Looking at MLB’s least productive positions to date

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Nationals left fielders, “led” by Xavier Nady, have amassed an MLB-low .406 OPS in 101 at-bats to date, hitting just .119 with no homers and six RBI.

Here’s the list of the worst OPSs by team and position so far, along with the player most responsible for the poor showing.

LF Nationals – .406 (.119/.237/.168) – Nady
3B Athletics – .424 (.133/.186/.238) – Josh Donaldson
3B White Sox – .435 (.178/.217/.218) – Brent Morel
2B Tigers – .436 (.148/.208/.227) – Ryan Raburn
SS Padres – .439 (.138/.248/.191) – Jason Bartlett
CF Cubs – .469 (.183/.248/.221) – Marlon Byrd
C Pirates – .473 (.156/.240/.233) – Rod Barajas
SS White Sox – .476 (.196/.217/.259) – Alexei Ramirez
1B Indians – .484 (.150/.234/.250) – Casey Kotchman
RF Twins – .492 (.156/.221/.271) – Clete Thomas
2B Athletics – .493 (/165/.229/.264) – Jemile Weeks
DH Tigers – .497 (.183/.218/.279) – Delmon Young
1B Mets – .503 (.182/.231/.273) – Ike Davis
DH Mariners – .504 (.184/.223/.281) – Jesus Montero
SS Angels – .506 (.211/.259/.248) – Erick Aybar
SS Pirates – .507 (.172/.204/.303) – Clint Barmes
SS Phillies – .516 (.214/.268/.248) – Jimmy Rollins
3B Twins – .515 (.198/.219/.297) – Danny Valencia
2B Giants – .520 (.235/.275/.245) – Ryan Theriot
SS Mariners – .525 (.174/.275/.250) – Brendan Ryan
2B Twins – .532 (.228/.260/.272) – Alexi Casilla
C Padres – .538 (.171/.252/.286) – Nick Hundley
C Athletics – .540 (.217/.257/.283) – Kurt Suzuki
CF Brewers – .540 (.205/.246/.295) – Nyjer Morgan
SS Twins – .542 (.208/.304/.238) – Jamey Carroll

– It’s pretty hard to believe, but in Chase Utley’s absence, Phillies second basemen have still outproduced the shortstops and third basemen. That’s because Pete Orr has been a nice surprise with a .714 OPS in nine games. Freddy Galvis has a .571 OPS in 26 games at second base.

– The Pirates’ big winter signings both appear on the list, as Barajas and Barmes have really brought the offense down. They were picked up more for their gloves, of course, but they’ve made it really tough for the Pirates to get anything going towards the bottom of their lineup.

– If I had a better feeling who to blame among Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan for the Twins’ right field mess, I would have listed him instead of Thomas. Minnesota’s original plan was to play Josh Willingham in right and Ben Revere in left, but Willingham was moved to left late in the spring and right field has been a disaster area since. Revere wouldn’t have been anything special either, but he almost surely would have been better than this.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.