29 bases. That was an even better year, scoring a 129 wRC+.

      Overall, as noted above, Carter had five 20-20 or better seasons in his career, with four of the five producing wRC+’s over 100. The 1990 being the clunker of the group.

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  7. Llewdor says:

    I’d like to see this done with 30 HR 100 RBI seasons.

    Though I’m pretty sure 2004 Tony Batista wins.

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