One of the nice things about Wins Above Replacement is that as easy as it is to figure out who's generally been good, it's just as easy to find out who's been bad. And when you're talking about guys who make millions of dollars playing a sport that I wish I was actually good at, sometimes it's good to pat yourself on the back and say, "Hey, at least I haven't produced minus-1.2 wins this year, right?"
With all of that said, I will offer some hope to those who find themselves on this the post that follows. Last season, players at the bottom of the WAR chart included Aubrey Huff, Delmon Young and Leo Nunez. In 2009, they were 3.2 wins below replacement level combined. This year, though? They've already accumulated 8.7 wins above replacement as a trio.
The last time I did this list in early May, I covered the brutal performance of Carlos Lee, Carlos Quentin, Chris Coghlan, Pedro Feliz and Melky Cabrera. Both Quentin and Coghlan have really heated up, though, so they both sit squarely in the positive-WAR population right now. Since that May 7 post, Quentin has batted .265/.355/.555 with 13 doubles and 16 homers in 62 games, while Coghlan's batted .300/.370/.458 with 20 doubles, 3 triples, 5 homers and 7 steals in 64 games.
Lee, Feliz and Cabrera, on the other hand, haven't done so much to help their respective stocks. We'll get to those guys soon enough though.
The Worst Player in Baseball
And speaking of Pedro Feliz, he's currently been the worst player in baseball in terms of wins above replacement. The 35-year-old started the season as Houston's everyday third baseman and has continued to receive regular playing time since losing his job to Chris Johnson, despite the fact that he has yet to look like an MLB-quality player this season. His .218/.241/.310 line is truly ugly, and his once-fantastic glove has graded out as well below-average this season. He doesn't walk, he doesn't hit for average, he doesn't hit for power, and he doesn't play good defense. I suppose that's how you put up a minus-1.6 WAR on the season so far.
The Disappointing Young Infielders
Coming into the season, Anaheim's Brandon Wood and Cleveland's Luis Valbuena were viewed as potential long-term solutions at their respective positions for their respective teams. Wood was a once-elite prospect with a strong track record at Triple-A, while Valbuena spent most of the 2009 season as Cleveland's second baseman after coming over from Seattle in the J.J. Putz/Franklin Gutierrez deal.
To put things lightly, neither player is viewed in a similar light any more. Wood's played fine defense at third base, but his issues with plate discipline and making contact have proven to be too much to overcome at the game's highest level. His line sits at an almost unfathomable .168/.185/.225 through 184 PA, with an astonishing 4/52 BB/K ratio. With his minus-1.4 WAR mark on the season, it's not surprising that LA traded for Alberto Callaspo to take over as the team's primary third baseman.
Valbuena has hit somewhat better than Wood, which isn't really saying much at all, but he's also provided below-average defense that's contributed to his minus-1.2 WAR. His walk rate is strong at nearly 11% and his BABIP won't sit near .200 much longer, but the power he flashed last year is gone and his secondary skills won't make up for an awful batting average and weak power. But on the other hand, he's only 24 and he absolutely killed the ball in a one-month stint in Triple-A (.313/.427/.604 in 119 PA), so presumably he'll get another shot eventually. Right now, though, he's the primary back-up to infielders Jayson Nix and Jason Donald.
Weak-Hitting, Poor-Fielding NL Outfielders
We've already talked about Carlos Lee, but he's not the only NL outfielder having an awful all-around season. If you couldn't figure out how Rick Ankiel would be a major upgrade to Atlanta's outfield, look no further than Nate McLouth's current numbers to understand how bad Ankiel could be and still make that outfield better. And then there's Garret Anderson, who somehow has played in 77 games for a contender this season despite looking totally done as a Major Leaguer for roughly two years.
Lee has essentially been replacement-level the past two months, although his .268/.322/.454 line in his past 50 games reflects a huge upgrade on the guy who had a .573 OPS coming into June. And it's really too bad, because if there was any contract that Houston really would've liked to get out of this summer, it's Lee's. His full no-trade clause expires after this season, but with $37M due in salary through 2012 and an ugly performance so far in 2010, he's probably one of the most difficult-to-trade assets in baseball right now.
McLouth, who accumulated 7 WAR in 2008/2009, is currently the everyday center fielder for the Triple-A Gwinnett Braves after being demoted last week. I'm guessing this isn't what Atlanta had in mind last year when they traded three prospects and took on his contract, which calls for a $7.75M salary in 2011 along with a 2012 club option at $9.4M. The former Pirate was fine in 84 games with Atlanta last year, but has totally fallen apart this season. He missed significant time with a concussion, and has put up a minus-1.3 WAR in the 62 games that he's played in. His walk rate is still strong at 11.8%, but he's a low-average hitter being plagued by a low BABIP, and his power has taken a big step backwards this year. Factor in his below-average defense in center field, and you're looking at a guy who belongs in Triple-A right now.
And then there's Anderson. I really don't know what to say about Garret Anderson. In his prime he was a league-average left fielder who put up one really strong two-year span in 2002-2003, but he's been a firmly below-average player since his career-year in 2003. He wasn't supposed to get much playing time as LA's fifth outfielder, but injuries to Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier and Reed Johnson at different points in the season have let Anderson get 160 PA's. He's a below-average defender at a non-premium defensive position. He's hitting .184/.208/.276. Everything about his numbers are bad. He's managed to put up a minus-1.1 WAR in 77 games. FanGraphs' David Golebiewski wrote today that LA needs to release Anderson, and I have a tough time believing that there's a good counter-argument. They traded for Scott Podsednik, and they have Xavier Paul as the fourth outfielder while Ramirez and Johnson are on the mend. It's just really, really time for LA to stop hurting their offense so much.
Other guys who have some not-so-good numbers right now:
- The other awful-hitting middle infielders
Philadelphia's Juan Castro (minus-1.3 WAR) wasn't supposed to get major playing time this season, but injuries to the team's starting infield have pushed him and fellow veteran utility infielder Wilson Valdez into duty more than one would want.
Pittsburgh's Akinori Iwamura (minus-1.1 WAR) was the team's highest-paid player coming into the season. But he was so bad in a 54-game stint with the Bucs that they released him to give the starting job to Neil Walker, who had never played an inning of second base professionally before this season. And Walker's actually totally out-played him, batting a surprising .301/.341/.456 in 52 games so far.
Houston's Tommy Manzella (minus-1.0 WAR) was never expected to be much of a hitter, but not many anticipated this. Not only is his .212/.259/.254 line pretty bad, but his glove hasn't graded out as well as expected either. He's been out since June with a fractured finger, but he could actually get his job back after getting off the DL given Houston's lack of alternative options.
- Wait, these guys are designated hitters?
Coming into the season, Toronto's Adam Lind (minus-1.1 WAR) was considered one of the game's better DH's, while Chicago's Mark Kotsay (minus-0.9 WAR) was undoubtedly one of the worst in the game. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two from looking at their numbers, though, as they have nearly identical weighted on-base averages this season.
Lind's .219/.279/.378 line is bad, but especially for a designated hitter where the offensive expectations are much higher. Kotsay's .217/.300/.345 line isn't much different, except with more walks and less power. Basically, you're looking at two primary designated hitters that are hitting like Triple-A shortstops.