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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.