The 10 best offensive seasons among the worst hitters of the last 30 years

In this upcoming series of posts, we look at great batting seasons by players who were otherwise among the worst of their contemporaries, at least with the bat.

Before we dive in, let me explain the methodology and the meaning.

  • The “worst hitters of the last 30 years” were the 200 batters, excluding pitchers, with the worst WAR batting runs totals from 1986 to 2015. To give you a sense, the first 3 in this list are Ozzie Guillen (-279 runs), Neifi Perez (-278 runs), and Omar Vizquel (-244 runs) and the last 3 are Tom Foley (-63 runs), Rafael Santana (-63 runs), and Peter Bergeron (-63 runs.)
  • These players are, of course, not the worst players to play MLB during that time. The worst players all had much shorter careers and were, in most cases, even worse hitters but didn’t have enough time to accumulate a negative enough batting runs score to make the list. In other words, most of the 200 players had at least 500 games in the majors and the median number of games was about 990. These are all guys who were at least perceived as “quality major-leaguers”.
  • For one thing, my analysis doesn’t include anything about defense or any of the other components of WAR, such as base running or positional scarcity. It’s no coincidence that Guillen, Perez, and Vizquel all played a lot of shortstop (and mainly played it well). Much of their overall value as ballplayers was in their defense and is not considered in this study.
  • Among that list of 200 players, I found the best individual WAR batting run seasons, tweaked it a bit using my opinions, and created the top 10 list.

We’ll start with entry #10 on the list in a few minutes.

2015 World Series Preview: Game 5

A patented Kansas City Royals comeback—the kind where they keep fouling off tough pitches and putting the mistakes in play until you implode—has them one victory away from a World Series championship.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Major League Baseball couldn’t dream of juicer storylines leading in to Game 5. Even if the season comes to an end on Sunday night, here are some stats to help you savor it.


Historically Speaking…

  • With one more victory, Kansas City would avenge the gut-wrenching loss it suffered to the San Francisco Giants under these same bright lights the previous year. In doing so, this would be the first team since the 1988-89 Oakland Athletics to get a ring the year after losing in the World Series.
  • Alcides Escobar owned the month of October, setting a franchise record with the longest hitting streak a Royals player has ever had in the postseason. And now, he’s within reach of matching Pablo Sandoval (Giants, 2014) for most total postseason hits compiled in one year. Escobar is four hits away from tying Sandoval at 26. As the lead-off man on the visiting team, he’s virtually assured of getting enough plate appearances to attempt that in Game 5.
  • Although without a start in this postseason, Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando has made his presence felt as a late-inning defensive replacement. Assuming that Sunday is another close contest requiring his services, Orlando could become the first player since John Lackey (Anaheim Angels, 2002) to record a hit on his birthday during a World Series.
  • If the New York Mets can’t deliver a title for their fans, the least they could do is give them more Bartolo Colon. The round right-hander continues to defy the laws of physics by holding his own against world-class athletes at age 42. Colon has appeared twice thus far against the Royals. The only player to pitch more games in a World Series at an older age is Jim Kaat (St. Louis Cardinals, 1982).


What to Watch for

  • The Royals have dominated late inning pressure situations in this matchup and throughout the postseason, putting immense pressure on the Mets to jump out to an early lead against Edinson Volquez. But it’s going to be difficult to make solid contact. Volquez’s sinker came out of his hand with fiery velocity in October, and with nastier movement on its journey to home plate than he showed during the regular season. The Mets can win the battle by subscribing to a patient approach against the pitcher with the worst career walk rate among active starters (min. 1,000 career innings).


Follow along for ongoing coverage of the World Series!

And in case this is the cruel end to baseball season, remember that HHS has football goodies for you, too!

2015 World Series Preview: Game 4

Those of us rooting for a long World Series got their wish on Friday night. The New York Mets rode a David Wright break-out at the plate and dominant pitching in the middle and late innings to a 9-3 win over the Kansas City Royals in Game 3.

We witnessed hysteria and an MLB milestone.


At the very least, Halloween will bring us crazy crowd shots of a festive fanbase. But here are the other treats to look forward to.


