June 23, 2003

The Bizarro World All-Stars (Part One: The American League)


Elaine: He's reliable. He's considerate. He's like your exact opposite.

Jerry: So he's Bizarro Jerry.

Elaine: Bizarro Jerry?

Jerry: Yeah, like Bizarro Superman, Superman's exact opposite, who lives in the backwards Bizarro world. Up is down, down is up, he says hello when he leaves, goodbye when he arrives.

Elaine: Shouldn't he say badbye? Isn't that the opposite of goodbye?

Jerry: No, it's still goodbye.

Elaine: Does he live underwater?

Jerry: No.

Elaine: Is he black?

Jerry: Look, just forget the whole thing.


--- Elaine Benes and Jerry Seinfeld, "The Bizarro Jerry"

Two weeks ago, I made my selections for the American League and National League all-star teams.

Today, I present to you the exact opposite. The worst of the worst. The lousiest of the lousiest. The dumb kids in the dumb class. The guys who couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat.

The Bizarro World All-Stars!

(Today I'll do the Detroit Tigers American League and tomorrow I'll cover the National League)

AMERICAN LEAGUE

First Base:



Paul Konerko | Chicago White Sox

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Paul Konerko .191 .268 .275
Average AL 1B .270 .356 .441

Prior to his complete collapse this season, Paul Konerko had been one of the most consistent players in major league baseball. Check out his numbers during his first 4 seasons with the White Sox:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG

1999 .294 .352 .511
2000 .298 .363 .481
2001 .282 .349 .507
2002 .304 .359 .498

While he has completely fallen off a cliff offensively this year, this is something that started to rear it's ugly head during last season's second-half. After hitting .328/.379/.571 in the first-half, Konerko was chosen as an American League all-star. He then hit .270/.332/.402 in the second-half, including .256/.301/.384 in September. Still, as bad as that was, it is nowhere near as horrible as his "hitting" has been this season.

According to Baseball Prospectus, Paul Konerko has been the worst offensive player in baseball this season. Not only is he hitting .191/.268/.275, he is doing it while playing first base, one of the most offensive positions. Baseball Prospectus has him as 12.8 runs below "replacement level" for a first baseman. He is the only player in all of baseball more than 10 runs below replacement level at their position.

The strange thing about Konerko's performance this season is that his entire collapse has been against right-handed pitching, an area he was very good at last season.

In fact, his hitting this season against lefties is actually slightly better than it was last year:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG

2002 .279 .328 .426
2003 .273 .333 .439

And now look at his numbers against righties:

Year      AVG      OBP      SLG

2002 .310 .367 .518
2003 .152 .237 .196

That is an amazing drop-off. His numbers against righties are literally half as good as they were last season. His batting average is down 51%, his on-base percentage is down 35%, his slugging percentage is down 63% and his OPS (on-base % + slugging %) is down 51%.

To make matters worse, Konerko's overall hitting is actually getting worse every month. He started out with a bad April, batting just .238/.309/.381, then hit just .181/.261/.241 in May and now...well, he's been a complete disaster this month. He's hitting .118/.205/.118 in June and has officially lost his everyday job to Brian Daubach.

Second Base:



Ramon Santiago | Detroit Tigers

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Ramon Santiago .238 .309 .281
Average AL 2B .274 .332 .404

Brandon Phillips (.214/.245/.312) has actually been slightly worse offensively this season than Ramon Santiago, but I just couldn't choose anyone, even a guy with a .245 OBP, over someone who has driven in 5 runs in 215 plate appearances. Santiago has not driven in a single run in 43 June at bats and he has exactly 1 RBI in May and June combined (126 at bats).

Santiago is on pace for 415 at bats and 11 runs batted in. How bad is that exactly? Well, he's on pace to tie the lowest RBI total for any player with 400+ at bats in the history of major baseball.

Here are the all-time "leaders":

#    Player                   YEAR      RBI       AB     

1 Charlie Jamieson 1918 11 416
T2 Goat Anderson 1907 12 413
T2 Enzo Hernandez 1971 12 549
4 Ivan DeJesus 1981 13 403
T5 Bobby Byrne 1908 14 439
T5 Bud Harrelson 1968 14 402
T5 Eddie Yost 1947 14 428
T8 Clyde Milan 1909 15 400
T8 Jack Smith 1919 15 408
T10 Julio Cruz 1980 16 422
T10 Denny Doyle 1970 16 413
T10 Roy Thomas 1906 16 493
T10 Charley O'Leary 1904 16 456
T10 Clyde Milan 1910 16 531

My favorite season on that list is definitely Enzo Hernandez in 1971. He had 549 at bats and drove in 12 runs, which works out to a nifty one run batted in for every 46 at bats. In other words, Enzo Hernandez drove in one run every two weeks or so. And that was his rookie season! Not only did he somehow manage, as a rookie, to be given 546 at bats while hitting like he did, he managed to play another 7 seasons in the major leagues, accumulating 2,612 horrible plate appearances.

