Worst Defenders Since 2002

The end of each year inspires many “Best Of” articles. Sports blogs, in particular, latch on to these types of posts. Best Plays of the Year. Best Games of the Year. Best Players of the Year. Even niche articles, such as Best Mustaches of the Year. The list goes on and on.

This list does not list the “Best Of” anything. Instead, it lists the worst five defenders since 2002 (when UZR was developed to record defensive statistics on this site).

To determine the worst defenders of the past ten seasons, I sorted players by UZR/150. This was to prevent a player — like Adam Dunn — from dominating the list by simply playing horrendous defense for the better part of a decade. I also set the minimum number of innings at 3,000. This helped to avoid one season outliers, such as Ryan Braun and his escapades at third base in 2007.

Finally, I employed positional adjustments, so the UZR numbers could be presented as a position neutral rating. This allowed for a poor fielding left fielder to be rated worse than an equally poor fielding center fielder, as one would assume the poor fielding center fielder would post improved numbers if moved to left because it is an easier defensive position. For more information on the specific positional adjustments utilized, visit this article from two years ago.

Without further ado…

Honorable Mention: #10) 1B Jason Giambi (-19.9 UZR/150); #9) 1B Ryan Garko (-20.2 UZR/150); #8) LF Delmon Young (-21.5 UZR/150); #7) CF Ken Griffey Jr. (-23.6 UZR/150); #6) LF Hideki Matsui (-23.7 UZR/150)

#5) RF Jermaine Dye (-23.8 UZR/150)

I was hoping that a Gold Glove winner would grace this list, and sure enough, Jermaine Dye ranks as the fifth-worst defender in all of baseball since the 2002 season.

To be fair, TotalZone does not rate Dye as a terrible right fielder early in his career. During his Gold Glove season in 2000, however, TotalZone rated him as +0 runs above average. Of course, Dye also hit .321/.390/.561 that season — which likely helped boost the opinions of his defensive ability — but that shouldn’t surprise anyone who has paid attention to the Gold Glove awards to this point.

Once he signed with the White Sox at the twilight of his career, his range was amongst the worst in all of baseball. His arm was never a strength of his, anyway, so those numbers declined from bad to worse, as well. These factors led UZR numbers worse than -20.0 during three out of his last four seasons.

His poor defense is one of the reasons why he could not find a job after his 2009 season, in which he otherwise provided offensive value by hitting .250/.340/.453 with 27 home runs.

#4) 1B Mike Jacobs (-24.7 UZR/150)

It’s surprising that only one first baseman made the top five worst defensive players, as their positional adjustment is so large, but perhaps that indicates just how poor Jacobs is with the glove. Not only is his range below-average at first base — which doesn’t have a huge demand on range, anyway — but he also commits a high amount of errors for a first baseman. That combination of skills makes a player a huge liability in the field.

Add in the fact that Jacobs only has a .335 career wOBA, and it’s not difficult to understand why he spent the entire season in Triple-A with the Colorado Rockies’ organization.

#3) RF Brad Hawpe (-26.5 UZR/150)

Hawpe is a terrible outfielder. There is no way around that fact. In 2008, for example, he compiled a -36.0 UZR, which hypothetically cost the Rockies three-and-a-half wins throughout the course of the season.

He struggles in the outfield due to his supreme lack of range. In 6,311 innings in right field, Hawpe has a combined -79.8 RngR, which is the third worst in baseball since he debuted in the big leagues in 2004.

Ultimately, the Colorado Rockies likely placed Hawpe in right field for two distinct reasons: (1) Todd Helton (2) his arm. Brad Hawpe has a huge arm in right field, but according to his ARM ratings over the years, he does not utilize that superior arm strength very well in the outfield. He had a negative ARM rating in each of the last five seasons, which has only made his career defensive numbers worse.

#2) CF Bernie Williams (-26.9 UZR/150)

Williams was one of the premier players in the league in the late ‘90s. He had four consecutive +5 win seasons between 1997 and 2000. That production, though, was largely due to his wOBA north of .400 — not his glove.

His biggest issues in center were that he possessed a below-average arm and did not have the necessary range needed to patrol center field effectively. Over the five years that UZR compiled data on his defensive abilities, Williams had -72.8 RngR. That is slightly better than what Brad Hawpe provided in right field, but Hawpe had a more effective throwing arm in right field and made fewer errors.

The inevitable discussion over whether Bernie Williams is deserving of a spot in the Hall of Fame could hinge on whether or not voters will overlook the fact that he was well below-average defensively in the second-half of his career.

#1) LF Manny Ramirez (-28.3 UZR/150)

The fact that Manny Ramirez is the worst defender since UZR was implemented in 2002 should not surprise many people. His range was just terrible in left field; he made errors; and his arm was suspect (to be kind). Between 2002 and 2010, Ramirez compiled a -117.4 UZR for the Red Sox and Dodgers — which suggests he cost his teams almost twelve wins with his defense in that time period.

