CHICAGO, IL - MAY 22: Juan Pierre #1 of the Chicago White Sox slides into home plate to score a run ahead of the tag by Rod Barajas #28 of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 4th inning at U.S. Cellular Field on May 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Some of these guys we already know about, some of them aren't so obvious. A bunch of these guys were expected to be awful coming into the season, but some of these guys are still considered genuine star players.
They're the worst players in baseball so far this season, and we're here to review them today. Maybe these guys thought that the ensuing Rapture would distract everyone from their horrible play. Or maybe one of these guys is the antichrist, simply beginning our seven years of torment with a few months of absolutely horrible baseball. But for now, let's just bank on the idea that a few very, very talented young men are simply hitting their valleys. Today, we're looking at just position players, and later this week, we'll cover the worst pitchers of 2011, too.
And for each player, I'll offer their primary internal alternatives, so you have the chance to say, "Wait, we could be playing this guy instead?!?"
LF Juan Pierre - .273 wOBA, -7.4 UZR, -1.1 WAR
The weirdest part of this season for Pierre is how little he's changed as a hitter from last season, and yet his overall performance has totally polarized. His walk rate, strikeout rate, BABIP, and isolated power are all similar... but slightly worse. Toss in a nearly 20-run shift in his defensive work (+12.4 in 2010, -7.4 in 2010) and a 43% success rate on 14 stolen base attempts, and you have the worst player in baseball so far. If you ever wondered what Juan Pierre would look like without the elite range or base-stealing skills, well, now you have it. And it's very, very ugly. It's going to be hard to ignore Danks (.262/.349/.546) and Viciedo (.309/.356/.488) all season.
LF Raul Ibanez - .295 wOBA, -9.4 UZR, -0.9 WAR
Here's a guy who's had some well-publicized struggles. He's currently hitting an empty .232 while playing awful defense in left field- it's hard to believe that the contending Phillies will be able to tolerate Ibanez all season long. Even though alternatives like Podsednik and Mayberry aren't perfect, the upgrade on defense will be undeniable, and you have to wonder when the soon-to-be 39-year-old will start to hit.
1B/RF Aubrey Huff - .281 wOBA, -6.9 UZR, -0.9 WAR
Top alternatives: Brandon Belt
At this point, you have to believe that the Giants regret giving Huff a two-year deal over the winter instead of playing top prospect Brandon Belt. Nobody could've predicted this kind of play from Huff, but the reality is that he was this bad in 2009, and at age 34 we shouldn't expect consistency from the slugger. Not to mention that it's an odd-numbered season, which hasn't boded well for Huff of late. Since 2007, he's been an elite player in even-numbered seasons (+9.7 WAR) and a below replacement-level player in odd-numbered seasons (-1.6 WAR). Meanwhile, Brandon Belt is hitting .352/.483/.560 at Triple-A so far, which has actually brought down his career minor league OPS.
LF Carl Crawford - .235 wOBA, +1.0 UZR, -0.8 WAR
Top alternatives: Haha, good one.
There are no alternatives for Crawford. He's here for the next seven years, so the only thing that Boston can do is sit on their hands and wait for the former Ray to find himself. The Red Sox actually have some nice alternatives, such as fourth outfielder Mike Cameron and Triple-A center fielder Josh Reddick, but the chances of benching Crawford are essentially zero.
SS/3B Miguel Tejada - .229 wOBA, -0.2 UZR, -0.5 WAR
If you wonder why the Giants are giving Tejada such a long leash, you might want to go over that list of internal alternatives again. Manny Burriss? Ryan Rohlinger? It's not surprising that the Giants would rather bank on Tejada bouncing back. At this point, though, none of these options should really be acceptable for San Francisco. Even if they don't want to acquire Jose Reyes, there should be some way to improve at shortstop.
1B James Loney - .255 wOBA, +1.6 UZR, -0.4 WAR
I'm still not sure why the Dodgers thought that their first base situation was alright going into this season. Loney has done nothing but accumulate solid RBI numbers over the past few seasons, and at 26-years-old it's silly to believe that he's finally going to take some major strides after nearly 2500 plate appearances in the majors. He is what he is, and that's a first baseman without the power or on-base skills to deserve significant playing time. I think that it's time for the Dodgers to bench Loney, shift Sands to first base, and use some combination of Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jamie Hoffmann in left field.
2B Orlando Cabrera - .285 wOBA, -6.5 UZR, -0.4 WAR
Cabrera hasn't gotten much attention for his awful play because he's batting .272 for the team with the best record in baseball so far, but at this point the Indians should probably consider moving on from the veteran. Not only is Cabrera struggling, but the Indians have some very solid options in Valbuena and Kipnis. The Indians probably want to avoid calling up Kipnis too early, thereby allowing him to land Super Two status, but it could further strengthen one of the better lineups in the AL.
1B Lyle Overbay, Pittsburgh: -0.4 WAR
1B Daric Barton, Oakland: -0.4 WAR
Alternatives: Chris Carter, Conor Jackson
3B Chris Johnson, Houston: -0.3 WAR
1B Adam LaRoche, Washington: -0.3 WAR
All statistical data is courtesy of FanGraphs.com