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).
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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:
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.
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.
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.
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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.