Thursday, January 15, 2015

Yankee Prudence

"Hal Steinbrenner" by Paul J. Bereswill
Living in New York for most of the past decade, it's easy to pick up the rhythms of the metropolis's professional sports teams. It's well known the Yankees have changed since the heyday of George Steinbrenner's wild spending on free agents. His sons have run the team with what seems like a bit more financial restraint, although their spending spree last winter completely contradicted the mantra from the prior two offseasons ago, to get under the luxury tax number. Instead, they signed Jacoby Ellsbury, Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, and Hiroki Kuroda.

Word out of New York is that they are done spending big dollars this winter and will not pursue Max Scherzer. As Ken Davidoff writes: "Steinbrenner didn’t speak like an owner expecting to add another big piece to his club". I'd challenge anyone to find that sentence in a newspaper last century. I'd love to see it, in fact.

Let's take a quick look at front office game theory. Should the Yankees just say they're in on Scherzer so the price tag goes up? Or, is it worth it to them - in an effort to keep salaries lower across baseball - to say they are out of it and hope Scherzer doesn't set any records? If Scherzer gets close to $200 million from somebody, will it wind up costing the Yankees more for a different free agent in the future?

Monday, January 5, 2015

2015 Hall of Fame "Suspense"

There's a lot of talk about the suspense surrounding tomorrow's announcement as to who will get inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this Summer. Unfortunately, I'm not really on the edge of my seat on the matter. Due the the great work of Ryan Thibbs and Darren Viola, we have an excellent idea of how the votes will shake out. In fact, this year, I feel that there's more suspense with who will fall off the HOF ballot than who gets inducted.

Pedro is an Inner Circle HOF'er
Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, and John Smoltz will get in. Craig Biggio is a "probably", and Mike Piazza is a "probably not". That's it. No-one else is getting in through the BBWAA ballot this year. With the overstuffed ballot and an archaically arbitrary limit of 10 votes per ballot, many players who deserve to stay on the ballot will receive less than 5% of the vote, and not make it into the consideration set next year.

The cases for Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado weigh particularly heavily on my mind. I'm not saying these players are or aren't Hall of Famers, but they were definitely good enough to deserve a few years on the ballot to have their cases considered. Heck, in my hypothetical ballot this year, I would vote for Larry Walker, and he is also in danger of getting eliminated. These great players stand too good a chance of being abandoned and forsaken. My hopes for who will or won't get in don't actually have much to do with the individual players. If Biggio or Piazza don't get in this year, they will in another year or two. However, if they get in this year, it lessens the bottleneck of great players and would allow more voters to fit deserving players like Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell on their ballots next Winter. Still, the greater suspense right now seems to sit with the marvelous players who are getting almost ignored. If a great player gets knocked off this ballot, he'll likely have to wait decades to be considered by a veterans committee. Those committees, often made of living Hall of Famers, have traditionally been too busy keeping their private club as exclusive as possible, granting little hope for the living.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Team Off the Street

We built a team of Hall of Fame Outsiders this morning. Now, we are looking at present day team construction. How good could a team fully comprised of late December free agents be this year? Let's see what's available right now, on the evening of Monday, December 22nd. Bringing us up to speed, the most recent transactions are:

- The Padres got Justin Upton and Aaron Northcraft from the Braves for Max Fried, Jace Peterson, Dustin Peterson, Mallex Smith, and international bonus compensation. Fried is a clear headliner in this package of potential regulars.

Derek Norris is going to San Diego

- More clearly, the Padres rebuilt their outfield by trading for Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp. They also added All Star catcher Derek Norris by trading a couple of young arms to Oakland.

- The Yankees acquired Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones, and Domingo German from the Marlins for Martin Prado, David Phelps, and cash.

- The Cubs signed Jon Lester's personal catcher, David Ross. They also signed Jason Motte for the bullpen and acquired Ryan Lavarnway to add organizational depth at Catcher.

Does Josh Johnson have anything
left, or is he the next Ben Sheets?
- The Mets sold Gonzalez Germen to the Yankees for cash considerations

- Pittsburgh signed Corey Hart, presumably for first base

- San Diego is getting Josh Johnson back on a heavily incentive laden 1-year contract.

