The Worst in the Majors

Sports are biased toward success. That’s quite the obvious statement; players aren’t going out on the field and trying to lose, and fans don’t root for their favorite team to lose on a nightly basis. We all love a winner.

And yet, there’s something very satisfying in flipping the leaderboards on their head and looking at which players have been the worst in the majors. It’s a bit sadistic when you think about it — these players are people too, and we all know how much it hurts to perform poorly at your job — but the Yuniesky Betancourts and David Ecksteins of the world can get just many words written about them as star players sitting at the top of the game.

But schadenfreude be darned, I can’t help but want to know who the worst players in the majors have been over the past few years. Care to join me? Let’s take this category by category, as ranked by cumulative stats from 2010 and 2011.

Worst Hitter — Jose Lopez, -36.6 runs

There’s not much of a redeeming factor in a .231/.262/.326 line — when your slugging percentage would just barely make for an average on-base percentage, you’re not all that strong a hitter. And power used to be Lopez’s strength; he was never much of one to take a walk or hit for a high average, but he would make up for it in 2008-09 by hitting 42 homeruns over those two seasons. Since then, his Isolated Power (ISO) has dropped from the .150-.190 range to the .050-.100 range and he’s hit a total of 12 homeruns over the last two seasons.

It’s odd for a player to lose all power while entering their physical prime — Lopez is currently 27 — and it’s possible it comes back. But right now, his .229 wOBA this season is not helping his chances of continuing to stick in the majors.

Worst Baserunner — Paul Konerko, -9.9 runs

Konkero has never been a strong baserunner, racking up a negative Ultimate Base Running (UBR) score in every year since 2002. He normally averages around -5 runs per season on the basepaths, but this season he’s taking it to a new extreme: he’s already totaled -6.7 runs in only 77 games. The current all-time worst single-season score for UBR is held by Kendrys Morales, who ran his way into an impressive -11.3 runs in 2009, but Konerko is on pace to eclipse that mark.

Thankfully, Konerko is still a strong enough hitter (.411 wOBA) to more than compensate for his bad baserunning. But if he sticks around the league for a few more seasons, we could see some impressively bad baserunning totals.

Worst Fielder — Matt Kemp, -33.9 runs

When both Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) and Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) rate you as worse than -15 runs in the field over a season….well, that’s really bad. But that’s what Matt Kemp did last season in centerfield, and according to UZR, he’s on a similar pace in 2011 (-8 runs so far). One year could just be an fluke, especially considering he rated as around average in centerfield in 2008 and 2009, but as this sample is getting larger, it’s worth considering that Kemp would be better served moving to a corner outfield slot.

Kemp’s bat makes him valuable in the outfield no matter where he plays, and obviously he’d be much more valuable if he could stick in centerfield. But can he? I don’t claim to know the answer to that, but it’s something to keep an eye on going forward.

Worst Overall — Chone Figgins, -0.1 WAR

Has Chone Figgins dethroned Yuniesky Betancourt as the worst player in the majors? Well, yes, he certainly has — Betancourt was worse than Figgins in getting on base, but he hit for enough power (.388 slugging) to make up for it and give him 0.5 WAR since the start of 2010.

But if Figgins as much fun to make fun of as Betancourt? No, not really — Figgins was once a good player, but he’s seemingly fallen apart over the last two seasons. I used to really like Figgins, as he had a fun name and was a good sleeper pick in fantasy baseball, so it’s somewhat sad to see him go downhill so quickly. He’s only 33-years-old and could turn things around enough to be a useful player, but right now he looks like he’s working his way out of a major-league job.

Honorable Mentions — Carlos Lee and Raul Ibanez, 0.1 WAR each

Lee’s made $37 million between 2010-2011, and Ibanez has made $23 million. I don’t think anyone saw this coming when those two signed their contracts…



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Steve is the editor-in-chief of DRaysBay and the keeper of the FanGraphs Library. You can follow him on Twitter at @steveslow.


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harryddunn
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harryddunn
5 years 2 months ago

i demand more Koyie Hill

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
5 years 2 months ago

Steve:

Why’d you pick Figgins as the worst overall? There are plenty of players with worse WARs in 2010-2011. Pedro Feliz has -1.9.

And what about Ryan Howard, who is tied with Konerko in baserunning ineptitude?

Also, according to the value leaderboards, Brandon Wood’s been a worse (park adjusted) hitter than Jose Lopez: -35.1 vs -35.0.

It’s important to not snub these guys. They’ve earned it.

http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=10&type=6&season=2011&month=0&season1=2010&ind=0

Mike B.
Guest
Mike B.
5 years 2 months ago

It just warms my heart to see all those current and ex-Mariners. Something magical about how my hometown of Seattle turns good players into disasters.