Of course, he also made that high-five catch against the Baltimore Orioles in 2008 that resulted in a double-play. That was cool.

That was just Manny being Manny.



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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
eli
Guest
eli
4 years 4 months ago

I’d like to see what type of impact Manny’s diving cutoff in LF had on his UZR…

Yirmiyahu
Member
4 years 4 months ago

That was the best diving catch Manny has ever made. You gotta give him credit.

Drew
Guest
Drew
4 years 4 months ago

Still has to be one of the most entertaining baseball plays of the last decade

Westside guy
Member
Member
Westside guy
4 years 4 months ago

I also found the plays where he ended up sitting on his butt and pointing at the ball to “help” the center fielder immensely entertaining.

James Gentile
Member
4 years 4 months ago

High-five double play.

Tripp
Guest
Tripp
4 years 4 months ago

I’ve only been to one series in Fenway which included that game. Also, the day before David Ortiz hit two triples in one game.

MikeS
Guest
MikeS
4 years 4 months ago

Two ex-White Sox counting Manny’s cup of coffee in 2010. I know he didn’t play the field, but his glove still fit in nicely with that group.

MikeB
Guest
MikeB
4 years 4 months ago

more like cup of vomit, mike, lol

Steve C
Guest
Steve C
4 years 4 months ago

Manny led all OF in assists in 2005.

Not that that actually means he was a good fielder, just a fun factoid.

www.thehotteststove.com
Guest
www.thehotteststove.com
4 years 4 months ago

That’s because if it’s hit to Manny…you just keep running until you get home. Sure he’ll throw you out one out of five times, but the other times you get the extra bases. That’s why Alfonso Soriano gets assists, also. He picks up the ball when the guy is rounding first and just barely nabs him at third… Can we create an advanced statistic for measuring assists generated by a lack of arm strength and fielding ability?

Assists by Sheer Suckiness(ASS) – Somebody get on this…….

Yirmiyahu
Member
4 years 4 months ago

Also, the Monster can be very deceiving. Inexperienced hitters hit a hard line drive to left field and assume its a double, then get easily thrown out at second.

bernie?
Guest
bernie?
4 years 4 months ago

How was Bernie THAT bad in centerfield? He had some speed and seemed to be athletic, so why the lack of range? Were his instincts truly that bad? Also, the yankees must have not had space in left field for Bernie to switch to because they kept him in centerfield. I assume that he was left in CF due to him not wanting to switch positions and because the yankees must not have paid attention to statistics much.

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC
4 years 4 months ago

Bernie had two problems — a floppy Johnny Damon arm, and a TERRIBLE jump. It wasn’t just a defensive thing — in the ’90’s, he was one of the fastest players in baseball, but check out his stolen base numbers. He just could not get a good first step on anything, in the field or on the basepaths.

His defense was good — or at least adequate — earlier in his career because of his extremely impressive speed, which allowed him to get to a lot of balls. However, once that speed left, he was just kind of hopeless.

JimNYC
Guest
JimNYC
4 years 4 months ago

Also, it’s certainly not that the Yankees “didn’t have space” in Left Field for Bernie — Hideki Matsui was there in 2003-2005, but check out the revolving door of defenders the Yankees trotted out there before Matsui (each of these guys got at least 100 games in LF between 1996 and 2002): Rondell White, Shane Spencer, Chuck Knoblauch, Ricky Ledee, Chad Curtis, Tim Raines, and almost Gerald Williams (was their “primary” LF in 1996 in the sense that he played more than half the games there).

BlackOps
Guest
BlackOps
4 years 4 months ago

I wonder how many more games they would’ve won if the Yanks decided to move Williams and Jeter at the appropriate times.

Luke in MN
Guest
Luke in MN
4 years 4 months ago

I was going to say that Bernie should really be a “worst fielder” since he played CF and his low UZR reflects the fact that he had more athletic competition than do corner outfielders. If he’d played a corner, he’d probably be well off this list.

Luke in MN
Guest
Luke in MN
4 years 4 months ago

I mean: …shouldn’t really be a “worst fielder”…

Kyle H
Member
Kyle H
4 years 4 months ago

So glad to not see Mark Reynolds on here.

James
Guest
James
4 years 4 months ago

From what I recall, Hawpe was also a butcher at 1B last year, even though the metrics suggest otherwise.

Bernie Williams is not a Hall of Famer, regardless of defense.

David
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

So, had Dunn played 38 more innings at 1B, he’d be #1 all time with a -29.2 UZR/150 when you combine 1B and OF in?

Baltar
Guest
Baltar
4 years 4 months ago

Amusing article. I wish UZR had existed when Dick Stuart played.

sc2gg
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

It’s unfortunate that you can’t include guys who were so bad at being defenders that they didn’t even get to mail throws into the stands anymore and got awesome nicknames because of it.. See: Encarnacion, Edwin aka E5.