- The Twins signed left-handed relief pitcher Wil Ledezma

- The Pirates won the bidding for Jung-ho Kang

Two days ago, Kang would've been our #3 hitter and starting shortstop.

Lineup:
Ichiro, dressed for his job interview
1: Ichiro Suzuki, LF
2: Everth Cabrera, SS
3: Norichika Aoki, RF
4: Gaby Sanchez, 1b
5: Colby Rasmus, CF
6: Geovany Soto, C
7: Stephen Drew, 2b
8: Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b

Fans of this team would really need Ichiro to dig deep for “one more year in the sun”. Aoki is a decent free agent. Everth Cabrera was a surprising non-tender, but he isn’t a great hitter. The rest of the players range from underperforming former prospects, underperforming former non-prospects, and disastrous former prospects.

Bench
Amy Hundley thinks Nick is employable
C: Nick Hundley
PH Rt: Jonny Gomes
PH Lt: Nate Schierholtz
OF: Tony Gwynn, Jr.
IF: Mark Ellis
Util: Emilio Bonifacio

Everth Cabrera in place of Mark Ellis, with Jung-ho Kang at shortstop would improve the team quite a bit. Kang has real power, to drive in 18+ home runs, something that few middle-infielders can claim. Schierholtz and Gomes could play decent platoon in the style of current Cubs, A’s, and Rays regimes. It’ll be interesting to see if future clubs like the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Cubs will look to platoon positions at who will be paid like everyday starters on other teams. Heck, if the Padres could afford it, they would roll into 2015 with an outfield of Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Seth Smith, Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, and Rymer Liriano. Instead, Smith and Quentin will probably get traded or shifted to first base.

Pitching Staff:
SP: Max Scherzer
"Hi, I'm Scott Boras. Max is your man."
SP: James Shields
SP: Hiroki Kuroda
SP: Aaron Harang
SP: Ryan Vogelsong
Swing: Carlos Villanueva
Middle: Sergio Santos
Middle: Jason Grilli
LOOGY: Joe Thatcher
Setup: Rafael Soriano
Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

This imaginary team would not score a lot of imaginary runs. The pitching would have to be tight, and this staff actually looks halfway decent. The bullpen is paper thin in the dependable category. Most of these guys have exhaustive medicals.

If our Team Off the Street could sign decent depth guys to minor league deals, like the ones listed below, I’d take this team for Over 81 wins.

Next up (alphabetical): Mike Adams, RHP; Andy Dirks, OF; Casey Janssen, RHP; Alexi Ogando, RHP; Rickie Weeks, 2b; Jamey Wright, RHP; Wesley Wright, LHP; Eric Young, Util

Hall of Fame's Best Outsiders

We did this once in 2010 and again at this time last year. The point is to construct the best team of players who have been eligible for at least one Hall of Fame vote. In other words, guys who retired after 2009, like Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson, are not eligible for this team. After we get through this year's vote, next year's club should be even better, adding at least Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and maybe even Brian Giles to the mix.

3rd Occasional Non Hall of Famers Team
Batting Order
Bobby Grich was a better defender
and had a higher OPS+ than Jeff Kent
1. Kenny Lofton, CF
2. Jeff Bagwell, 1b
3. Barry Bonds, LF
4. Mike Piazza, C
5. Larry Walker, RF
6. Bobby Grich, 2b
7. Dick Allen, 3b
8. Alan Trammell, SS

Bench: Bill Freehan, C
Bench: Edgar Martinez, DH
Bench: Tim Raines, LF
The Crime Dog is worthy
Bench: Jeff Kent, 2b
Bench: Lou Whitaker, 2b
Bench: Dale Murphy, CF/RF
Bench: Fred McGriff, 1b
Bench: Craig Biggio, 2b/CF/C
Bench: Reggie Smith, CF/RF

SP: Roger Clemens
SP: Curt Schilling
SP: Mike Mussina
SP: Kevin Brown

P: Luis Tiant
Mussina is a new edition this year
P: Rick Reuschel
P: Dave Stieb
P: Dan Quisenberry

Manager: Buck O'Neil

Honorable mention goes to Norm Cash, Don Mattingly, Minnie Minoso, David Cone, Bill Dahlen, Dwight Evans, Graig Nettles, Bo Jackson, Dolf Luque, and Frank Howard. Who else deserves consideration?