Adam D
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Adam D
5 years 2 months ago

#6org

TDillon
Guest
TDillon
5 years 2 months ago

Yeah, that isn’t beaten to death.

Yuni B
Guest
Yuni B
5 years 2 months ago

Time to pop the cork on that bottle of Dom Perignon.

Neuter Your Dogma
Guest
Neuter Your Dogma
5 years 2 months ago

Ibanez’ stat sheet shows him to be at -1.5 WAR, not +.5. Interestingly, Ibanez outperformed his contract overall from 2009-2010, accumulating $23.7K in value. 2011 obviously is another story.

Neuter Your Dogma
Guest
Neuter Your Dogma
5 years 2 months ago

Oops, I see it is 2010-2011. My bad.

Neuter Your Dogma
Guest
Neuter Your Dogma
5 years 2 months ago

Counting 2009-2011 (term of Ibanez’ contract), he has produced the same WAR as Soriano and .5 WAR more than Dunn.

James
Guest
James
5 years 2 months ago

Konerko is just terribly slow. It’s unreal.

Eminor3rd
Member
Eminor3rd
5 years 2 months ago

He really is

Jon Weisman
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

I don’t mean to dismiss the stats on Kemp’s defense, but I just have to say anecdotal, I’m not seeing the problem. He seems to cover a lot of ground, and unlike last season, he’s not flubbing the ball when he gets to it. I’d love to see someone apply the stats to what we’re seeing and explain how it is that Kemp is failing. He might not be a Gold Glove, but he doesn’t look like the worst CF in the game.

At the same time, I am curious what his numbers would look like as a RF. It does seem crazy that the Dodgers don’t play Gwynn at CF when he starts.

Guy
Guest
Guy
5 years 2 months ago

I don’t know what Matt Kemp you’re watching but his routes to the ball and jumps have been consistently awful. He makes Rajai Davis look like a natural out there. That’s very bad.

He should be moved to RF ASAP.

Craigary
Guest
Craigary
5 years 2 months ago

Well I don’t know how often you’ve watched him this year but there’s a huge difference between Matt Kemp this year and Matt Kemp last year, not just at the plate but in the field. So as one who has watched him in just about every game, it would be nice if this piece took into account Matt Kemp 2011 as opposed to talking about Matt Kemp 2010. I won’t argue he wouldn’t be better as a RF but this “worst fielder” thing says more about UZR than it does about Matt Kemp.

chuckb
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chuckb
5 years 2 months ago

Um, Craigary, the post was quite clear that it took into account 2011 as well as 2010. Moreover, UZR has Kemp at -8.2 runs just so far this season. I think it’s silly to impugn UZR, or any stat for that matter, based on what your eyes have told you about 1 player in “just about every game” this season.

Bip
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Bip
5 years 2 months ago

Kemp’s jumps are terrible. He’s my favorite baseball player, along with Kershaw, and watching him bat is exhilarating, but my anecdotal evidence makes me inclined to believe that he is a terrible fielder. I haven’t seen Kemp cover even half the distance McCutchen covers.

Craigary
Guest
Craigary
5 years 2 months ago

I’m not impugning UZR completely, I’m just saying it is, in my opinion (and not just my opinion) overvalued, is all. I take into account other stats, absolutely.
And yes, I shoudl’ve been clearer. I realize this piece was also taking into account this year (though the article above itself wasn’t completely clear), not just the previous years. He’s still below average for CF, I won’t disagree. My point is merely that I don’t agree that he is currently the “Worst Fielder” in baseball. As far as I can tell, his RZR is about average (for OF), no? As his his arm, and his RngR, while still not great, has improved markedly this year from last. He also has already topped his total assists from last year, before a half year is up. My overriding point: he had one undeniably bad year, and has otherwise been a lot closer to average-to-good. It’s a false argument if you use that one bad year to declare him The Worst. Thanks for listening.

jpg
Guest
jpg
5 years 2 months ago

“…. I don’t think anyone saw this coming when those two signed their contracts….”

I totally disagree. Many people thought giving Lee, a prodding, 32 year old, overweight slugger and poor defender a six year deal. Same with giving a 37 year old ibanez a 3 year deal. Are we really all that surprised that he fell off a cliff in his age 39 season?

Joel
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Joel
5 years 2 months ago

Wooooosh

philkid3
Member
5 years 2 months ago

oh

steve-o
Guest
steve-o
5 years 2 months ago

sarcasm. it’s a motherf@$#er

Basil Ganglia
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Basil Ganglia
5 years 2 months ago

If you were six inches taller, that one would have stuck in your forehead.

