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And the award for the worst player in baseball goes to …

Sep 14, 2012, 11:19 AM EST

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I wrote earlier this week about how Mike Trout is blowing away the competition in terms of Wins Above Replacement this season and is the first position player to reach double-digit WAR since Barry Bonds in 2004.

There’s a flip side to that coin, of course. It’s tough to identify the worst player in baseball because technically the worst player is probably some guy with zero hits in three at-bats or some pitcher with a 15.00 ERA in two appearances. They’re so bad that they don’t get any further opportunities.

The worst player in baseball who actually plays regularly is a different, more interesting story and I thought it would be a good time examine the lowest Wins Above Replacement totals this season via Baseball-Reference.com:

                      PA      WAR
Jeff Francoeur       528     -3.2
Michael Young        575     -2.6
Joe Mather           220     -2.2
Ryan Raburn          222     -2.0
Ramon Hernandez      196     -1.7
Ty Wigginton         338     -1.7

Wouldn’t you know it, a couple of longtime HBT “favorites” top the list. (And yes, those are negative numbers.)

Jeff Francoeur has followed up a strong 2011 season that got him a $13.5 million contract extension from the Royals by hitting .233 with a .286 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage in 129 games. According to WAR he’s been 3.2 wins worse than a replacement-level corner outfielder, which is pretty tough to do. For comparison, he had a WAR of +2.7 last season.

Michael Young has followed up a strong 2011 season in which he hilariously received a first-place MVP vote from a Dallas writer by hitting .269 with a .299 on-base percentage, .359 slugging percentage, and 23 double plays in 137 games. According to WAR he’s been 2.6 wins worse than a replacement-level DH/first baseman/infielder. Not only did Young have a WAR of +2.1 last season, he posted a positive WAR total in each of his first 11 seasons.

Both players have been terrible and unlike most of the other guys with negative WAR totals Francoeur and Young have played basically every day for the entire season. In fact, among the 30 players with the lowest WAR totals this season only Francoeur and Young have logged more than 480 plate appearances.

If you’re looking for the worst player in baseball this season Francoeur and Young are the most obvious candidates and right now at least my vote would go to Frenchy. Also: Francoeur is signed for $6.75 million next year and Young is under contract for $16 million.

  1. cur68 - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    Have you got the WAR on their intangibles? I got them at +5 iWAR.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      iWAR.

      Careful, you might just hear from Apple’s attorneys if you keep this up.

    • papalurchdxb - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      If we’re measuring iWAR, I assume a shortfall in the area of said intangibles would see a completely different ‘top six’ – Hanley Ramirez might be at the ‘top’, or pretend Beckett isn’t a pitcher?

  2. proudlycanadian - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:26 AM

    Another reason to join SHIT aka Sabremetrics Haters Internet Team. Edwin Starr had it right when he sang “War,…What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”

    • thereisaparty - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      Clever and wholly original line.

    • alang3131982 - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      So are you saying that Francouer and Young have had good years? You know what’s funny? Young’s could be worse if Ron Washington ran him out there at actual defensive positions and got him more negative dWAR.

    • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      You don’t understand WAR and so assume it must be nonsense. So let me summarize it for you.

      A .233/.266/.351 batting line from an outfielder is terrible. A .269/.299/.359 line from a mostly-DH is also terrible. WAR also accounts for defense, but the batting lines are enough to make the point.

      In extreme cases like this, WAR basically just tells you the same things that are completely obvious from looking at old school stats. The same is true at the other extreme. WAR says Mike Trout has been frickin’ awesome this year–which is totally obvious to anyone who looks at his BA, OBP, SLG, HR, SB, SB percentage, etc., and videos of his highlight reel defense.

      You must hate listening to these sabermetrics nerds, with their fancy-schmantzy numbers like “batting average” and “on base percentage” and “slugging percentage” that no one can understand! Everyone who’s ever played the game knows that BA, OBP, and SLG are totally meaningless! And it’s ridiculous how those geeks think that outfielders and DH’s ought to hit well! Why would anyone ever think that!