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bienvenidos, Javier

We're not sure how long MLB lords allow this video online, ominously dreading that moment, whereas we may auspiciously enjoy this here and now, or, um, after a :03-second Pepsi ad:



Welcome to the big leagues, Javier Baez!

It says "embed" but it doesn't "embed". The Selig Era.



Look at that 80 power!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Today's Lesson in Volatilty of Pitching

It's been a long night, and just for fun, we checked in on the leaders in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) metrics at the moment, morning of June 9, 2014. The Top 10 of FIP leaders, with at least 10 innings pitched this season, make up a striking leader board. Among a sprinkling of routinely dominant stars (Kimbrell, Chapman, and Holland), we see rebounding former stars (Soria), failed starting prospects/turned relievers (Betances, Davis, McGee, Kontos), good stories (Doolittle) and surprises (Ramirez):

1. Joakim Soria, Rangers 0.76 FIP
2. Dellin Betances, Yankees 0.88 FIP
3. Aroldis Chapman, Reds 1.08 FIP
4. Wade Davis, Royals 1.10 FIP
5. Craig Kimbrel, Braves 1.13 FIP
6. Sean Doolittle, Athletics 1.18 FIP
7. Greg Holland, Royals 1.25 FIP
8. Jake McGee, Rays 1.49 FIP
9. George Kontos, Giants 1.53 FIP
10. Neil Ramirez, Cubs 1.58 FIP

It's great to see Joakim Soria back on top (AP Photo)













Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Poof, It's Gone

Elite pitching with World Class velocity will be short lived. The human arm is not built to accelerate and decelerate at the speeds and angles required to throw a baseball over 90 mph. The risks to ill effects increases the harder each pitcher throws. For pitchers to stay healthy, they need to emulate Greg Maddux more than Pedro Martinez. On the other hand, no-one would kick a prospect out of bed for pitching like Pedro Martinez. For years, "mechanics" has been the beginning and end of stories related to pitchers' health. Yet, we still have professional pitchers throwing with an inverted W in their arm load motion that has continuously portended arm injuries. Teams need to teach against that tendency. It would also reward teams to stress the importance of pacing one's self. Starting pitchers will say that they obviously already pace themselves. Only relief pitchers can go max effort on every pitch. My guess is that most starting pitchers are still not pacing themselves enough. Matt Harvey was lights out, sitting at 96 mph on his 4-seamer. Wouldn't he have been able to succeed at 93, only reaching back for 97 a few times each game? How many more runs would he have allowed pitching that way? Would he be healthy today pitching that way? Is pitching that way even possible? Or, is there something fundamentally unnatural about constantly throwing to far beneath your max effort? I tend to think it's possible. Boxers will talk about throwing punches at Max effort, vs an effort that's sustainable for an entire round and a series of rounds. Boxing is about as primal a sport as we have. If boxers can naturally pace themselves, so should professional baseball players.

Jered Weaver is getting it done. He's living with a fastball in the upper 80's. He used to touch the mid to upper 90's, but has morphed into an effect pitcher who can hit his spots and induce weaker contact. His ballpark certainly helps him a lot. He knows that he can give up fly balls at home because they are likely to be caught by one of the Angels in the outfield. (Sorry.)

God help keep Yordano Ventura healthy, Sonny Gray too. Now that Jose Fernandez is following in the footsteps of Matt Moore, Matt Harvey, Stephen Strasburg and other phenoms by having the Ulnar Collateral Ligament in his pitching arm replaced, Ventura and Gray are among the brightest young pitchers that come to mind. Come to think of it, I'd also like to see Andrew Cashner avoid recurrences of injuries of years' past. Alex Wood has a terribly ugly delivery, lots of body parts going in all different directions. Nobody expects Alex Wood to stay healthy much longer than Tommy Hanson did before destroying his shoulder. It's hard to change Wood's delivery if his results are positive and that's how he's most comfortable. Sadly, most have a feeling that these arms are to be used, much like running backs in the NFL, until they don't work anymore. If the player gets hurt, or worn out to the point of ineffectiveness, in a few years, then worry about who replacing the injured player in a couple of years. Hopefully, Clayton Kershaw's strained muscle in he back of his shoulder is a minor blip. The muscle he hurt is larger than the muscles of the rotator cuff. They are more resilient and have a higher likelihood of getting back to 100% fully healthy. If you hurt your rotator cuff, on the other hand, you're likely never going to get back to anything more than 95% of what you used to be able to do.*

*Okay, that 95% number is totally coming from a place that has no basis in fact. I'm guessing, making tj up, and don't even know precisely what it means. My point is that shoulder injuries to the smaller, more delicate muscles of the rotator cuff are more fatal than those to a larger shoulder, chest, or back muscle.

