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The Worst 30 Home Run Season Of All-Time

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A couple days ago I was putting together my 2011 projections for Mark Reynolds; when I ended up with 34 home runs, I decided to look back to see when the last time an Oriole had hit that many bombs in a season (Miguel Tejada had 34 in 2004). While doing that, I ran across the tid-bit that Tony Batista led the O's in homers in both 2002 (31) and 2002 (26) even though he was a pretty bad overall hitter, which immediately made me think that Batista might have the "worst" 30 home run season of all time.

Over to the Baseball-Reference play index I went; and lo and behold, by intuition was correct! Despite hitting 32 home runs in 2004, Batista was credited with -21.5 batting runs - the worst mark ever. He hit an amazing .241/.272/.455 that year in 650 plate appearances, with a .225 BABIP and a 4% walk rate keeping his batting average and OBP down enough that even his relatively impressive power display (he added 30 doubles and a couple triples) couldn't salvage his season. By way of comparison, only 7 major league hitters came in worse than -21.5 batting runs in 2010; Cesar Izturis, Pedro Feliz, Brandon Wood, Brendan Ryan, Ryan Theriot, Alcides Escobar, and Jose Lopez - who combined for a grand total of 28 home runs.

Baseball-Reference actually has 25 players who have been negatives with the bat (compared to average) even while hitting 30+ home runs, and Batista (not surprisingly) makes a second appearance:

Worst30hrseasons_medium

Some notes on the list:

  • Dave Kingman, who .210/.255/.431 with 35 home runs in 1986 (-10 runs) and.204/.285/.432 with 37 home runs in 1982 (-3.3 runs), is the other guy appearing multiple times.
  • Batista not only appears a second time, but me makes it with not 30 but 40+ home runs. His -2.6 batting runs in 2000 when he went deep 42 times but hit just .263/.307/.519 is easily the worst overall offensive performance in a 40 home run season ever (Jose Canseco is second worst, at +8.5 runs when he hit 46 bombs with a .237/.318/.518 line in 1998).
  • Only a couple of Coors field induced seasons made the list - Vinny Castilla's 1999 (.275/.331/.478 was good for only an 83 OPS+), and Andres Galarraga's 1995 (.280/.331/.511).
  • The highest OBP for a non-Rockies player was Jose Cruz in 2000, when he hit .242/.323/.466.
  • Despite all having at least 30 home runs, only 4 of the 25 seasons came with slugging percentages over .500; Galarraga, Batista, Richie Sexson (.255/.305/.514), and Garrett Anderson (.286/.307/.519).
  • One of the interesting things about the list - to me - is the relative lack of surprises, especially when you keep in mind that the seasons towards the bottom were really not too far below average. These are all guys we know had power but (at least in some seasons) some holes in their game.