Guest Post: Phillies Worst Individual Seasons

With an exciting week nearing its end, it’s time once again for a guest post. Dave, a frequent commenter here and a Twitter compatriot, submitted an article in which he looks at the worst individual seasons by Phillies players over the last 20 years. When you’re done reading, head over to Dave’s blog Where Is Ben Rivera? and his Twitter feed (@WheresBenRivera).

. . .

It was the worst of times; it was the worst of times

A few months back, a friend asked me, “Who do you think was the Phillies’ worst position player in the last—“

Desi Relaford,” I blurted out.

You see, I dig conversations like this. Maybe it’s the masochist in me, but I love reminiscing on the terrible Phillies teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s. This shouldn’t be too surprising, considering my blog is named after a former fifth starter, and I once dedicated an entire post to this man. It keeps me humble. As a Boston resident, I am subjected to water cooler talk like this:

Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are nice, but I really wanted Cliff Lee too.”

When I hear an outcry for trading Chase Utley after his sub-par NLCS, I cringe. The Phils have four consecutive NL East crowns. Our fantastic second baseman had a rough six game stretch. Let’s all take a deep breath. Times are good. Life is good.

Anyways, I’m new to the Sabermetrics game. When you guys were reading Moneyball years ago, I was creating dynasties for PS2’s MVP Baseball.

(Side note: I learned the hard way that you can’t build your pitching staff solely around knuckleball pitchers. Steve Sparks really labored at the back-end of the rotation).

While stat guys focused on OB%, I was wondering how many saves Billy Koch needed to win the Rolaids Relief Man Award (I know. Hindsight is 20/20).

I slowly gravitated towards the Sabermetric-side of thinking. It started with the walks—why must Pedro Feliz swing at every first pitch— and moved on to xFIP and SIERA. I learned that Cole Hamels didn’t have a bad 2009; he was just unlucky.

I then wrapped my head around WAR.

This convoluted opening brings me to today’s post. If I chose the worst Phillies position players (by individual season) from the last twenty years, what would their collective WAR be?

**Note** I only choose starters who registered 400 plate appearances. Seemed as good a number as any.

Cather: Mike Lieberthal

Pickings were slim, and Liebey was certainly serviceable. I would have loved to thrown Rod Barajas on this list, but I fear he would read this, mutate into some green creature, and then clobber two home runs next time at the Bank.

If memory serves (note: numbers not exact), Lieberthal led the league in double plays with runners on first and third, with less than two outs, for the better part of a decade.

2004 WAR: 1.1; .271/.335/.447

First Base: Travis Lee

This was an easy one. Phillies fans have been spoiled by Howard and Thome this decade, and according to Chris Wheeler, Rico Brogna “saved three hundred runs a year” with his glove at first base. Wheels would never exaggerate, so I see no reason to verify this number.

Some Philly fans hated Travis Lee, because he ‘looked’ like he didn’t care (My father for one). I didn’t mind so much that Travis Lee enjoyed surfing; on off-days, he could lather himself up with surf board wax for all I cared. But I couldn’t look past the .265/.331./.394 from our first baseman.

Quick aside: It was good to earn some extra mileage from the Schilling trade when Figueroa joined the 2010 team. I’m not willing to give that trade a concrete grade just yet.

2002 WAR: 0.6

Second Baseman: Marlon Anderson

Life B.U. (Before Utley) was a sad existence, and this position offered many strong candidates. I thought about going old school—penciling in Randy Ready or Tommy Herr—but I played it safe and went with old reliable: Marly.

Marlon Anderson was a highly-touted second round pick, who was pegged as the second baseman of the future. It was not to be. Marlon Anderson was a hipper, trendier Cristian Guzman.

In 2002, Anderson hit .258/.315/.380.

2002 WAR: 0.5

Shortstop: Desi Relaford

As a young lad, I loved Desi Relaford. We were exactly alike. Small statures, middle infielders, both choked up on the bat—both couldn’t hit a lick.

In 1998, Relaford hit .245/.293/.338. Those numbers dwarf in comparison to Mark Portugal’s line from that same season.

1998 WAR: -0.8

Third Base: Charlie Hayes

I had to dip into the archives for this one. Despite what my six year old self may have you believe, Charlie and Von are not related. And Hersey Hawkins and Johnny Dawkins weren’t cousins just because their last names rhymed.

1990 Charlie Hayes’ biggest competition in this contest was…1991 Charlie Hayes. It truly was an evenly-contested match-up.

