Much of baseball's best analysis is centered on determining who is the best at something, or the best at everything. We spend a great deal of energy on determining the right metrics by which to evaluate players and then we apply those metrics, and the context in which they events they measure occurred, to form our opinions. At the end of the process, we have a pretty good idea about who's better. We can use the same tools to evaluate the worst players and that's what we're going to do right now. We're closing in on 40 percent of the way through the 2014 season, who's baseball's worst player?
I'll be clear right away that I mean, who is baseball's worst performing player? Many of these players aren't going to be this bad for the whole season and their talents far exceed what they've done to date. We'll use a pretty simple methodology to run through our choices. We'll take the position players with the ten lowest fWAR and examine which performance appears to be the worst. Nothing fancy, just an exploration into something we almost never explore. I glanced at players on the pitching side, but no one was terribly interesting.
There's no qualifying number of plate appearances because WAR is a cumulative stat, so being terrible for four plate appearances won't get you on this list like it would if we used some sort of rate stat. There are 11 players on this list because there was a tie for tenth place.
Gyorko has the lead, but he also has way more PA than eight of his competitors. We care about overall negative value, but WAR is only so precise and the decimal only holds so much weight. Let's agree that these 11 players are in the running and break it down from there.
Galvis is obviously the worst hitter, but he's only had 46 PA. After that, they sort into guys in the 30 wRC+ range and the 60-70 wRC+ range. Combine Gyorko's poor offense with his high number of plate appearances and he's a strong choice. He's also been a below average runner. His defense is saving him a little, trailing on Jose Molina (who isn't getting any boost for his framing), but his DRS numbers are also worse than the UZR figure used in fWAR.
When it comes down to it, Gyorko has one of the worst bats in the league this year and is consistently using it without carrying defense or baserunning. You could make the case for others on this list, but I like Gyorko for an important reason, he's a starter at a skill position. Billy Butler and Dom Brown share the "should be a decent player" tag, but everyone else is getting playing time because their teams don't have much of a choice. It's no fun to give the award to a player who shouldn't really have this big of a role. Butler and Brown are also basically maxed out in terms of negative positional value, whereas Gyorko gets a bump from playing second base. That last part isn't a huge factor, but it makes having the lowest WAR in the league a little more impressive.
ZiPS and Steamer like Gyorko to be above replacement level for the rest of the season, so he probably won't hold this title for long, but to date it's been a very rough ride. He signed a nice extension at the start of the year that his agent is probably very happy about given his performance so far. A productive Gyorko probably doesn't change the Padres season too much, but it definitely wouldn't hurt. He's tracking toward a -3.2 fWAR season, in case you're curious, and that would put him among the ten worst all time seasons. Jim Levey' 1933 -4.0 WAR season is the mark to beat. Or not beat, depending on your perspective.
All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, a contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. Follow @NeilWeinberg44