That 1971 San Diego Padres team that Enzo was on is really quite amazing. Their pitching staff had a 3.22 ERA - third in the National League - and the team went 61-100 because the offense scored 3.02 runs per game and had a team batting line of .233/.291/.332. Of the 11 Padres who had 200 or more at bats in 1971, just 5 of them had an on-base percentage above .300. And while Enzo's .295 OBP was awful, it was actually not even close to the worst on the team.

Ivan Murrell (.263), Cito Gaston (.264), Don Mason (.270) and Ed Spiezio (.286) were all worse. Future ESPN personality Dave Campbell put up a .299 OBP and a .334 SLG, looking like Babe Ruth compared to the rest of this sorry bunch. Ed Spiezio's .286 OBP wasn't even the worst on the team among players whose sons would grow up to be major league players. Fred Kendall, father of current Pittsburgh catcher Jason Kendall, hit .171/.220/.207 in 111 at bats.

Anyway, Ramon Santiago has started to lose playing time to Warren Morris recently, which will keep his RBI totals low, but will also hurt his chances of reaching 400 at bats and joining Enzo Hernandez in that elite club.

Shortstop:



Omar Infante | Detroit Tigers

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Omar Infante .212 .275 .242
Average AL SS .264 .320 .393

As bad as Ramon Santiago has been this year, his double-play partner has been even worse. Omar Infante is hitting just .212/.275/.242 and his .517 OPS is over 70 points worse than Santiago's. That said, his RBI total makes him look like Albert Pujols next to Santiago.

While Santiago has been stuck on 5 RBIs since May 31st and is on pace for 11 this season, Omar Infante has driven in 2 runs this month and is on pace to drive in 17 runs this season. Think about that for a second. The Tigers middle-infield duo of Omar Infante and Ramon Santiago is on pace to total 975 plate appearances this season and drive in 27 runs. Meanwhile, Carlos Delgado drove in 28 runs in 93 April at bats.

Third Base:



Joe Crede | Chicago White Sox

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Joe Crede .240 .276 .358
Average AL 3B .259 .327 .411

That's right folks, it's an all Tigers/White Sox infield! The AL Central should be so proud. Joe Crede put up very solid minor league numbers for several years before coming to the White Sox, and he hit .285/.311/.515 in 53 games with them last year. So far this season though, he has been a disaster.

He is hitting .240 and, because he walks about 3 times a month, he has a grotesque .275 on-base percentage. He also is not hitting for any power. He's on pace to hit just 13 homers and 24 doubles in 538 at bats. He hit 12 homers in 200 at bats last year.

(Dis)honorable mention goes to Damion Easley, who was looking like he owned this spot a few weeks ago, but was so bad (.187/.202/.262) that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays actually released him.

Left Field:



Carl Crawford | Tampa Bay Devil Rays

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Carl Crawford .250 .291 .324
Average AL LF .277 .335 .439

Carl Crawford is one of those "tools" guys. He is a hell of an athlete, can run as fast as anyone in baseball and looks great in a uniform. As with most tools guys though, he is deathly afraid of walking.

Believe or not, despite his .291 OBP, Crawford is actually showing slightly improved plate discipline this year. He had 278 plate appearances with the Devil Rays last year and has 287 so far this year, so he's at about the same level of playing time.

Last year he had a non-intentional walk once every 30.8 plate appearances. This year he has a non-IBB once every 22.3 plate appearances. That might seem insignificant, but if he can make the same type of strides in the second-half or perhaps next season, he will be coming close to an acceptable walk rate. His slightly improved plate discipline is not only showing up in his walk rate, but also the amount of pitches he is seeing. His pitches per plate appearance are up about 8% from last year, although he is still looking at a below-average number.

Another improvement Crawford has made is with his baserunning. Crawford was 9/14 (64%) on stolen bases with Tampa Bay last year and 26/34 (76%) at Triple-A before they called him up. So far this year he is 17/20 (85%), which is even more impressive considering he isn't getting on base a whole lot.