Winner? The 1991 Charlie Hayes and his .230/.257/.363 line.

1991 WAR: -0.8

Right Field: Ruben Amaro Jr.

Yeah, I know. I didn’t believe it either. Amaro recorded 426 plate appearances in 1992—just “de-WAR’n” 1991 Dale Murphy.

I seemed to have blocked out this 1992 team, although I vaguely remember being a big Stan Javier supporter.

The fans in the right field seats at the Vet couldn’t see past the *smug*, as Rube quietly recorded a .219/.303/.348 line.

1992 WAR: 0.4

Center Field: Ricky Otero

Ever notice that whenever someone mentions random Phillies, or lousy Phillies, or favorite Phillies, Ricky Otero’s name is always brought up? Otero is the poster boy of the Phillies in the 1990s—the little engine that bridged the years between the grunge movement and the Boy Band craze.

Ricky Otero blasted on to the scene with Philadelphia. Through his first seven games, Ricky was hitting .357/.457/.464. What some smart people referred to as ‘sample size,’ my twelve year old self was talking future All-Star game reserve. If sixth graders could drive, I would have taken my mom’s station wagon to Modell’s and purchased a #15 road jersey.

Alas, it was smoke and mirrors. Otero finished the year with a .273/.330/.348 line.

1996 WAR: -0.6

**Note** Doug Glanville certainly gave Otero a run for his money at this position.

Left Field: Wes Chamberlain

I don’t feel good about this one, but options were limited. Wes recorded just 417 PA’s in 101 games in 1991, so he barely met the plate appearance requirement.

By the way, if you’re trying to track down Wes Chamberlain’s ‘top-10 most wanted baseball cards,’ click on his B-R page for a complete list. Wes’ 1994 Dunross card made for a great stocking stuffer last Christmas.

In 1991, Chamberlain hit .240/.300/.399

1991 WAR: 0.1

Catcher: 2004 Mike Lieberthal (1.1)

First Base: 2002 Travis Lee (0.6)

Second Baseman: 2005 Marlon Anderson (0.5)

Shortstop: 1998 Desi Relaford (-0.8)

Third Base: 1991 Charlie Hayes (-0.8)

Right Field: 1992 Ruben Amaro Jr. (0.4)

Center Field: 1996 Ricky Otero (-0.6)

Left Field: 1991Wes Chamberlain (0.1)

Total WAR: 0.5

Times are indeed good.

. . .

Thanks to Dave of Where Is Ben Rivera? for a well-researched piece on some facepalm-inducing seasons from our 1990-2010 era Phillies. Can you think of any other awful seasons? Share them in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

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44 comments

  1. Bill Root, English Lit Guy

    December 16, 2010 08:40 AM

    It’s Hersey, not “Hershey”

  2. cj

    December 16, 2010 08:43 AM

    “Ever notice that whenever someone mentions random Phillies, or lousy Phillies, or favorite Phillies, Ricky Otero’s name is always brought up?”

    LOL. That’s completely true.

  3. Ben Rivera

    December 16, 2010 08:46 AM

    Finally, someone honoring my career. Thank you, thank you very much.

    And trade Blanton this year and I’ll gladly be the Phillies #5.

  4. Travis Lee

    December 16, 2010 08:47 AM

    I would write a long, angry rebuttal to my inclusion on this list but I’m just too lazy and just don’t care enough. About anything.

    I’m going to take a nap.

  5. Ruben Amaro Jr.

    December 16, 2010 08:48 AM

    Who cares, I got you Cliff Lee. CLIFF LEE.

  6. The Vet guy

    December 16, 2010 09:25 AM

    This article just name-dropped Mark Portugal. Well played, sir. I always confuse Chad Ogea and him.

  7. Ned

    December 16, 2010 09:58 AM

    where are greg jeffries and ron gant?

  8. tommy

    December 16, 2010 10:18 AM

    Ned,

    I think Jeffries put up some pretty decent numbers as a Phillie. I loved that he threw his helmet every time he grounded out. ‘A real gamer,’ as they say.

  9. matt c

    December 16, 2010 10:21 AM

    David Doster was a poor man’s Kevin Sefick, if that’s even possible.

    Charlie Hayes was really, really bad. The Phils had him two different times, too.

  10. hk

    December 16, 2010 10:55 AM

    Great job, Dave. You and most (or all) of those who have commented are lucky that you are probably younger than I am and didn’t have to put up with being introduced to baseball via the 1971 and 1972 Phillies, Super Steve notwithstanding.