Back to hoping good things for some of the best young arms in the game... Madison Bumgarner has a chance to put together an extremely special career, if he can get back to where he was a year or two ago. Nathan Eovaldi is blossoming into one of the hardest throwing starters in baseball. That, alone, should be a red flag to the Marlins. Gio Gonzalez does not have great mechanics, neither do Zack Wheeler nor Michael Wacha. Have you seen Shelby Miller's numbers this year? He might already be broken.

The Nats have a good one in Giolito
(Photo by Patrick Cavey, MiLB.com)
In the minor leagues, we can worry about Lucas Giolito, Noah Syndergaard, Kohl Stewart, Hunter Harvey, plus a bunch of guys on the Cardinals, Astros and Blue Jays. More and more, amateur pitchers in high school and college are falling victim to the exploding elbow. We are talking about the best power arms of the future. Baseball needs to protect them better, but can they? We don't know of any one certain way that anyone can be protected.

Teams need to start calling up young pitchers as soon as they show they are one of the 11 best pitchers in the organization. We were all shocked when the Marlins decided to call-up Jose Fernandez at the start of last season. He was so young, and the Marlins were so non-competitive. Why would they start his service time on a lousy team? Why risk calling him up too early, letting him get hit hard if that the case? Why? We couldn't understand it, other than to think that maybe they were looking for a gate attraction at every fifth home game.

Looking back, how glad are we that the Marlins introduced us to Fernandez last season? A traditional team would have had him in a couple of minor league levels that last 18 months, and he would have broken his elbow before his Major League debut. The Nationals wasted a lot of Stephen Strasburg's bullets before finally calling him up. Teams, especially the rich teams, will probably begin to value potential Major League contributions of any elite prospect right away - while they're actually healthy. Many will say that the biggest problem with arm injuries is how unpredictable they are. No-one has agreed on proven best practices for maintaining health. It seems the actual problem is contrarian. My biggest issue with arm injuries is that they are becoming too predictable. Everyone's getting one.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Fun With MLB Leaderboards

Some really scary news about Antarctica melting was in the New York Times today. A radical climate shift is most certainly upon us. I'm sitting in a sweltering office in midtown Manhattan. There was snow in these parts less than a month ago, and it's over 85 degrees today.

Instead of running for the presumed safety of the Mexican hills, my humanity led me to an easier escape, one that would not increase my carbon footprint. If any of you have ever found warm comfort in the MLB leader boards on Fangraphs, you'll know the reward. After all, we may as well enjoy everything we can as long as we're on this greasy planet.

The following are a few of the more remarkable items we noticed in our perusal...

***

The Cleveland Indians have two of the top 10 pitchers in all of baseball in FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), but their ERA's are a rather pedestrian 3.89 (Zach McAllister) and slightly above average 3.48 (Corey Kluber). Their FIP's, which measure the outcomes that are fully independent of the pitchers' supporting cast are 2.61 for McAllister and 2.39 for Kluber, the 10th and 5th best FIP's among all qualified starters in Major League Baseball respectively. These are two of the largest differences between ERA and FIP in baseball, as well. A phenomenon like this could portend a brighter future for these two starters, but it will really depend on whether these pitchers are more so victims of bad luck (which will change) or a bad defense (which must be changed).

***

Carlos Santana is a
good trade target. (David
Richard-USA TODAY)
Staying in Cleveland, you probably know that Carlos Santana has been struggling with a low batting average this season. You may not have known that it is as low as .148, or that is the third lowest among qualified batters - only better than Mike Moustakas (.147) and Raul Ibanez (.140). The strangest thing about his struggles is that he's walking more often than he's striking out, and he actually leads all qualified hitters with a 20% walk percentage, meaning that he's walking once in every five plate appearances.