Historically Speaking…

  • Considering the depth of their bullpen and resiliency of their lineup, the Royals don’t often suffer a loss as lopsided as Friday night’s. Even throughout nine postseason bids in the franchise’s history, blow-outs like that have been few and far between. The Mets would need to outscore them by seven runs in a game to equal the pain K.C. suffered in the 1984 ALCS and 2014 World Series.
  • There’s still time for Daniel Murphy to rediscover his power stroke, but for now, the arc of his postseason is closer to 2008 Melvin Upton Jr. than 2011 David Freese. Murphy is seeking to join Freese, Alex Rodriguez (2009) and Benito Santiago (2002) as the only players to drive in at least five runs in three consecutive series within the same postseason.
  • Steven Matz gets the Game 4 starting assignment for the Mets. Citi Field is just a few miles away from where he was raised on Long Island, and the expectation is that a few (hundred) of his friends and family members will be in attendance. Jamie Moyer understands what that feels like—prior to the Matz, he was the most recent example of a pitcher starting a World Series game in his native state as a member of the home team (Philadelphia Phillies, 2008). Here’s a fun contrast between the two: Moyer was more than 24 years into his pro career when he got that opportunity; Matz is only 24 years into his life.
  • In terms of both result and margin victory/defeat, the past three games have been an exact reenactment of the Mets’ experience in the 1986 World Series. Wouldn’t it be fitting if the “spookiness” continued through Halloween? To keep that going, the Mets would need to beat the Royals by four runs in Game 4 en route to tying the series.


What to Watch for

  • A key to New York’s great offensive performance in Game 3, as ESPN’s Buster Olney points out, was the damage done against Yordano Ventura’s mid-90s fastball. All of their extra-base hits came off that pitch and that pitcher. But the Mets will get a much different look on Saturday with soft-tossing Chris Young, whose stuff rarely even touches 90 mph (and that’s usually out of the bullpen). Although Young surrenders plenty of fly balls, he’s difficult to square up. Postseason and regular season combined, there have been only six extra-base hits in the past 40 innings against him (a .292 slugging percentage).
  • Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

    Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

    Manager Terry Collins made the somewhat surprising decision to use closer Jeurys Familia for the 9th inning, despite a sizable six-run lead. The rationale is more obvious, however, when considering Familia’s career splits. There has been no drop in quality when he pitches on back-to-back days (.188/.267/.286 against, 1.79 ERA). Meanwhile, his most memorable gaffes—the July 30 blown save to the San Diego Padres, the game-tying home run allowed to Alex Gordon in Game 1 of this series—came with Familia rested for at least three days. Collins understandably doesn’t want the right-hander rusty for possible high-leverage situations in Games 4 or 5.

2015 World Series Preview: Game 3

The 2015 World Series resumes with Game 3 on Friday night, as for the first time in its history, Citi Field will host the Fall Classic.

The previous matchups between the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets have given us awesome viewing experiences. Let’s hope the latest installment in this series won’t be any different.


Historically Speaking…

  • Johnny Cueto’s masterpiece caught many of us by surprise, given his uneven performances of the past several months. A complete-game effort by Game 3’s Yordano Ventura would be even more shocking. The most recent example of World Series teammates pitching back to back and going the distance dates back to the 1977 New York Yankees (Mike Torrez and Ron Guidry).
  • Major League Baseball is in the midst of a youth movement, with New York’s Noah Syndergaard considered one of the brightest shining stars. So far this millennium, only two other pitchers—Madison Bumgarner and Michael Wacha—have started in the World Series at a younger age (Syndergaard is 23 years and 62 days).
  • It’s been a few frustrating years for Mets fans, but Citi Field’s 7th season is already being rewarded with a World Series. That now leaves nine other active ballparks on the “gee, we still don’t know what that feels like” list. The oldest among them is Orioles Park at Camden Yards, where the Baltimore Orioles have played since 1992.
  • This year’s MLB schedule is pushing the postseason deeper into autumn than we typically see. The result of the harsher weather conditions should be lower scores. The only game played October 30 or later that ever featured double-digit run-scoring by either team was Game 6 of the 2001 World Series, when the Arizona Diamondbacks erupted for 15. Of course, that exception to the rule was played in the climate-controlled confines of Chase Field.