If it seems like I am taking it easy on Carl Crawford instead of making fun of him like I am doing with some of the other Bizarro World All-Stars, you're right, I am. He's still only 21 years old, has incredible physical ability and is actually showing signs of significant improvements in several aspects of his game. Plus, being negative for an entry blog entry isn't any fun, right?

Center Field:



Alex Sanchez | Detroit Tigers

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Alex Sanchez .270 .305 .350
Average AL CF .270 .331 .411

Now, technically, Alex Sanchez probably shouldn't be eligible for this team, because he wasn't even in the American League until about a month ago. He played 43 games in the NL with the Brewers before coming over to the Tigers, where he has played in 21 games.

On the other hand, Alex Sanchez has been bad enough this season that he simply needs to be recognized, so I chose to stick him on the AL squad. Sanchez wasn't completely awful with the Brewers. He hit .282/.316/.380, which is okay, but he was 8/14 (57%) on stolen bases, which is supposed to be his strong suit. Since coming to Detroit he is hitting just .250/.286/.300, although he is 14/18 (78%) on steals.

Alex Sanchez is extremely fast, yet he is not a good defensive centerfielder and even his base-stealing isn't that great. He is 65/91 (71%) during his career, which is very mediocre. If he could learn to take a few walks, he could potentially be a very good leadoff man. He's got the raw skills needed - he can hit for decent batting averages and he's got blazing speed - but for whatever reason he hacks away at the plate, not realizing that the best thing he could possibly do is get on base to utilize that speed.

Stolen bases are perhaps the most overrated thing in baseball right now, but to a team like the Tigers, who are struggling so tremendously on offense, normal baseball rules do not apply. They don't need to avoid making outs so they can wait for a 3-run homer, because it's just never going to arrive. A guy that could get on base and make things happen would have more value to a team that can't score runs than he does to a team like the Blue Jays or the Yankees.

Unfortunately, Alex Sanchez doesn't get on base and, when he does, he's not particularly great at making things happen. In other words, he's a Detroit Tiger.

Right Field:



Jermaine Dye | Oakland A's

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Jermaine Dye .158 .238 .233
Average AL RF .280 .341 .447

From 1999-2001, Jermaine Dye hit .299/.363/.518 for the Royals and A's. He hit 27, 33 and 26 homers and drove in 119, 118 and 106 runs.

After a slow first-half of the 2001 season with the Royals, they dealt him to the A's and he hit .297/.366/.547 down the stretch. Then he fouled a ball off his leg during their playoff series with the Yankees and broke his leg. He missed the first 3 weeks of the 2002 season and, when he came back, he struggled, hitting just .241/.328/.393 in the first-half. His once Gold Glove level defense was noticably down, almost certainly as a result of the leg injury. Then Dye started to show some signs of life in the second-half. He hit .261/.338/.515 in the second-half and then .400/.429/.650 in Oakland's 5-game series with the Twins in the playoffs.

Whatever strides he made in the second-half last year have completely vanished and Dye is absolutely lost at the plate so far this season. He hit .189/.262/.284 in April, missed almost all of May and is hitting .140/.241/.200 so far in June. He is hitting .158/.238/.233 overall this season and has just 6 extra-base hits in 133 at bats. With his offense at an all-time low and his defense in right field still suffering, Dye has started to lose playing time to Chris Singleton, Terrence Long and Billy McMillon, which must be pretty depressing for him.

Catcher:



Brandon Inge | Detroit Tigers

                     AVG      OBP      SLG

Brandon Inge .150 .225 .175
Average AL C .255 .312 .388

I almost thought about not including Brandon Inge on this team because he was mercifully sent down to Triple-A last week. In thinking about, I decided that he did more than enough damage in the time he was in the majors to warrant the starting catcher spot. Inge hit .150/.225/.175 in 188 plate appearances, driving his career numbers all the way down to .183/.242/.292 in 741 PAs.

The amazing thing about Brandon Inge is that, somewhere along the way, he convinced people in the Detroit organization that he is actually going to become a good major league player. And, perhaps more amazingly, they convinced people in the Detroit media of the same thing. Whenever I watch a Tigers game on DirecTV MLB Extra Innings (which, admittedly, is as infrequently as possible), the announcers talk about what a bright future Inge has and they quote Alan Trammell and others from the Detroit staff singing his praises. To which I say, "HUH?!"