***

It's mid-May, and Troy Tulowitzki is basically flirting with a .500 on-base percentage, currently holding at .497. Chances are that he won't get above the .500 mark again this seasons, but a few hits in this next series against the Royals could make it happen. His season has been so remarkable already, that at 3.1 WARP on Baseball Prospectus, 3.6 WAR on Fangraphs, 4.0 WAR on Baseball-Reference, he's already been worth over 20 million dollars this season, at a conservatice rate around 6 million dollars per Win.

***

Yangervis Solarte has the 15th highest On Base Percentage in Major League Baseball (.394). Seth Smith has the sixth highest (.419).

***

Defensive statistics don't mean much, until you have at least 3 fll seasons worth of data, but just for fun, here are the Top 5 defensive players, according to the Defense rating on Fangraphs.

Fangraphs (2014 Defense)
Jason Heyward, Braves 10.9
Sam Fuld, A's/Twins 7.8
Mike Trout, Angels 7.2
Erick Aybar, Angels 7.2
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 7.1

Tulowitzki is incredible. If you look at defensive leaders through the past 3 calendar years, Troy Tulowitzki is 25th among 1,426 players who played in the Major Leagues.

***

With that, I think I'm sufficiently calmed down to face the rest of our peaceful existence. Enjoy the games tonight, everybody!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Players of the Fortnight

Lots of changes happening at the HQ of the ol' blog. I quit my job on Friday, which was a unique experience. Saturday, my baby daughter turned one fortnight old, which we celebrated with a brief walk in the park. As we revisit our most frequently used writing device, we get to give awards to the best players of the past 2-weeks. It just happens to be to the best players since my daughter was born, and that could only happen if we take a quick look at the leaderboards this morning. This idea for a recurring perspective came from an old professional scout who told me that he could tell who was playing well and who wasn't just by looking at their past 14-day stat lines. There's probably many lifetimes worth of bias in that statement, but I was about fifteen years old at the time and absorbed any seamhead knowledge I'd hear. We talked about bias, streakiness, and clutch the last time we gave away some virtual hardware, but without furthur ado, let us present our first Player of the Fortnight awards for 2014:

NL Batter of the Fortnight
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
Pretty easy decision, as Tulo leads the National League in just about every offensive category the past two weeks. His high marks include 5 Home Runs, a .447 Batting Average, .552 On Base Percentage, .873 Slugging, .593 wOBA, and 272 wRC+. Tulowitzki was also one of just 10 players in the NL, with 30+ plate appearances the past two weeks, to walk more often than strikeout. That top 10 looks like this:

Carlos Ruiz, Phillies: 18 BB%, 5 K%
Anthony Rizzo, Cubs: 26 BB%, 18 K%
Neil Walker, Pirates: 13 BB%, 6 K%
Joey Votto, Reds: 23 BB%, 17 K%
Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks: 15 BB%, 9 K%
Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: 17 BB%, 12 K%
Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: 15 BB%, 11 K%
Travis d'Arnaud, Mets: 9 BB%, 6 K%
Carl Crawford, Dodgers: 6 BB%, 3 K%
Chase Utley, Phillies: 11 BB%, 9 K%

How about that Anthony Rizzo, leading the NL in BB% the past fortnight. Cubs fans should be happy about that. Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Jhonny Peralta, Aaron Hill, and Matt Holliday all had 1:1 K:BB ratios the past two weeks.

Honorable consideration: Yasiel Puig, Andrew McCutchen, Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Ruiz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Miguel Montero, Todd Frazier

NL Pitcher of the Fortnight
Jose Fernandez, Marlins
The National League selections this time around are about as easy to identify as they've ever been. Along with Tulo on offense, who could the pitcher have been, other than Jose Fernandez? Craig Kimbrel, Francisco Rodriguez, and Jordan Walden are a few of the most impressive relief pitchers from the past two weeks, but they combined make the same number of outs as Jose Fernandez in the same time frame. Among qualified starting pitchers, Fernandez ranked first with a 0.00 ERA, 0.77 FIP, 1.66 xFIP, 0.19 tERA, 1.48 SIERA, 40.0 K% (!), and 1.0 fWAR.