What to Watch for

  • Yordano Ventura, 2015Yordano Ventura’s season was interrupted by a midsummer demotion to the minor leagues. He rediscovered success upon returning to the rotation, thanks to a lowered arm slot and greater emphasis on throwing his curveball, per Brooks Baseball. Conveniently for him, the curve happens to be the pitch that caused the Mets the most trouble in the second half. It could be another rough night for their offense if Ventura commands it in Game 3.



  • Alterations to the outfield dimensions at Citi Field have led to more long balls, while also shrinking the real estate that outfielders need to cover. Whereas Kauffman Stadium’s vast grass makes it a contact hitter’s paradise (6th in MLB for batting average this season, 5th for doubles, 5th for triples), this venue doesn’t reward that approach (29th, 21st, 24th, respectively). That puts pressure on both lineups to make the most out of mistake pitches by sending them to the bleachers.Citi Field Outfield Dimensions, 2009-2015

Notes from Games 1 and 2 of the World Series

With the first two games of the 2015 World Series in the books, here are some interesting facts from those contests:

Game 1

  • Alcides Escobar hit first inside-the-park home run in the World Series in 86 years. It was on a first pitch to lead off the first inning. So, how many others have smacked a lead-off first-pitch inside-the-park home run, including the regular season? There’s only one other such event in recorded history, since 1938; Tim Raines did it against the Padres’ Chris Welsh on May 7th, 1981.
  • The game lasted 14 innings, tying the longest record for a World Series game, along with game 2 of the 1916 series and game 3 of the 2005 series. First of which featured another first inning inside-the-park 4-bagger, though not leading off, hit by Hi Myers off of Babe Ruth, who tossed all 14 innings for a complete game win.
  • The Royals’ pitching struck out a combined fifteen Mets hitters. This is tied for the second-most single game mark in World Series history, behind only when Bob Gibson famously punched out seventeen Tigers in game one of the 1968 series.
Rk Date Series Gm# Tm Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO
1 1968-10-02 WS 1 STL DET W 4-0 9.0 5 0 0 1 17
2 2015-10-27 WS 1 KCR NYM W 5-4 14.0 11 4 3 3 15
3 1985-10-24 WS 5 STL KCR L 1-6 9.0 11 6 5 4 15
4 1973-10-14 WS 2 NYM OAK W 10-7 12.0 13 7 7 7 15
5 1963-10-02 WS 1 LAD NYY W 5-2 9.0 6 2 2 3 15
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/30/2015.
  • Matt Harvey struck out an uncharacteristic two in six innings, tied for the fewest single-game mark in his career (June 10th, 2015) .
  • Wilmer Flores became the first player to reach on an error while bringing in the go-ahead run in the 8th inning or later of a World Series game since… when Mookie Wilson made Vin Scully yell “Behind the bag!” I kid you not.
  • Alex Gordon’s game-tying home run was the first to put team on top or tie a game in the 9th inning or later in the World Series since David Freese’s walk-off blast in 2011 game 6, exactly four years preceding this game.


Game 2

  • Johnny Cueto set many records with his outstanding two-hit complete game victory. To mention a few…
    • The Dominican right-hander became the first pitcher in twenty years to toss a two-hitter (or better) in the World Series, since Greg Maddux in 1995 game 1.
    • He also joined Roger Clemens in 2000 as the only pitchers to threw more than one eight-plus IP, two or fewer hits outings in a single postseason.
  • Like his colleague Harvey in game 1, Jacob deGrom struck out just two Royals, and that was the fewest single-game record in his big league career, along with 3 other outings.
  • Daniel Murphy has cooled off a bit. Not only has he gone homerless in first 2 games of the World Series, but he’s also struck out twice in each of them. Murphy has had one other multi-K streak in his entire career, spanning over three games from July 2nd to 5th, 2014.

2015 World Series Preview: Game 2

Baseball fans wake up for Game 2 of the 2015 World Series with the same feeling the rest of America has after Thanksgiving dinner, because that’s what this series opener was—a long-awaited celebration that was satisfying on so many levels. It unfolded as expected in certain situations, but with enough surprises to create an epic experience, especially from a stats perspective.

Getty/Doug Pensinger

Getty/Doug Pensinger

Now, let’s look forward to doing it all over again on Wednesday night.