    The 1972 infield of C John Bateman, 1B Tom Hutton, 2B Denny Doyle, SS Larry Bowa (the early years) and 3B Don Money could in and of themselves make a list comparable to Dave’s. Other than Hutton, who’s OPS+ was 98, which is not good for a 1B, they all produced an OPS+ of 75 or less. Also, check out the beloved John Vuckovich’s 1971 season where he produced a .166 / .211 / .189 triple slash line – yes, a .189 slugging percentage – and an OPS+ of 14 in 233 PA’s as a 3B.

  11. Nix

    December 16, 2010 11:05 AM

    My first thought was Juan Bell, but he didn’t have 400 ABs.

  12. Matt

    December 16, 2010 11:13 AM

    Who can forget the immortal Steve Jeltz? Aside from his “homerun from both sides of the plate” game, he was an automatic out for five seasons.

    Pat Burrell’s 2003 season has to be worse than Wes Chamberlain’s, maybe not in raw numbers but when you combine expectations and total number of plate appearances that he completely stunk up that year.

  13. Matt

    December 16, 2010 11:15 AM

    Per my last post and based on the 400 PA rule, I nominate Steve Jeltz’s 1986 season: .219/.320/.262

  14. matt c

    December 16, 2010 11:15 AM

    hk,

    Nice point. I remember looking at Vuk’s numbers a while back and was blown away. For being so popular, man, he couldn’t hit at all. Chalk one up to a magnetic personality I guess.

  15. Matt

    December 16, 2010 11:16 AM

    Per my last post and based on the 400 PA rule, I nominate Steve Jeltz’s 1986 season: .219/.320/.262

    or what about 1988? .187/.295/.237

  16. alex

    December 16, 2010 11:20 AM

    Steve Jeltz is MLB’s French-born home run leader.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jeltz

    Nevermind. He’s no longer the leading HR hitter.

    Maybe Frenchy surpassed him:-)

  17. alex

    December 16, 2010 11:21 AM

    One other point.

    Remember when Relaford and Anderson were considered the middle infield for years to come? Our expectations were very low in the 90s.

  18. JB Allen

    December 16, 2010 11:22 AM

    @Matt –

    Great point about Jeltz baseball-reference.com has Steve Jeltz with a -1.3 WAR in 1988 – he hit .187/.295/.237 in 450 plate appearances! Did his walks make him too much of a Two True Outcomes Guy to be included?

  19. Jeff

    December 16, 2010 11:22 AM

    2003 Pat Burrell. No contest.

  20. JB Allen

    December 16, 2010 11:28 AM

    Sorry, I missed the 1990 cut-off time. 1988 was the year I became a man, and I like to think that Steve Jeltz helped me get there.

  21. Jamie

    December 16, 2010 11:50 AM

    This was very funny. Nice job, dave. Wheeler was obsessed with Rico Brogna. Isn’t Brogna like a football coach or soemthing?

  22. Ned

    December 16, 2010 12:04 PM

    David Bell anyone?

  23. FanSince09

    December 16, 2010 12:07 PM

    No Greg Dobbs on the list? He had to be the worst Phillie I’ve ever seen!

  24. Phylan

    December 16, 2010 01:34 PM

    Nice post. I’d just like to point out how godawful 1997 Rico Brogna was: 580 PA as a first baseman and he hit .252/.293/.433. Of course, tack on the 300 runs saved and his WAR is like 27.

  25. Jamie

    December 16, 2010 02:09 PM

    HAH! Nice one, Phylan.

  26. SJHaack

    December 16, 2010 02:13 PM

    *where are greg jeffries and ron gant?*

    Believe it or not, busy being much too good to even sniff this list.

  27. Charlie Hayes

    December 16, 2010 02:23 PM

    You may prefer the work in my second career, where I’m known professionally as Mark Henry.

  28. South Philly Bill

    December 16, 2010 02:26 PM

    For 2 seasons I thought Marlon Anderson was playing right field until Wheels said, “Marlon likes to play deep on this Veterans Stadium turf.” Poor guy looked like he was returning serve against Ivanisevic.

  29. Brian

    December 16, 2010 02:58 PM

    “**Note** Doug Glanville certainly gave Otero a run for his money at this position.”

    That’s bullshit. Glanville hit .280 from 1998-2002 including a .325 campaign in 1999.

    In addition, he was a great fielding CFer.

