For the last two weeks, I’ve looked at the best Win Probably Added numbers of hitters and pitchers over the final 162 games and 34 games of their careers, respectively. I thought the lists were a lot of fun, and some of you did as well. Faithful reader Ryan suggested I look at the worst offensive and pitching runs today and next week. Well, fun to write plus reader recommended equals very likely to happen.
I thought the hitter list was a little less interesting than is ideal, so I looked this week at the worst five hitters and the worst five Hall of Famers by WPA. I expected to see Ichiro here. Then I realized he’s not in the Hall of Fame yet. Is it possible that the Mariner sensation with -2.5 WAA over the last eleven years of his career was still in the game as recently as 2019? Turns out that’s true. Of course, he only once came to the plate over 500 times since 2011.
So without further ado, here are the five worst hitters outside the Hall and then inside. Surprisingly, Craig Biggio didn’t make the latter list (though he is sixth).
Known as “Tiny”, as he’s listed as 5’8”, Felder played for four teams, primarily the Brewers, from 1985-1994. He lasted as long as he did, I suppose, as a decent hand who could run some and credibly man all three outfield positions. For a couple of equally valuable contemporaries, think Kurt Stillwell and Franklin Stubbs.
If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably as one of the five players shipped by the Cubs to the Braves for Rogers Hornsby after the 1928 season. Two years of backing up Frankie Frisch with the Giants, led to four solid seasons in Toledo in the American Association. It was 1928 before he returned to the majors, and as his -2.5 career WAR shows, that return engagement didn’t go too well. That’s putting it nicely considering a career value equal to Randy Johnson’s bad. For position players, think Glenn Burke of high five fame. As his career wound down, Maguire played in the New England League, the Northeastern League, and for three of the five teams in the Cape Breton Colliery League.
You probably remember McGehee pretty well, as he won’t even be eligible for a place on the Hall of Fame ballot until this winter. I think of him a little like a short career Harmon Killebrew, but without Killebrew’s bat. In other words, he was a bad baserunner who grounded into a lot of double plays and couldn’t play defense. After a pretty decent rookie campaign in 2009, McGehee hit 23 homers and drove in 104 runs in 2010. That allowed him to hang around the majors despite hitting .241/.303/.337 with -2.0 WAR over six more years in the bigs.
Hill played eleven seasons, mostly for the Cubs, and came to the plate 1049 times. It’s beyond clear that the guy couldn’t hit. Unclear, however, is whether or not his poor hitting performance was a function of the 2007 dado attack. For everyone given his playing time, performing exclusively since the 1901 formation of the American League, only Bill Bergen, Mike Ryan, Jim Mason, Sam Agnew, Ray Oyler, and Jack O’Neill managed less than Hill’s .207/.266/.287 in each triple slash category. Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus, and Fangraphs all agree that his framing was below average; they only disagree about by how much. So I assume Hill was a good guy in the clubhouse. Maybe.
You may have heard of Gilbert. From 1923-1926 he played for the NFL’s Duluth Eskimos. He played professional basketball on touring teams as well. And from 1928-1932, he played for MLB’s Brooklyn Robins and Cincinnati Reds. For fans of batting average, a guy who hit .304 and .294 in his first two full seasons seems pretty good. He wasn’t. By Rbat+, batting runs computed for WAR and indexed to an average score of 100, his numbers were only 88 and 75 those two years. By his final year with the Reds, his Rbat+ fell to 40, which combined with below average baserunning, double play avoidance, and fielding meant -2.2 WAR in only 450 trips to the plate. Trivially, he’s one of 73 hitters since the start of the twentieth century to slash six hits in a game.
Dawson’s games occurred from 1994-1996 for the Red Sox and Marlins. Those three years were part of four straight below replacement level to end his career. In fact, in his final 13 seasons only his wrongly awarded MVP season of 1987 and its follow up produced more than 2.9 WAR. The bone spur in his left knee that developed in June of 1984 ended the superstar part of his career. At this point, I believe he’s had fifteen knee surgeries and has had both of his knees replaced.
Murray’s tour around the majors accelerated in 1996 and 1997 when he played his last 162 games for the Indians, Orioles, Angels, and Dodgers. Unlike Dawson, Murray played at below replacement level in only three of his final four seasons. The one where he wasn’t below replacement, he produced an impressive 2.4 WAR for the Indians. Overall, Murray was a below average player for the final elven years of his career.
This one surprises me. Perhaps that’s because Martinez didn’t have a long slog toward the end. In his penultimate season, the Mariner great produced 3.3 WAR. But in the 21 games of 2003 occurring among his final 162, Martinez hit just .266/.385/.392, compared to .299/.410/.507 earlier in the campaign. Things got worse in 2004, and he and the M’s were right to end things after that.
Trammell is again a bit of a surprise to me, but he shouldn’t be. By the end, he was pretty broken down, managing a half season of games only once in his final five years. In that one year of reasonable health, he dropped 4.3 WAR on the American League though. Sadly, his final three years produced below replacement level numbers.
Like a lot of aging greats, Dave Winfield toured the American League with his bat as his career came to a close, playing for five teams in his final six campaigns. He ended things with the Twins and the Indians. Do you remember when those Clevelanders actually tried to win games? Back in 1995, they won 100 of them and lost only 44. That greatness, of course, came in spite of their decision to roster Winfield and his .191/.285/.287 line. From July 30 of that year until the end of his career, the former Padre great managed just .129/.229/.161. After missing the entirety of the 1989 season with a back injury, Winfield played seven more years. In one of them, he finished with 4.1 WAR and fifth in the MVP race. In the other six, he totaled only 0.6 WAR.
Well, next week, we’ll look at the worst pitching runs to end a career. But before that, On Thursday Eric will begin sharing with you the methodology he’s using to update his Negro League MLEs, as well as update how the segregation adjustment will shake out. And once he’s done with that series of posts, we’ll be ready to resume our HoME 2.0 election schedule!