Honorable consideration: Francisco Rodriguez, Craig Kimbrel, Zack Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, Johnny Cueto, Nathan Eovaldi, Brandon McCarthy

AL Batter of the Fortnight
Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Believe me when I tell you, we wanted to go with a player who didn't even get enough PA's the past two weeks to be at the rate of a batter qualified for the batting title. Derek Norris had just 30 plate appearances over 9 games the past two weeks. He did not hit a home run, nor did he steal any bases. What Norris did very well was avoid outs. He led all American League batters with at least 30 plate appearances the past two weeks with a .520 AVG, .600 OBP, .568 wOBA, and 273 wRC+. Derek Norris walked more often than he struck out, but this was not as rare in the AL the past two weeks. Fifteen batters with at least 30 PA's walked more than struck out, and another ten had 1:1 K:BB ratios. We wanted to recognize Norris for his extraordinary contributions, but ultimately we gave the award to someone who affected more games and provided more value defensively. Norris was a pretty good pitch framer last season, saving 7.4 runs above average, but so far in 2014, he's at 2.4 runs below average, coincidentally tied with his teammate John Jaso.

Jose Bautista won a heavily contested race. He didn't lead the league in any well known statistic, but his .362/.474/.638 slash line, along with league average base running, was good for the highest Offensive score on Fangraphs.

Honorable consideration: Derek Norris, Josh Donaldson, Howie Kendrick, Nelson Cruz, Jose Abreu, Kyle Seager, James Loney

AL Pitcher of the Fortnight
Collin McHugh, Astros
What?! Who? What?! No way. Yes! The first time I ran the AL leaderboards, I forgot to set it to the past 14 days and was looking at entire season stats. Looking at it that way, three rookies have made fabulous showings, so far. Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Yordano Ventura consistently bring world class pitching to the game. For the entire season, Tanaka leads the AL with a 2.22 xFIP and is second to Max Scherzer with a 30.4 K%. Ventura leads the league with a 1.50 ERA, but has thrown only 30 innings, compared with 42.6 for Tanaka. Jon Lester has pitched great this year, while curiously getting a decision in every game, as he sits with a 4-3 record after 7 starts.

Over the past two weeks, former Met Collin McHugh has lead the league with a 0.59 ERA and 0.8 fWAR. He has "only" thrown 15.3 innings, but he won both of his starts and garnered a 11.2 K/9 to exemplify his dominance.

Honorable consideration: John Lackey, David Price, Max Scherzer, Scott Kazmir

Monday, April 14, 2014

On J.P. Arencibia

While considering J.P. Arencibia for my Hacking Mass team on Baseball Prospectus, I wondered how he managed to get 497 plate appearances with a .227 on-base percentage. After a quick spin of the Baseball-Reference Play Index, we find that only one person in baseball history had a season with more plate appearances and a lower on-base percentage than J.P. Arencibia in 2013.

That was Hal Lanier of the 1968 San Francisco Giants. As their starting shortstop, Lanier batted 518 times in 151 games, ending the season with a .222 OBP. At least he was the best defensive infielder on the '68 Giants. Bill James once wrote that "Lanier was the weakest hitter ever to play 1,000 games in the major leagues (except pitchers)".

Ten* players in baseball history had a season with at least 400 plate appearances and an on-base percentage of .230 or worse.

In chronological order:

Player OBP PA Year ▴ Tm
Sport McAllister .230 421 1902 TOT
Joe Dugan .230 448 1918 PHA
Bob Lillis .229 496 1963 HOU
Hal Lanier .222 518 1968 SFG
Barry Foote .229 410 1975 MON
Rob Picciolo .218 446 1977 OAK
Mario Mendoza .216 401 1979 SEA
Andres Thomas .228 571 1989 ATL
Alex Gonzalez .229 407 2000 FLA
J.P. Arencibia .227 497 2013 TOR
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/12/2014.

*Nine might be the real numbers, as I don't think Sport McAllister belongs on this list. Maybe I'm reading something wrong, or there's a bug on the play index. It says McAllister had 421 plate appearances in 1902, but his player pages on B-R and Fangraphs give him just 252 PA's in 1902.

