The 2015 All-Stiff Team: Who Has Been Baseball's Worst?
Let's just call this the "Razzies" of the MLB Midsummer Classic.
As baseball's best players are honored with invitations to this year's All-Star Game in Cincinnati, there is the other side of the coin, the players who have had a rather tough go of it this season.
Look, this game ain't easy, but these players have made it look extremely hard this year. Perhaps the second half will be better for them, and in many cases, it can't be much worse. These are the 2015 MLB Mid-Summer All-Stiff Team (batters minimum 150 plate appearances).
1B - Ryan Zimmerman - Washington Nationals
Zimmerman has long been one of the best third basemen in baseball, winner of the Silver Slugger Award twice in his career (2009 and 2010). But with arthritis that made it impossible to make the throws from third anymore, the team moved him to first base this season. It has not gone well.
In 234 plate appearances, Zimmerman has an fWAR of -0.8, hitting .209/.265/.346, with five homers, a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .268, a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 66. He has also been a negative defender as well. He's currently on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis, and the team does not know when to expect him back.
2B - Chase Utley - Philadelphia Phillies
Like Zimmerman, Utley was one of baseball's premier infielders for a long time, worth 38.5 fWAR for the five year period from 2005 to 2009, the best five-year stretch of any second baseman in MLB history. He also won the Silver Slugger four straight years from 2006 to 2009. And even last year, although not the player he used to be, still made the All-Star team and posted an fWAR of 4.5.
Which makes his fall from grace this year downright shocking.
Sure, he's now 36 years old, but to go from a 4.5 fWAR to the -1.3 he has put up this year caught everyone off guard. His batting average is .179. His on-base percentage is .257. And his slugging percentage is a ghastly .275. He has just four home runs and a wRC+ of 43. Only three players in baseball with at least 150 plate appearances have a worse batting average, 10 have a worse OBP, and four have a worse wRC+. And the next-closest second baseman in terms of fWAR is at -0.4.
SS - Alexei Ramirez - Chicago White Sox
Shortstop has been baseball's weakest position so far this year, with even the so-called best shortstops in baseball not putting up particularly spectacular numbers (although, let's give Carlos Correa some time). But Ramirez has been the worst of the worst, according to the numbers.
In 304 plate appearances, Ramirez is hitting .221/.248/.291 with a wOBA of .237 and a wRC+ of just 43. A wRC+ of 100 is considered a league average run producer. He's walking in just 3.6% of his plate appearances and has an fWAR of -1.3.
Ramirez has traditionally been a ground ball hitter but has a career batting average on balls in play (BABIP) of .291, a bit below league average but not by much. That's allowed him to have reasonable batting averages throughout his career, usually between .265 and .290. But his BABIP this year is just .243. It appears he's seeing fewer ground balls find holes, and he doesn't possess the power to compensate.
3B - Conor Gillaspie - Chicago White Sox
Boy, that's some left side of the infield the White Sox have put together, huh? While Boston's Pablo Sandoval and his -0.4 fWAR is certainly way out of line with the five-year, $93 million contract he signed this offseason, it's Gillaspie who has been baseball's worst third basemen among players with at least 150 plate appearances.
Gillaspie is hitting .244/.283/.375 with a league-worst -0.8 fWAR, .285 wOBA and wRC+ of 76. He has hit just three home runs in 180 plate appearances and is a below average defender, according to all defensive metrics. That's a bad combination.
Honorable Mention: Sandoval (Red Sox), Nick Castellanos (Tigers)
OF - Matt Joyce - Los Angeles Angels
According to fWAR, Joyce (-1.2) has been the worst outfielder in all of baseball this year. While he's got a nice walk rate of 10.7%, he's hitting a ghastly .192, with a .284 OBP and a slugging percentage of .313. He has just four home runs in 244 plate appearances for the Angels, although some of that is the result of a .237 BABIP. Like Ramirez, he's largely a ground ball hitter who isn't having a lot of luck seeing those ground balls find holes.
From 2011 to 2013, Joyce did hit 19, 17, and 18 home runs, but those days are long gone now. He has four so far this year.
OF - Matt Kemp - San Diego Padres
Kemp came to the Padres as part of general manager A.J. Preller's brand new outfield, joined by Wil Myers and Justin Upton. But after having a nice bounce-back season last year for the Dodgers (.287/.346/.506 with 25 home runs), he has struggled mightily, batting just .241/.282/.359 with a wOBA of .281 and a wRC+ of 81, with six homers. One would have thought getting out of center field would have helped Kemp's defense too, but he's still been below average defensively as a right fielder, hence the -1.0 fWAR so far this year.
