Note: I have no idea if I’m the first to do this, but quite frankly I don’t care.
Today, it was reported that seven-year veteran and noted ump hater* Mark Reynolds was released by the Indians. As an Orioles fan who enjoyed watching Reynolds, this was disheartening for me–I’ve always liked TTO guys, and it’s hard to find a more TTO guy than Reynolds**. However, I was (and am) also a fan of the Orioles, meaning I would want them to win, preferably as often as possible. This means that starting a player with a career WAR of 7.4 (in nearly 4000 plate appearances , no less) probably isn’t the best way to accomplish that goal.
Now, about that WAR…
As of Thursday, August 8th, 2013 (i.e. the day of his release), Reynolds is 322nd all-time in homers, and has nearly 200–for the record, there are 311 players with 200 dingers, as of the aforementioned date. Anyone who has watched Reynolds knows that he has formidable power, and his stats, at least for his career, reflect that–his .232 career ISO*** would rank 16th in the majors this year. However, that power comes at a price: namely, every other aspect of his game. Like, seriously. Plate discipline, baserunning, fielding, everything. The end result of this is the aforementioned WAR value, which translates to 1.2 WAR per 600 plate appearances; as a point of reference, these scrubs have WAR/600PA numbers of 1.9 and 1.8, respectively.
Now, the main point to get out of this is that Reynolds–a player with nearly 200 career long-balls, considered by the small-minded to be the symbol of all success–has a single-fucking-digit career WAR, when some players are able to get double-digits in a single season. This led me to the question: how many other players, of the 322 with 200 round-trippers, can fit this dubious distinction? This question led me to the answer: three. They are listed below in order of lowest to highest WAR, for your amusement, along with my best guess as to why this person was so shitty.
Jose Guillen–214 career bombs; 4.5 career WAR (.4 per 600 PAs)(!)
Guillen is remembered for a few things:
1. Pulling a reverse Bedard (i.e. protesting when his manager removes him from the game) and being suspended for the Angels’ 2004 playoff trip; this actually happened during a decent season for him (3.0 WAR), so don’t be too sure he wouldn’t have helped them had he participated.
2. Holding that grudge with him**** for the rest of his career.
3. Being an all-around genial person.
4. Being, y’know, a generally horrible baseball player.
For all the talk recently of Jesus Montero being terrible despite PED usage, Guillen was pretty bad, and he juiced, too. In terms of career numbers, he had a triple-slash of .270/.321/.440, and a .330 wOBA; while he never really played in a hitter’s ballpark (he had brief stops in Cincinnati and Arizona), he still played in a hitter’s era, meaning his career wRC+ was only 98. His D, however, was what truly set him apart: -56.7 fRAA for his career, and it would’ve been even worse, if not for a ridiculously fluky 2005 (12.5 fRAA, by far the highest of his career). He also wasn’t a particularly good baserunner (-16.5 BsR).
He didn’t strike out nearly as much as Reynolds (17.2% career), but he also didn’t walk nearly as much (5% career), and his ISO was considerably lower (.169).
Dante Bichette–274 career four-baggers; 8.9 career WAR (.8 per 600 PAs)
The career of Bichette was best epitomized by his unfathomable 1999 season; I’ll provide a quick summary. Bichette had a triple-slash of .298/.354/.541 over 659 PAs, which translated to a .376 wOBA. A casual sabermetrician would look at that figure and say, “Well shoot, that’s pretty darn good!”, not knowing that it came while he played for Colorado, in 1999 (i.e. one of only three seasons in MLB history where teams averaged more than 5 runs a game). Thus, after adjusting for park and league effects, Bichette’s wRC+ for that season sat at a mere 100–he was an average hitter. For the sake of comparison, Josh Donaldson has a .372 wOBA for the Athletics this year–and a 139 wRC+. As Mr. Remington points out in the article*****, Bichette in 1999 was one of just two seasons where a hitter had a .370 wOBA or higher and a wRC+ of 100 or lower; the other season was Jeff Cirillo in 2000, playing for–you guessed it–the Rockies.
Focusing on Bichette’s career as a whole, he hit .299/.336/.499, for a .359 wOBA; however, because a lot of that was spent in Colorado, his career wRC+ was a mere 104; this, combined with poor defense (career -92 fRAA) and relatively poor baserunning (career -1.2 BsR), gave him the undesirable WAR seen above.
Bichette’s K% and BB% were somewhat similar to Guillen (15.7% and 5.2%, respectively), meaning they were considerably lower than Reynolds’ numbers; his ISO (.200) was considerably lower than Reynolds, though not as low as Guillen.
Deron Johnson–245 career circuit clouts, 9.7 career WAR (.9 per 600 PA’s)
The only old (i.e. pre-UZR) player who fit the criteria, Johnson was, allegedly, described by Pete Rose as the hardest ball-hitter he had ever seen. It’s too bad he struck out in nearly 20% of his plate appearances (high for the time period, when the average was about 15%).
Johnson only had one 4-win season (4.3 in 1965 for the Reds); in that year, he had a .370 wOBA, albeit with -9 fRAA. Fielding was his main problem (career -63 fRAA); his career triple-slash of .244/.311/.420 comes out to a .326 wOBA and a decent 102 wRC+, and his BsR was only -3.0. His K% and BB% (8.8% and 19.9%, respectively) were higher than the averages for his era, but not to the degree of Reynolds’, though his ISO (.176) was pretty high for the time.
He’s the least spectacular of the bunch, probably because he played back in the 60’s and, therefore, is completely insignificant.
So what was the point of this? To use as many variations of the word “home run” as possible?****** Possibly. To find the closest companions to a favorite player? Possibly. Was this whole thing completely, utterly pointless? Definitely.
*He actually made some good points in the rant. Here’s the quote that really resounded with me: “…It’s a shame [the umpires] don’t have accountability. They don’t have any, if they make a bad call, it’s like, ‘Ho-hum, next day is coming.’ If we have a bad couple of games we get benched or we get sent down. They have nobody breathing down their throats. They have nobody, they are just secure in their jobs.”
**To be fair, Reynolds acknowledges his approach may not always be the best.
***Reynolds’ and Jose Reyes‘ 2011 seasons are a perfect example of why SLG% is overrated. At the conclusion of the season in question, Reynolds’ SLG% was 10 points higher than Reynolds’ (.493 to .483), despite Reynolds having an ISO a HUNDRED AND SIX points higher (.262 to .156). Now, in the context of this season, was Reynolds a better overall hitter? Certainly not (in case you forgot, this was Reyes’ last year with the Mets, when he had a phenomenal year, leading the league in batting average, etc.). Was Reynolds a better power hitter? Certainly yes. Hmmmmm…not sure if “Certainly yes” is grammatically correct. Whatever.
****The quote from Guillen should really win an award for Worst Butchering of the English Language (particularly the first sentence).
*****In the article, Remington cites Bichette as having a 98 wRC+ in 1999, when on his player page, it lists him as having a 100 wRC+. Have the park or league factors changed since last year?
******I used homers, dingers, long-balls, round-trippers, bombs, four-baggers, and circuit clouts. Thanks to this post for supplying me.