In the last 30 seasons (1983-2012) there are 169 now-retired players to have registered at least 1 season worth 5 Wins Above Replacement. This group is led by Barry Bonds, who did it a whopping 17 times, and Ken Griffey, who did it 9 times. The players atop that list are among the best to have played MLB in the last 3 decades.

But by looking at things a bit differently, we can come up with some surprising names among that same group.

Among those 169 players with at least 1 career 5-WAR season, here are the lowest total career WAR:

Rk Player WAR/pos From To Age OPS Pos Tm
1 Kevin Young 4.2 1992 2003 23-34 .762 *3/597D KCR-PIT
2 Rich Gedman 8.1 1980 1992 20-32 .703 *2/D BOS-TOT-STL
3 Jacque Jones 9.2 1999 2008 24-33 .775 978/D MIN-CHC-TOT
4 Randy Ready 9.9 1983 1995 23-35 .745 457/D39 MIL-SDP-TOT-PHI-OAK-MON
5 Derek Bell 11.3 1991 2001 22-32 .757 *98/75D1 TOR-SDP-HOU-NYM-PIT
6 Hank Blalock 11.6 2002 2010 21-29 .791 *5D3/49 TEX-TBR
7 Gary Matthews 12.3 1999 2010 24-35 .737 *897/D SDP-CHC-TOT-TEX-LAA-NYM
8 Jose Oquendo 12.4 1983 1995 19-31 .663 *46/5937812 NYM-STL
9 Morgan Ensberg 12.8 2000 2008 24-32 .830 *5/3D6 HOU-TOT-NYY
10 Ruben Sierra 13.0 1986 2006 20-40 .765 *9D7/8 OAK-TOT-CHW-TEX-SEA-NYY-MIN
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/27/2012.

So, yeah. Kevin Young put up a fantastic 1999 with the Pirates, posting a 5.3 WAR. He had a 128 OPS+ as the everyday first baseman and also posted unusually good defensive numbers. But in the rest of his career? He posted -1.1 WAR in his 11 other seasons, giving him a career total of just 4.2.

Many of the rest of these guys are all known for 1 or 2 breakout seasons:

  • Rich Gedman had a stellar 1985, playing in 144 games as a catcher and putting up a 126 OPS+. He was also good in 1984 and 1986, amassing 11.4 WAR over those 3 seasons. Sadly, that means he totaled -3.3 WAR in the rest of his career.
  • In 2002 Jacque Jones looked like a breakout star, putting up 5.1 WAR in his 4th season. He wasn’t a terrible player by any means, but he was worth close to 1 WAR in most of the rest of the years of his career.
  • Hank Blalock couldn’t stay healthy. He put up 6.1 WAR at age 22 and another 4.3 at age 23. Then he stopped hitting for 2 years, and when he got his stroke back he couldn’t stay in the lineup.
  • Randy Ready was a part-time player his entire career except for 1987 with the Padres. He had a 153 OPS+ and 5.6 WAR, but still wasn’t given a chance to play full time in the rest of his career. He never had another season with even as much as 2 WAR.
  • And then there’s Ruben Sierra. Our own Adam Darowski wrote about him at Beyond the Boxscore, noting that Sierra had essentially all of his career value within his first 6 seasons, and most of that was in just two years–1989 and 1991. Sierra had WARs of 5.5 and 4.9 in those seasons, never had another season higher than 2.2, and had -5.7 WAR from 1993 through to the end of his career in 2006.

 

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