Historically Speaking…

  • The New York Mets will attempt to rebound in Game 2, knowing the slim chances they have of overcoming a 2-0 deficit. The 1986 World Series is the only example in franchise history of them losing consecutive games in a postseason series and going on to win it. Anything can happen under these bright lights, but it’s difficult to imagine the nasty Kansas City Royals relievers suffering through that kind of choke job.
  • Most of his management career has been mediocre, but Ned Yost is suddenly a dominant force in October. A Game 2 victory would bring his postseason record as a skipper to 20-8, matching how Casey Stengel started his legendary career. Only Joe McCarthy—20 wins in his first 27 postseason games—excelled more from the get-go.
  • If we extend into extra innings again, it would be the first time since Games 4 and 5 in 2001 that a World Series goes beyond regulation on back-to-back nights.
  • Let’s say Game 2 veers in the opposite direction, with one team routing the other…might we see a position player make World Series history by taking the mound? (h/t to Scott Lindholm for confirming that there’s no precedent) The circumstances are perfect for that kind of novelty, considering the depleted states of both bullpens and limited rest. The Royals have fire-baller Drew Butera at their disposal, while the Mets could lean on Michael Cuddyer’s experience.


What to Watch for

  • This season, fastball velocity has been a strong indicator of whether or not Johnny Cueto succeeds or flops in any given start. His highest Game Scores—a 93 on July 7 and a 87 on August 10—came in outings where his four-seamer and sinker both averaged at least 93 mph. The same was true of his ALDS Game 5 masterpiece (8.0 IP, 2 H, 8 K). But when the velocity drops, he’s had trouble generating swinging strikes,. That extends opposing plate appearances and inflates his pitch count in the early innings.
  • In Game 1, most of New York’s offense was generated with the put-the-ball-on-the-ground-and-pray-the-BABIP-gods-are-on-your-side strategy. That’s probably their best option in Game 2, as well. Leaning on Kauffman Stadium’s size and the defensive skills of their outfielders, the Royals only allowed a .558 OPS on fly balls during the season (league average was a .590 OPS).
  • Ned Yost has shown himself to be a big fan of the sacrifice bunt, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him turn to it again versus Jacob deGrom. Swinging for the fences to advance baserunners often ends in disappointment against deGrom, who minimizes solid contact. He ranked 11th-best in MLB this year in limiting the distance of batted balls (min. 300 ABs with batted ball data). There’s also a strong possibility that Terry Collins optimizes his run prevention by starting Juan Lagares in center field.

2015 World Series Preview: Game 1

Tuesday night marks the beginning of a highly anticipated World Series between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals.

It’s going to be Fall Classic first-timers versus a club that has “been there before;” power pitching versus contact hitting; Jim Breuer versus Sung Woo Lee; a mega market versus one of MLB’s tiniest.

High Heat Stats will bring you insight and entertainment throughout the series. Game previews like this will put star—and scrub—performances in historical context, while dissecting the matchups that could determine which team clinches the 2015 title.


Historically Speaking…

  • The best run differential for a New York team in the 162-game era—since 1961—belongs to the 1998 Yankees (plus-309). The Mets have thus far outscored their opposition 43-26 in the postseason, a plus-306 run differential if scaled over 162 games.
  • If Bartolo Colon makes an appearance, he’ll be the oldest player (42 years, 156 days) to do so in the World Series since Jamie Moyer in 2008 (45 years, 342 days for his Game 3 start).
  • Prior to NewMatt Harvey-Dark Knight York’s Matt Harvey, Barry Zito (San Francisco Giants, 2012) was the most recent Scott Boras client to serve as starting pitcher for a World Series opener. Prior to him, it was Anthony Reyes of the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar seeks to become the first player ever to win ALCS MVP and World Series MVP in the same postseason. (The American League began recognizing an ALCS MVP in 1980.)
  • Royals reliever Luke Hochevar will join David Price as the only pitchers to be selected No. 1 overall in the amateur draft and compete in the World Series for their original teams.
  • Six of the 11 pitchers on Kansas City’s active roster weren’t on the team when it won the AL pennant last year.