Joe
Guest
Joe
4 years 4 months ago

How about Ryan “The Butcher” Raburn at second base?

Sam
Guest
Sam
4 years 4 months ago

The ken Griffey Jr. link goes to Ken Griffey Sr.’s page…

CistulliIsABurnVictim
Guest
CistulliIsABurnVictim
4 years 4 months ago

That would explain his defense in the 2000’s.

Colin
Guest
Colin
4 years 4 months ago

And the Cardinal hating continues. Shameful.

Westside guy
Member
Member
Westside guy
4 years 4 months ago

I found it incredibly sad to see Ken Griffey Jr.’s name on there; but I guess he’s not the first formerly-elite fielder to fall far.

Crazy Benny
Guest
Crazy Benny
4 years 4 months ago

“I sorted players by UZR/150. This was to prevent a player — like Adam Dunn — from dominating the list by simply playing horrendous defense for the better part of a decade.”

If someone understands this, can they explain it to me?

Drew
Guest
Drew
4 years 4 months ago

Can’t help you.

Dann M
Guest
4 years 4 months ago

It means simply that UZR/150 is being used rather than a cumulative UZR. It’s a matter of preference, much like you could compare hitters’ power numbers with total number of XBH since 2002, or you could compare their ISO’s since 2002.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
4 years 4 months ago

I think it means that Dunn has been playing terrible defense for so long that using UZR would result in him being far in the lead— not because he was the worst defender, but because he had been playing bad defense for the longest.

Andre
Guest
Andre
4 years 4 months ago

Basically, player A with -25 UZR 150 ranks higher than player B with -20 UZR 150, even if player B has -10000 total UZR compared to -5000 total for player A.

Pierre
Guest
Pierre
4 years 4 months ago

I disagree about Manny’s arm. Strong, accurate, quick release. There was a reason he started out as a RF. The guys with the best arms don’t necessarily get the most assists, but guys with bad arms seldom get a lot of them. I’m interested if anyone who watched him play a lot really thinks he had a bad arm.

david
Guest
david
4 years 4 months ago

jacobs making the list really surprised me. not his horrendous d, but more the fact that he was given enough innings to qualify.

PeteH
Guest
PeteH
4 years 4 months ago

Going only by my eyes, this is a great list. However, where is Soriano? Are his stats really that much better than he actually is? I’ve seen balls go through his legs like the kid you stuck in RF in Little League because everyone had to play.

As a Braves fan, I was sorta hoping to get Dye back a few years ago for that power RH bat. But after watching Sox games here, you really get tired of seeing his butt as he bent over to pick up balls that got past him in RF. Anyone who got a ball past the first baseman should have been fined if he wasn’t thinking triple all the way.

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 4 months ago

Soriano’s arm saved him as a fielder.

BlackOps
Guest
BlackOps
4 years 4 months ago

If he had been stuck in right field… He’d have been a much better player. That couldve been smoother…

tova
Guest
tova
4 years 4 months ago

Not surprised that Manny is number one. Most of the time he’s in the outfield he’s either A)picking his nose, B)looking absolutely lost, or C)a bit of both

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 4 months ago

Manny’s arm was fine. It was his positioning and the rest that sucked. When he came up, his arm was considered almost as good as a contemporary Dominican RFer. Raul Mondesi.

pierre
Guest
pierre
4 years 4 months ago

I thought he positioned himself cleverly at Fenway. A lot of guys stand the normal distance behind the SS, which means they’re backed up against the wall. Manny would stand the normal distance in front of the wall, which meant he was right behind the shortstop. This always made more sense to me. Not that it helped him all that much…

Jim Lahey
Guest
Jim Lahey
4 years 4 months ago

Manny had a good arm..accurate and fairly strong probably 55 60 on the scout scale. It was why he played such bad d cuz he thought his arm could bail him out

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 4 months ago

Manny’s arm was a rocket in Cleveland. That early side injury probably effected his pure strength later, but he made some excellent throws in the much larger L.A. outfield.

Eric R
Guest
Eric R
4 years 4 months ago

David Ortiz is a career -4.4 UZR/150 at first base; Manny -20.3. Think it is a SSS issue making Ortiz seem better than hereally was, or did the Red Sox severely drop the ball not making Manny their DH and Ortiz their 1B?

Ian R.
Guest
Ian R.
4 years 4 months ago

Ortiz played most of his innings at first as a young man in Minnesota, plus his first two seasons in Boston. Starting in his age-29 season he played 10 games or fewer in the field every year. Manny, on the other hand, played the field all the way through his 30s, which probably skews his career UZR numbers downward.