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:01 PM

        He does, and he’s trolling. He’ll write this same exact comment in every article that’s context is dependent on WAR.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:06 PM

        I know, I know, but the bait looked so tasty I had to rise to it. Mmmmm, bait…

    • pml22 - Sep 14, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      I have to agree here. WAR is a misguided stat. Hear me out. 1967. I went to probably 30 Red Sox games, and watched probably another 30. Baseball wasn’t on every night back then. I listened to probably another 60 games. Now, WAR says Carl Yastrzemski was +12 games better than a replacement from the minor leagues. Seriously? He carried that team on his back. Bringing up a kid from AAA would have resulted in a net loss of a MINIMUM of 25 wins that year. I get the fact that a team would not be much worse than 62 wins, nor greater than about 106 wins so the lower a team drops, the harder it is to point to one player. But when you take the best all-around player and more importantly, the #3 bat out of a lineup the impact is far greater than 12 games– not to mention taking a Gold Glove OF out of LF, as well.

      Examples are countless, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Stan Musiel, Al Kaline, in their championship years, and on and on.

      Now, if you want to argue that Nick Swisher is batting #3 (occasionally) for the Yankees, yes a player of lower caliber would be impacted negatively by the batting position. In fact, it might prove that Dave Kingman batting 4th was a worse player than Dave Kingman batting 5th.

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 14, 2012 at 8:26 PM

        Yaz was +12? That is completely silly. Yaz was a great player. I envy you for getting to watch him so often.

  3. number42is1 - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:29 AM

    NOT FRENCHY!!!!!!!!

    • mattyflex - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      I’d almost argue that it’s more, since his “replacement” is Wil Myers.

      • sportsdrenched - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:28 PM

        Right, there should be an opportunity cost WAR, ocWAR. If Wil Myers WAR was say even 5.0, we have a difference of 8.2 WAR.

        But hey, The PCL Champsionship is much more important than a World Series. Or at the very least MLB wins. Right?

  4. annaalamode - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    But can WAR measure HEART? Because I am sure that that is what these players lead their team in!

  5. shawnuel - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    I cannot BELIEVE that Miguel Olivo didn’t make the cut. Not enough PA’s, I guess.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM

      Positional adjustments give catchers a ton of slack. Replacement catchers are assumed to be bad, terrible, atrocious and just not very good.

      • jarathen - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:20 PM

        They’re assumed to be Jeff Mathis or Bobby Wilson. So there’s a pretty low floor there.

      • dan1111 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        Yeah, in fact, Olivo has been worth POSITIVE 0.1 WAR this season!

    • ThatGuy - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:44 PM

      He’s got nothing on Drew Butera

  6. Stiller43 - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    I would have figured clint barmes was a shoe in. Or rod barajas. Or eric bedard. Or kevin correia. Or any of the pirates over the past month.

    • plmathfoto - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM

      Whole year, not the last month.

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:10 PM

      Barmes’ defense sets him apart. The dude can flat out pick it.

    • napoleonblownapart6887 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      Well Barmes does play great defense. Correia and Bedard both got some wins… and Barajas, come one he’s hitting okay… oh he’s not? Oh. Well he’s playing good defense…. only throwing out 6% of base stealers you say? Huh. Well he’s handling that pitching staff masterfully… wait what’s the rotaion’s ERA in his starts? WOW.

      Barajas is the worst player in baseball. Don’t care about sabermetrics – this guy wins it via the eyeball test.

  7. adiddie - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    Solid article!

  8. moogro - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Maybe award votes should be on a bell curve like in some Olympics sports, where they throw out the top and the bottom as expected rogue votes. In any event, the voting is absurd and boring.

  9. lewp - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:36 AM

    Hey wait a second…

    “And he’s signed for $6.75 million next year.”

    Milchael Young is signed for 14 million!!!!!!

  10. stex52 - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    I’m impressed. The entire Astros outfield, which has by far the worst OPS+ in the MLB, can’t field a candidate. But you are right. The aggregate WAR for their entire outfield is -1.7, which only gets you to Ty Wigginton.

    I’m really quite surprised. Not that they are much good, though.

    • natstowngreg - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:11 PM

      That’s the spirit. When your team stinks, get your positive vibes where you can.

      • stex52 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:43 PM

        It’s not positive vibes. I’m just an analytical type. I’m surprised they didn’t show up worse.

      • natstowngreg - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:23 PM

        As a professional management analyst, I hear you. But not being the worst can be a positive.

