Saturday, February 9, 2008

Nick Punto & Associates

I'm not sure it's very newsworthy outside of Minnesota, but Nick Punto was really, really bad last season. His batting line in 536 total PA was .210/.291/.271, meaning he had a .562 OPS. For some perspective, that's a bit below Carlos Zambrano's career numbers. To be fair, however, Punto hasn't always been that horrible. In 2006, he put up a decent OBP (.352), albeit with little power. His career numbers are .245/.314/.321 which, while still bad, are perhaps palatable for a guy who can play every infield position. Unfortunately for Punto and the Twins, he was a starting third baseman for much of the season. Beyond the Box Score has a post about third basemen last season, including a chart of starting third basemen against the league average. If you look at the chart, you'll notice the line for third basemen drops off the graph before hitting the right edge. That's because of Nick Punto.

All this talk of mediocrity got me thinking: who have the worst starters (offensively) of the last ten seasons been? It's pretty easy to look that sort of thing up: I simply looked for guys with an OPS+ of 60 or below (Punto's was 52) and who qualified for the batting title between 1998-2007. Seventeen mediocre players came up. Most of them are middle infielders, so I suppose it's a little more forgivable, but the corner outfielder on the list is just disturbing. Finally, I realize a lot of horrible hitters would be pulled from their team's lineup before qualifying for the batting title, so this list commemorates the players who persevered.

<= 60 OPS+, Batting Title Qualifiers, 1998-2007
No word on whether that was before or after Neifi Perez started taking performance-enhancing drugs. I think this list also points out an important part of OPS+: it's adjusted to the parks and leagues guys play in. That's why Jose Hernandez has a 60 OPS+ the same year Cesar Izturis had a 60 OPS+, even though their numbers are far apart. It's harder to hit in Dodger Stadium than it is in the three stadiums Hernandez played in so that's factored in to the OPS+ calculation. More details are available at the OPS+ explanation in the glossary (I know I've linked to it a bunch of times, but one more can't hurt).

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