Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Assault on .500: The Worst Hitters of the Last Six Years
By Ben Valentine

Tuesday night Abraham Nunez must have partied like the Phillies had just won game seven of the World Series.

The struggling third baseman was back in the starting lineup for the Phillies tonight even though his OPS was rapidly approaching the wrong side of .500. Well, he rewarded his manager’s confidence with three hits and two runs scored in five at bats. That takes his splits all the way up to:
.198/.264/.259/.523.

With just three hits in one game, all singles, he raised his OPS fifteen points from .508. What a night.

As a side note, you’d probably guess that it would have been Nunez first three hit night of the season right? Nope. It was his third. He did it at the end of April against the team he first came up with, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and a little over two weeks ago, this time against the Washington Nationals. Oh and who were the Phillies playing tonight?

The Washington Nationals.

In fact heading into tonight’s game, he had a .733 OPS against the Nats this season. With some quick math here, I calculate his splits against them are: .280/.379/.480/.859. That’s eight hundred and fifty nine in 25 ABs this year.

Ladies and gentlemen, Abraham Nunez owns the Nationals.

If baseball commissioner Bud Selig still wanted to contract this team, he probably could give no better reason than the one right there.

In any case, with his robust performance tonight, Nunez has now fallen to neck and neck in the race to be the worst player in baseball so far this decade. Since 2000, the lowest OPS a player with 300 plate appearances has put up is .524, done by Homer Bush in the year 2000. Bush was a Yankee prospect who found his way to Toronto in the Roger Clemens trade and never panned out. I still remember friends of mine in high school telling he how good he was. Little did I know back then that he would currently hold the title of “worst season of the decade.”

Now there’s a slight caveat with that; I originally said I was going to do 250 plate appearances, since Nunez is actually at that point now. The leader for that is Jermaine Dye, who managed an astronomically low .514 OPS in 221 ABs in 2003. But the problem is 221 seems a bit low. Consider that if Nunez was cut tomorrow, that would mean he would qualify despite starting for just one month. I feel as though that would cheapen what this crop of players has actually accomplished, so we’ll keep it to 300 plate appearances.

Without further adieu, excluding Nunez, the top ten worst players OPS wise since 2000:

10. 2003- Tony Womack: D-Backs/Cubs/Rockies, SS, 349 AB .226/.251/.307/.558

9. 2005- Tony Womack: Yankees: 2B/CF, 329 AB, .249/.276/.280/.556

8. 2002- Caesar Izturis: Dodgers, SS, 439 AB, .232/.253/.303/.556

7.2003- Brandon Phillips: Indians, 2B, 370 AB, .208/.242/.311/.553

6. 2002- Chris Truby: Tigers, 3B, 382 AB, .215/.238/.314/.552

5. 2001- Jack Wilson: Pirates, SS, 390 AB, .223/.255/.295/.550

4. 2000- Alex Gonzalez: Marlins, SS, 385 AB, .200/.229/.319/.548

3. 2002- Ron Belliard: Brewers, 2B, 289 AB, .211/.257/.287/.544

2. 2002- Einer Diaz: Indians, C, 320 AB, .206/.258/.284/.542

1. 2000- Homer Bush: Blue Jays, 2B, 297 AB, .215/.271/.253/.524


Quite a cast of characters. Some interesting things about that list:

-Tony Womack appears twice which is amazing because both seasons happened on the wrong side of 30. And in both times, he was back in the majors the year following, with the Cardinals in 2004, and then the Reds and Cubs this season. As if these teams couldn’t take a hint. Because he makes it up here twice, Womack has a serious argument for being the worst player of the decade to this point.

-So Einer Diaz’s 2002 ranks as the second worst for any player this decade. The Indians got smart and dumped him that offseason to Texas along with Ryan Drese in a trade. Who did Texas give up for that black hole of talent?

Travis Hafner.

I might have to take my list of the worst trades of the last five years back. Hafner for a guy who was coming off a historically bad season equals a historically bad trade.

