I wrote earlier this week about how Mike Trout is blowing away the competition in terms of Wins Above Replacement this season and is the first position player to reach double-digit WAR since Barry Bonds in 2004.
There’s a flip side to that coin, of course. It’s tough to identify the worst player in baseball because technically the worst player is probably some guy with zero hits in three at-bats or some pitcher with a 15.00 ERA in two appearances. They’re so bad that they don’t get any further opportunities.
The worst player in baseball who actually plays regularly is a different, more interesting story and I thought it would be a good time examine the lowest Wins Above Replacement totals this season via Baseball-Reference.com:
Jeff Francoeur 528 -3.2
Michael Young 575 -2.6
Joe Mather 220 -2.2
Ryan Raburn 222 -2.0
Ramon Hernandez 196 -1.7
Ty Wigginton 338 -1.7
Wouldn’t you know it, a couple of longtime HBT “favorites” top the list. (And yes, those are negative numbers.)
Jeff Francoeur has followed up a strong 2011 season that got him a $13.5 million contract extension from the Royals by hitting .233 with a .286 on-base percentage and .361 slugging percentage in 129 games. According to WAR he’s been 3.2 wins worse than a replacement-level corner outfielder, which is pretty tough to do. For comparison, he had a WAR of +2.7 last season.
Michael Young has followed up a strong 2011 season in which he hilariously received a first-place MVP vote from a Dallas writer by hitting .269 with a .299 on-base percentage, .359 slugging percentage, and 23 double plays in 137 games. According to WAR he’s been 2.6 wins worse than a replacement-level DH/first baseman/infielder. Not only did Young have a WAR of +2.1 last season, he posted a positive WAR total in each of his first 11 seasons.
Both players have been terrible and unlike most of the other guys with negative WAR totals Francoeur and Young have played basically every day for the entire season. In fact, among the 30 players with the lowest WAR totals this season only Francoeur and Young have logged more than 480 plate appearances.
If you’re looking for the worst player in baseball this season Francoeur and Young are the most obvious candidates and right now at least my vote would go to Frenchy. Also: Francoeur is signed for $6.75 million next year and Young is under contract for $16 million.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.