What to Watch for

  • Kansas City’sAlcides Escobar Heat Map Escobar has been an aggressive hitter throughout 2015, but he is taking that to an extreme this October. In 20 percent of his postseason plate appearances, the shortstop has put the first pitch in play. His heat map in these situations comes courtesy of ESPN’s Mark Simon.
  • The Mets used their baserunning to put pressure on the defenses they faced in the NLDS and NLCS, averaging a stolen base per game. With nearly a week to rest their legs leading up the Game 1, that’s a trend we might see continue…especially as Edinson Volquez takes the mound for the Royals. The battery of Volquez and Salvador Perez caught only four of 22 would-be base-stealers this season (81.8% success rate), and Volquez has just one career pick-off.
  • Home run binges have been a huge reason for New York’s second-half ascension, but rallying with the long ball will be a challenge in the series opener. The back end of Kansas City’s bullpen features a rested Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis. A product of both their pitching styles and the spaciousness of Kauffman Stadium, Herrera and Davis are among the least homer-prone relievers, despite heavy workloads. Here’s how they stack up to their AL peers in HR/9 since the beginning of 2014, according to FanGraphs:

AL HR/9, 2014-2015


Follow along for ongoing coverage of the World Series!

And HHS has football goodies for you, too!



Daniel Murphy and Making Contact Count

Daniel Murphy‘s history-making run of 6 consecutive post-season games with a home run is one of this October’s most notable stories.Less well-known, perhaps, is Murphy’s prowess in making contact, ranking 2nd (first in the NL) in making contact on 92% of his swings, and leading all of baseball with a batted ball in play (AB – SO + SH + SF) in 86.8% of his PAs.

But, when you take in this year’s Fall Classic, remember to cast a glance at the Royals’ second baseman too. Ben Zobrist is no slouch himself when it comes to making contact. More on Murphy, Zobrist and contact hitters after the jump.

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Note from Game 4 of the ALCS

Another day, another crazy ALCS game. Here are some notes:

  • Cliff Pennington became the first position player in post-season history to pitch in a game. This excludes, of course, 3 games by Rick Ankiel and 3 by Babe Ruth, all coming before their careers primarily as position players.
  • RA Dickey became the first Blue Jays’ starting pitcher to fail to go at least 2 IP in a playoff game. The previous shortest outing was 2.0 IP, by Todd Stottlemyre in the insane Game 4 of the 1993 World Series.
  • Dickey’s Game Score of 28 was only the 6th-lowest by a Blue Jay in a playoff game. The 5 lower scores were all in the 1991-93 postseasons.
  • The Blue Jays are now 25-25 in 50 all-time playoff games. They are 17-10 in games in which they homered and 8-15 in games without a homer.
  • The Royals’ 14 runs in a franchise high for the playoffs, besting by 3 runs their total of 11 from the Game 7 drubbing of the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series. Interestingly, the Royals went more than 4 years between regular-season games of 14+ runs until finally breaking the mark twice in September of this year.
  • Alcides Escobar set the single-game playoff record for RBI by a Royals’ leadoff batter, with 4. The only other leadoff Royal to have even 3 in a game was George Brett, in Game 3 of the 1978 ALCS.
  • LaTroy Hawkins is closing in on the worst playoff ERA in history. He has a 6.75 ERA over 22 career postseason appearances. Among pitchers with at least 20 games, only Tom Gordon (7.06 in 21 games) and Rick Honeycutt (6.93 in 30 games) are worse.
  • I don’t have good stats on this, but the Royals had 5 hits in 5 plate appearances from the 9-hole last night. That was 3 PAs by Alex Rios and 2 by Paulo Orlando. No single batter has ever had more than 4 hits in 4 PAs from the 9-hole (done by Adam Kennedy, Game 5 2002 ALCS & Spike Owen, Game 6 1986 ALCS) but I’m not sure about 2 combined batters from the 9-hole.
  • Liam Hendriks’ 4.1 IP relief appearance is now the longest in Blue Jays’ post-season history, topping two different 3.2 IP appearances by Dennis Lamp in the 1985 ALCS and one by Todd Stottlemyre in the 1992 ALCS.
  • If you’re paying attention, until yesterday Todd Stottlemyre held (or co-held) the Blue Jays’ post-season records for both shortest starting effort and longest relief effort. AND he saw both records broken in the same game. Weird.