"Best Wishes" Joe Dugan
Joe Dugan was a 21-year old shortstop out of Holy Cross, playing for Connie Mack's Philadelphia A's in 1918. Dugan was born in a very small town in Pennsylvania, called Mahanoy City, but attended high school in Torrington, Connecticut. As a young player, he became known as 'Jumpin Joe' for his tendency to jump the club whenever he'd get homesick for New Haven. During a six month run from January to July 1922, Dugan was flipped in a few trades from the A's to the Senators to the Red Sox, and ultimately to the New York Yankees in July. Beginning that season, Rogan enjoyed a solid run with Miller Huggins's Yankees, winning 5 pennants and 3 World Series in six and a half seasons. Dugan actually improved his hitting enough to bat .292 in 1925 and receive one MVP award.

Bob Lillis could really hide his out making ability on one of the worst offensive teams of all time. The 1963 Colt 45's, holy smokes, only Al Spangler was good. Only Al Spangler was decent. Five starters with an on base percentage below .277; that's 5 out of 8 starting offensive weapons.

Pos Age PA HR SB CS OBP OPS+
C John Bateman 22 434 10 0 0 .249 71
1B Rusty Staub* 19 585 6 0 0 .309 84
2B Ernie Fazio 21 258 2 4 4 .273 65
SS Bob Lillis 33 496 1 3 4 .229 38
3B Bob Aspromonte 25 514 8 3 1 .276 72
LF Al Spangler* 29 490 4 5 8 .355 120
CF Howie Goss 28 448 9 4 6 .264 74
RF Carl Warwick 26 583 7 3 3 .319 98
Team Totals 26.9 5986 62 39 30 .283 73
Rank in 10 NL teams 10 10 1 10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2014.

We already mentioned Hal Lanier. He actually finished the 1968 season on a hot streak. He had an unbelievable .201 OBP on August 24th, and a .296 OBP rest of the way him settle on .222 for the season. Astros fans will remember that Hal Lanier was the 1986 NL Manager of the Year, when he lead the '86 Astros to the NL West title and an NLCS match-up against the Mets.

Barry Foote was the starting catcher for the Montreal Expos in 1975, as a 23-year old in his second full season. Foote started 102 games, sharing catching duties with 21-year old phenom, Gary Carter, who started 56 games behind the plate and 80 in right field. Troughout his 10-year career with the Expos, Phillies, Cubs, and Yankees, Barry Foote threw out 5% more base runners attempting to steal than league average.

Rob Picciolo was on a bad Oakland A's team in 1977. The went 63-98. This wasn't as bad as the 1963 Colt 45's, but they were a bunch of eyesores. Six of their regulars had OBP's of .302 or worse. On a positive note for the '77 A's, Mitchell Page got on base (.405) with power (21 HR) and efficiently stole bases (42 SB, 5 CS). The '77 A's lead the league in stolen bases, but they had the worst OBP in the American League. Mitchell Page should be saluted, certainly one of the best players on one of the most terrible offenses, and he did it as a rookie.

The Mendoza Line became a thing with Mario Mendoza's infamous .198 batting average in 1979.

The 1989 Braves were also notably bad on offense. They had Smoltz and Glavine pitching well, but the offense was much like the '77 A's. The '89 Braves had a 42-year old Darrell Evans for 107 games in the National League. Andres Thomas, playing league average defense at shortstop, was not this team's greatest problem. Only Lonnie Smith hit on this team. He had a .315/.415/.533 slash line with 21 HR's and 25 SB's. That .415 OBP lead the league, but it sure didn't rub off on his teammates.

Alex Gonzalez and Robin Ventura
(Photo by Matt Campbell 04.14.99)
Alex Gonzalez could be the first player in baseball history to make this obscure list twice if the Tigers play him 100 to 110 games this season. In 2000, like Barry Foote he was a 23-year old in his second full season. Coming up as a young Marlins prospect, Gonzalez had the reputation of a defensive wiz. That Marlins team was really young, not all that competitive, and precisely in the midpoint between the two Marlins championships in 1997 and 2003.

Which brings us back to Arencibia. He could be a bit bummed to be grouped with these sub-.230 OBP's because he wasn't actually carrying such a low OBP all year last year. He had his moments above .260 OBP in April and late May, and was at .250 as late as August 17th. It really stinks for Arencibia that over the last 101 PA's last year, from Aug 18 - Sep 29, he got just 12 hits and 2 walks for a .139 on base percentage. He will have some playing time in the Rangers lineup, so hopefully he can take advantage and pop a few homes into his home park's friendly power alleys.