They may have done well to explore the idea of playing Ortiz at first and Manny as a DH (in fact, knowing the Red Sox, they probably did), but I doubt it would’ve made much difference.

Slartibartfast
Guest
Slartibartfast
4 years 4 months ago

“[Manny’s] arm was suspect (to be kind)”

Wrong. It’s almost as if you don’t watch baseball.

pierre
Guest
pierre
4 years 4 months ago

yeah, I don’t think anyone who watched Manny much could think that.

John
Guest
John
4 years 4 months ago

What about Derek Jeter?

AA
Guest
AA
4 years 4 months ago

He had that one big year, where he actually swallowed his pride and made defensive adjustments that actually created real improvement, that probably skewed the chart.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

Either that or random variation in the measurement made some years look better than others when in reality he has always played about the same. ….given that you are effectively trying to measure stature to the fraction of an inch using a yard stick with marked off in feet, I’ll prefer the null hypothesis of randomness.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

I like how you think the fact that your list of the “worst fielders” of the last 10 years is full of gold glovers is evidence that the gold glove voters are stupid. …..but, then, I like irony.

Rollinghighwayblues
Guest
Rollinghighwayblues
4 years 4 months ago

Umm..Gold Glove voters are very stupid. It’s become a joke to say the least. See: Rafael Palmeiro, Gold Glove 1B in 1999. 29 games at 1B that year.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

So a single clear mistake is evidence to you that the Gold Glover voters are “very stupid”? ….I like this. But, then, I like irony. ….yes, the professional managers and coaches have no idea about baseball… …its a wonder they’ve got jobs.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 4 months ago

IMO, here’s what it’s evidence of ….

Players that have incredible athletic ability are over-reliant on that ability, and never really learn the skills of the position (they don;t have to).

So, once that athletic ability is gone or significantly diminished, there’s little skill to fall back on.

If a cheetah cannot run down it’s prey (due to age or an injured paw), it’s pretty useless as a predator, right?

Don;t get me wrong, my 10yo son could likely vote just as well for the GG awards, and all he does is watch and remember all of the web gems on ESPN.

They aren’t using UZR (and I’, not sure they should be). Be interesting to see how Dewan, Fielding Bible, UZR, and ESPN Web Gems correlate with each other. Other than Azdrubal getting a boost, they’re probably all correlated rather well.

The Palmeiro s4election was just insulting since he barely played the position that year. It felt like when your congressman is absent for 80% of the votes. They’re basically telling you they don;t care enough to do it well.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 4 months ago

I’m not sure about the athletic ability stuff. In my (albeit limited) experience a lot of fielding involves instincts that are difficult to teach. Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones never take a bad route to the baseball. They both just know where the ball will be. On the other hand Jacoby Ellsbury and often Curtis Granderson run around like headless chickens searching for every fly ball. Griffey and Jones maintained this ability late in their careers even after they lost their speed. I doubt Ellsbury or Granderson will ever have it because I don’t think it can be a acquired (either you have it or you don’t).

I agree about the inexplicable laziness of the Palmeiro vote being evidence that the voters didn’t care that year (I don’t think this is evidence that they never care though). In fact I think the Palmeiro vote is very similar to the article we are commenting on. Voting a DH Gold Glove is like using nothing but UZR to determine the “worst fielders”. It is so intellectually lazy as to be insulting. And the results were predictably laughable. Ken Griffey Jr as the worst fielder in baseball really is as egregious as a DH winning a Gold Glove.

jwb
Guest
jwb
4 years 4 months ago

None of these players won Gold Gloves during the period this study covers.

Gold Gloves voters only see most of the candidates play six times per year. So they’re mostly voting based on reputation and TV highlights. Maybe Palmeiro had a few Web Gems that year.

John Dewan’s voting correlates very well with the rest of the Fielding Bible panel.

The former Gold Glovers on this did not fare well in Fielding Bible award voting. Bernie Williams received no votes. Ken Griffey, Jr. placed 19th as a RF in 2007. Jermaine Dye placed 6th in 2006 and 13th in 2008. Voters only vote for the top ten, so it’s not like they rank them 1 through 35.

Jermaine Dye’s highest placing in 2006 was #4 from Mike Murphy, a Chicago radio talk show host. Dye was playing for the White Sox, so there may been a bit of homerism there.

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 4 months ago

After seeing Carl Crawford and his patheric non catch slides (dive Carl, dive) and ineffective arm, not to mention his Abreu-like fear of walls, Manny brings back fond memories in LF.

Crawford had 1 assist all last year and that was on a throw to the cut-off man. Unheard of for a LF’er in Fenway. Manny by comparison was Yaz.

jwb
Guest
jwb
4 years 4 months ago

[I]t’s not difficult to understand why [Mike Jabobs] spent the entire season in Triple-A with the Colorado Rockies’ organization.

Except for the hGH suspension and his August 19 release, you mean.

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