  11. fuddpucker - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    Gee, let me think..how in the world can a player play so awesome in one year and then, after he gets a 14 million dollar contract he suddenly becomes THE WORST PLAYER IN BASEBALL!!

    Smells like a former Royal to me in the name of Melky Cabrera.

    • thereisaparty - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM

      When did Frenchy ever have an awesome year?

      • cur68 - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM

        Well, he probably means “Awesome for Frenchy”. That’s a different standard.

  12. plmathfoto - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Poor Jason Bay, didn’t have enough plate appearances (due to injury, not management decision mind you) to qualify. Without the injuries I’m sure he’d be at the top of the list and I don’t have to do the research.

    • dan1111 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:34 PM

      Bay has compiled an impressive -1.2 WAR in 200 plate appearances. However, even that rate is not as bad as Francoeur’s rate for the whole season.

      • plmathfoto - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:46 PM

        I’m not sure about that. I think Frenchy has 2.6 times more plate appearances, Bay could’ve caught up d..mn it!

  13. deathmonkey41 - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    How is Russell Martin not on that list?

    • dan1111 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      His hitting stinks, but it is only slightly below average for a catcher. He has a +1.2 WAR so far, meaning there are dozens of players worse than him.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:04 PM

      As dan1111 mentions, his hitting is terrible, but his reputation/ability as a defensive catcher is amazing. Here’s just one of Mike Fast’s articles on catchers for Baseball Prospectus:

      http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15093

  14. randomdigits - Sep 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    You folks shouldn’t discriminate against the often injured. Brian Roberts put up -1.0 WAR in just 17 games this season.

  15. dondada10 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    UZR fluctuates too much for corner outfielders and infielders. I know Frenchy sucks at the dish, but his glove and arm are too solid for him to rate that low.

    • paperlions - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:38 PM

      Exactly. The defensive metrics on which WAR (both of them) are not reliable over small sample sizes and generally require about 3 seasons of data to normalize….making annual estimates of WAR that have a heavy defensive component unreliable….for oWAR, knock yourself out…but once you include defense, yearly WAR just isn’t as reliable as one would like (and that ignores the fact that everyone knows WAR does a shitty job for 1B and C, and it can’t/doesn’t account for defensive shifts so many teams employ)….which is why so many people prefer to use a variety of sources when making a general judgement and why relying on WAR is often misleading (though still a kagillion times better than quoting W-L records, AVG, RBI, HR, ERA, or fielding %).

      • dondada10 - Sep 14, 2012 at 4:02 PM

        Yup. wOBA is what I tend to look at.

        wOBA, by the way, has Frenchy as the second worst player in the game after Smoak.

  16. thefalcon123 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:12 PM

    “I wrote earlier this week about how Mike Trout is blowing away the competition in terms of Wins Above Replacement this season and is the first position player to reach double-digit WAR since Barry Bonds in 2004.”

    Using BaseballReference’s WAR, every position player who had a higher single season WAR is in the hall of fame. Every. Single. One.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      EDIT, every single one except for Barry Bonds, who will of course either go to the hall or be excluded do to factors other than his on field performance.

    • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      That raises kind of an interesting question: what’s the best season ever by someone not in the HOF (and never likely to get in)?

      • mensad - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:52 PM

        If you go by the Baseball Reference WAR list, and exclude possible steroid users (A-Rod, Sosa), my vote would be for Al Rosen with a 9.8 WAR in 1953. He was a single BA point away from winning the Triple Crown that year, while having a decent glove at third. Yet by 1957 he was out of the majors for good.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:54 PM

        Al Rosen sounds like a really good guess to me, thanks! (too lazy to do a search myself) Like Bonds, A-Rod and Sosa are either future HOF, or will be excluded for reasons other than “he wasn’t a good enough player”.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:05 PM

        He’s not in the HoF yet (not eligible), but Pedro put up a 11.4 bWAR in ’00.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:09 PM

        Oh yeah, that’s one of the greatest pitching seasons ever. But I think Pedro’s a HOF lock once eligible. I’m wondering more about guys who were really awesome one year, but who for whatever reason weren’t nearly awesome enough for nearly long enough to be HOF material.

      • schlom - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:21 PM

        By BR WAR’s the best season by a non-HOF player is Doc Gooden’s 1985 season where he put up a 13.0 (if you discount the pre-1900 players). Gooden’s season is head and shoulders above any modern player, the next best is Carlton’s 1972 at 12.1.