  30. Larry

    December 16, 2010 03:24 PM

    I remember seeing Kevin Sefcik once outside of a dry cleaners. I was maybe 10 and so totally wowed that I couldn’t bring myself to go up and say I was a fan. Looking back I’m sure he would have loved just being recognized. When I was 17 I did actually work up the nerve to say hi to Rico Brogna in a bookstore and that guy was awesome. Talked to me for a good 5 minutes and actually seemed interested in talking to a fan (he must have been pretty lonely guy)

  31. Larry

    December 16, 2010 03:32 PM

    As for Charlie Hayes at least he has the credit of being the cause for the Yankee dynasty in the 90s. He caught the last out of the 96 world series. In hindsight what was a guy who hit .253/.300..375 doing playing for a world series winner? I see he replaced Boggs who graded out higher offensively and defensively. Also fun Hayes fact – he finished 15th in the NL MVP voting in 1995.

  32. Dave

    December 16, 2010 04:00 PM

    Hello,

    2003 Pat Burrell was strongly considered—especially given his number of PAs—but ultimately I sided with his 21 home runs that season and left Pat off the list. I’m a sucker for the long ball.

    Brian,

    I like Doug Glanville, the writer, but not Doug Glanville, the player.

    In 2001 and 2002, Glanville didn’t reach the .300 mark for OB%. He had a good year in ’99 (.325/.376/.457), but I was only measuring single seasons. His 2002 WAR was -0.3.

    www.baseball-reference.com/players/g/glanvdo01.shtml

    Let me preface this by saying that I still carry ill-will towards Glanville for ‘laying up’ on a shallow fly ball in the ninth inning of Eric Milton’s no hitter attempt. I’m still a bit jaded from that day.

    www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/PHI/PHI200407250.shtml

    Thanks for reading everyone and thanks to Bill for posting this.

  33. Matt

    December 16, 2010 04:28 PM

    Thanks to you, Dave. These are the types of discussions only true Phillie fans can love and appreciate. We lived thru a lot of sludge over the years. The next topic should be worst Philly pitching staffs, but have two categories: Home grown stink and Free Agent/Trade stink

  34. Mike

    December 16, 2010 05:07 PM

    Matt, maybe Steve Jeltz couldn’t hit or field worth a damn, but he was fast…FAST, I tell you! And you can’t teach speed, you know!

  35. LarryM

    December 16, 2010 05:56 PM

    Wow, this shows just how consistently good the catching has been over the past 20 years. Under the circumstances, I’d waive the 400 PA rule and put Estrada 2001 in that slot.

  36. Mike P

    December 16, 2010 06:10 PM

    Thank you for this! It’s a nice reminder of how ridiculous it was to root for the Phils in this period.

  37. Moose

    December 16, 2010 06:36 PM

    I can imagine he ever had 400 plate appearances, but from what I recall Alex Arias was terrible.

  38. Moose

    December 16, 2010 06:49 PM

    cant*

  39. Murgatroid

    December 16, 2010 11:01 PM

    I think i was one of the only people who ever liked Travis Lee. i know he was terrible, but he hit a walk-off home run against Urbina and the Expos at a game I was at when I was about 10, so I’ve liked him ever since. I really liked Desi Relaford and Doug Glanville when I was little, it’s sad to see how terrible they really were now. I’m just glad Marlon Anderson was able to keep Mickey Morandini off this list.

    I’d love to see one of these with pitching. I have so many bad memories of Chad Ogea and Paul Spoljaric (who I see you devoted a whole post to). Matt Beech gave me his autograph when I was little though so I always liked him.

  40. Matty B.

    December 17, 2010 08:45 AM

    Murgatroid – If you ever bump into Matt Beech again, tell him Jose said hi.

    He’ll know what that means.

  41. Mratfink

    December 17, 2010 02:34 PM

    Best sign i ever saw at the Vet was a sign that said “Travis Lee-ve” man that killed me. To be fair i remember him being awesome defensively in the way that he could pick any ball in the dirt.
    You really should have included some of the terrible pitchers we have had. Omar Dahl, Chad Ogea, we had some awful awful pitchers.

  42. Dan the Phan

    December 17, 2010 05:00 PM

    He certainly didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for this list, but my dad always ranted about Sil Campusano being the worst player on the worst team! We were at the game when he broke up Doug Drabek’s no-hitter. He didn’t even know how to suck at the right time! In those days, seeing an opposing pitcher throw a no-hitter would have been the highlight of the season.

  43. css228

    December 21, 2010 09:38 PM

    Haha Wheels would never exaggerate

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