So take heart Phillies fans. If you can deal Nunez this offseason you might get a potential MVP back!

- Cristian Guzman’s 2005 didn’t make it… and didn’t come close. His .574 OPS is just way too good for the likes of these players.

-The Alex Gonzalez who ranks fourth is the one who plays in Boston, not the one who originally signed with the Phillies this year and then retired. So no, the Phillies did not have the chance to employ two of the worst players of the last six years in the same infield.

-Of the ten (well nine) players listed there, six… that’s two thirds, played in the big leagues this year. And it’s possible Diaz does when the rosters expand in September. Only Bush and Truby are guaranteed not to play this season. So Nunez will probably find himself back in the big leagues next year… and quite possibly for years to come.

-The Cubs get special notice because they not only acquired Womack during his miserable 2003 but brought him back this year after his miserable 2005, after he was already released by the Reds earlier in the season. They also have Izturis currently on roster after dealing Greg Maddux for him. He’s got a .570 OPS in 179 ABs this year with a .559 mark for the Cubbies since the trade. He’s improved mightily in those four years.

-The Indians also get some special props as well, since they employed three guys, Diaz, Belliard and Brandon Phillips during or after their awful seasons. But unlike the Cubs they get off the hook because they turned Diaz into Hafner.

-The only player on that list who was over 30 during their miserable seasons is Womack. That’s significant because it suggests the teams gave these guys longer leashes because they were expected to grow into their roles. Of course the truth is the only one who might have is Belliard, who had some 750+ OPS years mixed in. The rest all stunk, with some mediocrity thrown the way of Jack Wilson in Pittsburgh.

If Nunez manages does manage to finish the year with over 300 PA and a sub .550 OPS, he would become the oldest player this decade to do that. Quite an accomplishment, as most guys who fail at the plate so prolifically at the age of 30 or over end up getting DFA’d. Unless your name is Tony Womack of course.

So the road will not be easy for Nunez the rest of the way. He’ll need nights like this followed by five or six games of no hits or walks if he wants to make a serious run at Homer Bush’s 2000. If he just stinks overall, the Phillies will find someone who can play better, since he doesn’t have youth on his side as a defense.

Coincidently, the Phillies finish up the season at Florida. Why is that important?

If Nunez maintained his current OPS through 300 plate appearances (he now has 252) he would just beat out Bush’s 2000 by .001 of a point.

Now that’s what I call a close election.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of these are flukey. You mentioned Dye, who wasn't that bad before or after. According to baseball-reference.com, Belliard's OPS+ were:

1999 - 105
2000 - 91
2001 - 101
2002 - 46
2003 - 89
2004 - 103
2005 - 109

People stuck with him in 2002 because he had three good years prior. (OPS+ of 100 is average league-wide, which means it's pretty good for a 2B.)

But, yeah, Womack sucks. If someone quizzed me on the spot, I would have guessed another Cubs great, Neifi Perez, to be on the list. His lowest, however, is .564 in 2002. Man the Cubs are dumb.

5:57 AM  
Blogger Ben Valentine said...

Dye was flukey; he was coming off injury. Belliard I mentioned was kind of the exception with Jack Wilson being occasionally passable. The rest weren't good afterwards. Izturis can't hit, Phillips has to show more than he has this year, Diaz stinks, Bush continued to stink, so did Truby and Gonzalez never learned how to hit.

Naturally these are the worst numbers of bad offensive players, but most are better than the years they put up. I don't think Abraham Nunez is a .530 OPS guy. But it's interesting to look at and compare these players, since it's actually rarer to have a sub .550 OPS than an 1.000 one nowadays.

Oh and Perez is awful. If you wanted to make an argument he hurt his team more than anyone on this list you can because he picked up over 500 ABs that year. That in itself is really amazing though, it's extremely rare that a guy is that awful while getting 500 ABs. Notice the only guy on the list who came close was Izturis. Who is in Chicago now.

In short, the Cubs are idiots.

11:34 PM  

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