        Full list is here: http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/WAR_season.shtml

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        Can’t believe I forgot Gooden 1985. And yeah, Doc’s not going to the HOF.

        My own highly-unimaginative guess, made without consulting the list, was Herb Score in 1956. Only 7.0 bWAR. Most famous injury-wrecked career in history, but not really a very good guess.

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:55 PM

        Can’t believe I forgot Gooden 1985. And yeah, Doc’s not going to the HOF.

        My own highly-unimaginative guess, made without consulting the list, was Herb Score in 1956. Only 7.0 bWAR. Most famous injury-wrecked career in history, but not really a very good guess.

        Other non-HOF, post-1900 guys who are right up there: Wilbur Wood twice (11.5 WAR in 1971, 10.3 in 1972), Dolf Luque (who???) in 1923 (10.4 from a guy who played a while but was otherwise average-to-mediocre), Wes Ferrell in 1935 (10.4–7.9 as a pitcher and 2.5 as a batter!!!), and Steve Trout’s dad Dizzy in 1944 (10.4–8.9 as a pitcher, 1.5 as a batter!)

      • Jeremy Fox - Sep 14, 2012 at 3:41 PM

        Interesting that the list of best seasons by post-1900 non-HOF players is dominated by pitchers. Wonder if there’s a reason, or if it’s just a fluke?

        I’m guessing maybe Al Rosen in 1953 is the highest-ranking non-pitcher in that category?

      • raysfan1 - Sep 14, 2012 at 8:42 PM

        I immediately thought of Mark Fidrych.

  17. sportsdrenched - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    We can take some life lessons from this. (other than don’t become a Royals fan, it’s unhealthy) If you’re a nice person with a dynamic personality…organizations will give you more opportunity than you probably deserve. On the flip side, if you’re a jerk an organization will get rid of you at the first opportunity. Not just in MLB, but in every other walk of life.

  18. unlost1 - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    the worst player in baseball is still better off than the best baseball forum commenter

    • Jeremy T - Sep 14, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      Well yeah, but by that standard it’s difficult to have very many interesting conversations

    • bh192012 - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:35 PM

      Only at baseball though, baseball players often have a low MCAR (Meaningful Comments Above Replacement) rating.

      • Jeremy T - Sep 14, 2012 at 2:20 PM

        Somebody find out what Brandon McCarthy’s MCAR is. I’ll bet it makes Mike Trout look like a little leaguer!

      • Gamera the Brave - Sep 14, 2012 at 2:50 PM

        And thus, an acronym was born!

    • raysfan1 - Sep 14, 2012 at 9:19 PM

      Keen insight, Captain Obvious, seeing as MLB minimum wage is $480K. Also, if any of us were good enough to play in MLB, obviously we would.

      • unlost1 - Sep 18, 2012 at 5:34 PM

        how much money did ya get paid for that one?

  19. Old Gator - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    This is a great insight into Craig’s hopeless man crush on Frenchy, isn’t it? He just can’t bring himself to say, flat out, “Jeff Francouer is the worst player in baseball.” He has to say “Francouer and Young are the worst players” when Frenchy is clearly much worse than Young. First time I’ve ever seen Young used so passive-aggressively to help someone evade their own frustrated and spurned affections.

    • Jeremy T - Sep 14, 2012 at 2:19 PM

      Craig, Aaron, whatever, all bloggers look the same to me :)

  20. vanmorrissey - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    KC should be ashamed. Not playing Myers as opposed to Franceour? And Profar in the lineup vs. Young should also be a no brainer. The old boy network at work.

  21. jasonc2300 - Sep 14, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    I propose that instead of deducting wins from teams who have players suspended for PEDs in-season, they be forced to trade for Francoeur and play him every day.

  22. stampofdisapproval - Sep 14, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    WAR? What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’. Hooahhh!

  23. thedudabides - Sep 14, 2012 at 8:19 PM

    Um, how about Jason Bay????

  24. guyonabuffalony - Sep 15, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    How is this not Jason Bay’s award? .156/.235/.285 line combined with $18.125m salary…

    • plmathfoto - Sep 19, 2012 at 2:28 PM

      Not enough plate appearances, but some how he’s gotten worse since this article first appeared.

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