In addition to his putrid .534 OPS in 232 career major league games, Brandon Inge was a horrible hitter in the minor leagues too. In 339 career minor league games he has a .244 batting average, a 311/119 K/BB ratio and a .417 slugging percentage. And the funny thing about all this Brandon-Inge-as-the-Tigers'-future-catcher talk is that he turned 26 years old last month.

So, to recap:

1) He's 26 years old

2) He has stunk in the minors

3) He has stunk in the majors

And yet, Alan Trammell thinks he's going to become the next Lance Parrish and the Tigers' TV announcers think he's going to be the next Bill Freehan. Meanwhile, I'll be shocked beyond belief if he even becomes the next Brad Ausmus.

(Dis)honorable mention goes to Brandon Inge's backup in Detroit, Matt Walbeck. As bad as Inge was for the Tigers before they sent him down, he wasn't even close to as horrible as Walbeck, who the Tigers still have not sent down/released/taken out back and shot.

Walbeck is hitting .105/.105/.140 in 57 plate appearances. That is earth-shatteringly bad, the type of numbers that would make Mario Mendoza blush. And it's not like Walbeck has been good before either. He is a career 234/.281/.316 hitter and, besides convincing the Tigers to waste 57 plate appearances on him this season, he had over 2,000 career plate appearances prior to this year.

As far as I know, Matt Walbeck is a pretty good defensive catcher, but far from so extraordinary that it warranted teams wasting thousands of at bats on him over the years. That is one thing I will never understand - how certain players can just get branded as "major league players" and, no matter how poorly they perform, they will be given chances to make teams and waste roster spots for years and years. Meanwhile, there are literally hundreds of guys throughout organized professional baseball that would be more valuable to a team than Matt Walbeck and that has been the case for the last decade or so.

Pitcher:



Albie Lopez | Kansas City Royals

                    IP      ERA     OAVG

Albie Lopez 23 12.71 .383

As is the case every season, there are any number of horrible pitching performances to choose from.

In the AL this year you've got Jim Parque (11.94 ERA) and Jay Powell (10.25) and Nick Bierbrodt (9.16) and Colby Lewis (8.66) and Juan Acevedo (7.71) and Rick White (6.91) and Giovanni Carrara (6.83) - the list goes on and on. But by far, the best - make that the worst - of all American League pitchers this season has been Albie Lopez.

Lopez's pitching was awful. In 22 2/3 innings he gave up 41 hits and 17 walks. Of the 41 hits, 12 went for two-bases and 7 cleared the fence, giving him an opponent's slugging percentage of .692. Overall, batters hit .383/.464/.692 off him, which means everyone he faced this year essentially hit like Barry Bonds (.309/.491/.657).

What's even amusing about Lopez's season is that he gave up 7 runs to the Twins in 2/3 of an inning on June 19th...and the Royals released him about an hour after the game. That's gotta be rough. It isn't often that a player does something so bad in a game that the team completely ignores any sort of courtesy and just tells the guy to get lost immediately. And how bad must Lopez's performance on the 19th have been if that was the breaking point, the time the Royals finally had enough of him, when he came into the game with a 10.23 ERA?!

I'll forever be thankful for Albie Lopez's contributions to the Twins 2003 season. In 4 1/3 innings against the Twins, Albie Lopez gave up 12 runs, which is good for a nifty 24.92 ERA. Twins batters hit an even .500 off him. In an early-season game against Minnesota, Lopez was getting shelled and the Twins were blowing the Royals out and he and Twins third-base coach Al Newman got into a shouting match when Lopez took offense to Newman sending a runner home. To which Newman, obviously still in the heat of the moment, said later something like, "Why doesn't he try to pitch a little better and then he wouldn't have to worry about me sending people?" Amen Newmie, amen.

Of course, the Twins hitters aren't the only ones who had their stats padded by Albie Lopez. He had a 47.25 ERA against Baltimore, 16.20 against Boston, 10.13 against Chicago and 18.00 against Toronto.

I am sure I speak for all American League hitters when I say, come back soon Albie! We miss you!

Finally...

If you missed yesterday's entry about people putting words into Joe Morgan's mouth, click on the following:

The Adventures of Little Joe

Today's picks:

Florida (Penny) +120 over New York (Leiter)

Philadelphia (Millwood) +110 over Atlanta (Ortiz)

Cincinnati (Haynes) +140 over St. Louis (Tomko)

Chicago (Loaiza) -110 over Minnesota (Reed)

Total to date: + $1,520

W/L record: 146-140 (1-3 yesterday for -200)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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