Robbie G.
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Robbie G.
5 years 2 months ago

Most of you guys probably remember the offseason when Philly signed Raul Ibanez to that three-year contract. Philly completely misread the market that offseason. There were a number of solid but unspectacular veteran outfielders on the market that offseason. It seemed pretty clear that the smart thing to do would be to let the market do its thing and to obtain one of these players, probably Ibanez himself, at a lower price. At least one of these outfielders–I believe the player Ibanez replaced, Pat Burrell, was one of them–had to end up taking what he could get. I believe Burrell signed something like a two-year deal that paid him around $8 mil per year. Burrell did not, on paper, seem to be a lesser player than Ibanez. Tampa Bay allowed the market to do its thing and would up getting what appeared to be a steal at the time with Burrell. Tampa Bay did the same thing this offseason and wound up with Johnny Damon at an excellent price and Manny Ramirez at a price that also seemed like a very reasonable risk-reward deal. Ramirez didn’t work out but Damon obviously has.

Had Ruben Amaro, Jr. been patient that offseason, he would have likely wound up signing Ibanez to a two-year deal rather than this three-year deal, and Ibanez delivered serious bang for Philly’s buck(s) during 2009 and 2010. That would have been an outstanding deal. Having said all that: Ibanez probably earned his entire three years’ worth of pay during the 2009 and 2010 seasons alone.

Ibanez is killing Philly in the field and on the basepaths and, to a lesser extent, at the plate. I would love to see Philly acquire Hunter Pence, or at least Michael Cuddyer, so long as they don’t have to give up a monster prospects package in order to do it. If Philly is unable to acquire such a right-handed slugging outfielder prior to the trade deadline, I would LIKE to think that Philly will DFA Ross Gload, send Raul Ibanez to the bench as its left-handed pinch hitter (and DH if/when Philly makes it to the World Series), call up John Mayberry, Jr., play Ben Francisco every day in LF, and platoon Mayberry with Domonic Brown in RF. That seems like the logical course of action for Philly.

Mcneildon
Guest
Mcneildon
5 years 2 months ago

Yeah, I can’t see any reason (besides loyalty and old school thinking on the part of Charlie Manuel) why the Phillies don’t just replace Ibanez with Fransisco post-haste. Fransisco’s offensive production is slightly below league average, but still considerably better than Ibanez’s. Additionally, Fransisco’s BABIP is far below is career mark (although his LD% is down slightly and GB% is up slightly.) And as far as fielding is concerned, I don’t think that even has to be mentioned. It would be nice to acquire an upgrade, but they already have somewhat of an upgrade at LF on the roster.

DD
Guest
DD
5 years 2 months ago

Not likely that they platoon Brown. Although he struggles against lefties, they need to give him ABs to get his swing sped up to the big league game.

Steve
Guest
Steve
5 years 2 months ago

Where do brandon inge and ryan raburn rate on the worst in the majors?

The Nicker
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The Nicker
5 years 2 months ago

Not to rain on your FJM-hero-worship parade but David Eckstein was never the worst at anything in any season (except maybe ISO), but certainly nothing you’re pointing out here.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
5 years 2 months ago

Sorry for the joke, Mrs. Eckstein.

Paul Konerko
Guest
Paul Konerko
5 years 2 months ago

Oh man, now I has a sad. Thanks, guys.

west
Guest
west
5 years 2 months ago

Pierre-Rios-Dunn

philkid3
Member
5 years 2 months ago

I “saw” it with Ibanez. May have just been lucky guessing, but he didn’t seem like a guy who was going to keep away from falling off a cliff soon if he was asked to play the field.

philkid3
Member
5 years 2 months ago

Oh, sarcasm.

Oops.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
5 years 2 months ago

My internet is broken. Juan Pierre doesn’t appear in this post. Maybe his CS tonight in the first inning will help.

FlimtotheFlam
Guest
FlimtotheFlam
5 years 2 months ago

You need to add Ryan Franklin and his negative 1.1 WAR

david
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david
5 years 2 months ago

franklin got released

Jeff Mathis
Guest
Jeff Mathis
5 years 2 months ago

What about me?

Jeff Mathis
Guest
Jeff Mathis
5 years 2 months ago

Hey, what about me?

Emo Juan Uribe
Guest
5 years 2 months ago

Juan Uribe can’t even be the best at being the worst :(

Adrastus Perkins
Member
5 years 2 months ago

How is this article not about Jeff Mathis?

Hurtlocker
Guest
Hurtlocker
5 years 2 months ago

I’m surprised that Konerko is rated the slowest with Benjie Molina still playing now and then. Molina is not just slow, he is mega slow, he is drop the safe and the piano slow.

ddriver80
Guest
ddriver80
5 years 2 months ago

Molina hasn’t played this year. And over his career he’s posted better UBR numbers then Konerko

ineedanap
Guest
ineedanap
5 years 1 month ago

Jeffrey Stephen Mathis.

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