OF - Melky Cabrera - Chicago White Sox
Yet another traditionally excellent hitter who has hit the skids this year. Last season Cabrera was worth 2.4 fWAR, with a slash line of .301/.351/.458 with 16 home runs and a wRC+ of 125 with the Blue Jays. But he has failed to generate that kind of offense with the White Sox in 2015, hitting .259/.299/.330, with a steadily dropping walk rate, isolated power and home run total. Even in an excellent home run park like Chicago's, Cabrera has hit only three home runs in 335 plate appearances, helping lead to his -0.8 fWAR.
C - Rene Rivera - Tampa Bay Rays
Amazingly, there are only five catchers in all of baseball with at least 150 plate appearances who have a negative fWAR. That's much less than I thought. The "leader" of the negative gang is the Rays' Rivera, who is having an abysmal season standing beside the dish, if not behind it. He's "hitting" .169/.205/.280 with four home runs, a wOBA of .214 and a hard-to-believe wRC+ of 35. The only reason Rivera gets any playing time is because he's generally seen as an above average defender.
SP1 - R.A. Dickey - Toronto Blue Jays
Dickey, the 40-year-old knuckleballer, has had his struggles since coming to the Blue Jays in the laughable deal that send Noah Syndergaard and Travis d'Arnaud to the Mets. Last year he was worth 1.7 fWAR with a 3.71 ERA and 4.21 fielding independent pitching (FIP) and the year before he had an ERA of 4.21, a FIP of 4.58 and an fWAR of 1.6. But it's been much worse this year, with Dickey posting a 5.02 ERA, 5.22 FIP and an fWAR of -0.1 thus far. His strikeout rate is 13.7%, down from a career number of 16.9% and the last two seasons, when it was 18.9 and 18.8%. In his Cy Young Award winning season, it was 24.8%. He's losing the ability to generate swings and misses.
SP2 - Matt Garza - Milwaukee Brewers
Garza is one of many Brewers pitchers not doing all that well, which is a bit surprising given that he's coming off two relatively good seasons. In 2013, he put up a 3.82 ERA and had an fWAR of 2.0, and last year, he had a 3.64 ERA with an fWAR of 2.6. But this season, that ERA has skyrocketed to 5.55, with a FIP of 4.97 and an fWAR of 0.1. He's been especially prone to the longball, giving up 1.55 every nine innings, the third-highest rate among qualified starters.
SP3 - Kyle Kendrick - Colorado Rockies
Kendrick was the Rockies' Opening Day starter, which seemed hilarious at the time, but he appeared to back up Colorado's faith in him by throwing seven shutout innings against the Brewers. Since then, however, he's been brutal, with a 6.00 ERA, a 6.02 FIP and an fWAR of -0.7. His HR/9 rate is the worst in baseball, the only pitcher giving up more than two homers per nine. His ERA is third-worst, behind Kyle Lohse and Rick Porcello, with the worst FIP among all qualified pitchers in baseball. Kendrick plus the thin Colorado air makes for perhaps the worst pitcher in baseball.
SP4 - Ryan Vogelsong - San Francisco Giants
How are the San Francisco Giants in the hunt in the National League West with two of the five worst pitchers in baseball hurling for them? Vogelsong has the second-worst fWAR among qualified pitchers at -0.2, with a 4.10 ERA and a 4.74 FIP. But that's not too far off from his 4.00 ERA from last year, although the FIP is way up. Mostly that's because his walk rate is about a full walk per nine innings higher than last year.
SP5 - Tim Hudson - San Francisco Giants
And Hudson is not a whole lot better, with a 0.0 fWAR, an ERA of 4.68, and a FIP of 4.59, although some of those numbers could get a bit better if his .307 BABIP comes down a little. He's generating a 58.1% ground ball rate, which is actually his highest percentage since it was 64.1% in 2010.
RP - Fernando Rodney - Seattle Mariners
I decided to limit this to closers, seeing as how teams rely on, and spend more money on, their closers than any of the other relief roles. And by the numbers, Seattle's Rodney has been baseball's worst closer so far this year, with an fWAR of -0.3. He has 16 saves but a 5.18 ERA and a 4.75 FIP in 34 appearances. Walking 4.64 batters per nine innings certainly doesn't help, and his strikeout rate is down from 10.31 batters per nine last year to just 7.36 this year.