Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Worst Season Ever

As most of you have already read (and have had a good hearty laugh at), Tony Womack was designated for assignment yesterday by the Cincinnati Reds. A flurry of questions raced through my mind upon reading the news, including, “did we catch then Reds GM Dan O’Brien in the midst of a peyote binge?” and, “couldn’t have Wayne Krivsky have just saved his team a huge headache and cut Womack loose during spring training?” But then perhaps the most important question of all dawned on me:

Was Tony Womack’s 2005 the worst single-season performance by a Yankee since 1996?

The answer at first was a resounding, “of course, dummy!” Memories tend to be short, and since Womack’s 2005 was still fresh in my mind, it was the obvious choice for worst single-season performance. But then the whole Rondell White debacle in 2002 returned to memory. So I decided to do some simple research to shed some light on the issue.

Methodically, this experiment was rather simple. I took three key indicators of value to determine the worst – or most underperforming – Yankee in each year from 1996 through 2005: lowest on base percentage, lowest slugging percentage, and lowest OPS + (a player’s OPS, park adjusted, compared to the rest of the league; 100 is average). The minimum at bat requirement is 300. Simply, if a player was in the cellar for all three categories in a given year, he became a candidate for Worst Season Ever.

[MORE]Here are the year-by-year results:

Low OBP: Ruben Sierra, .327
Low SLG: Joe Girardi, .374
Low OPS+: Girardi, 81; Sierra, 82

Low OBP: Girardi, .311
Low SLG: Girardi, .334
Low OPS+: Girardi, 70

Low OBP: Jorge Posada, .350
Low SLG: Chad Curtis, .360
Low OPS+: Curtis, 89

Low OBP: Scott Brosius, .307
Low SLG: Jorge Posada, .401
Low OPS+: Brosius, 90

Low OBP: Brosius, .299
Low SLG: Brosius, .374
Low OPS+: Brosius, 67

Low OBP: Alfonso Soriano, .304
Low SLG: Chuck Knoblauch, .351
Low OPS+: Knoblauch, 83

Low OBP: Rondell White, .288
Low SLG: White, .378
Low OPS+: White, 77

Low OBP: Raul Mondesi, .330
Low SLG: Bernie Williams, .411
Low OPS+: Bernie, 109

Low OBP: Sierra, .296
Low SLG: Miguel Cairo, .417
Low OPS+: Sierra, 96

Low OBP: Tony Womack, .276
Low SLG: Womack, .280
Low OPS+: Womack, 47

Ladies and Gentlemen, your nominees are: Joe Girardi in 1997, Scott Brosius in 2000, Rondell White in 2002, and Tony Womack in 2005. Herein, however, lies the problem: it’s difficult to consider Brosius and Girardi for such an egregious award because of their major contributions to other Yankees teams. But, there is no bias in this study; it’s all about what the numbers tell us.

Thankfully, we can immediately eliminate Giardi from the running. While his 1997 may have been atrocious by most standards (.264/.311/.334 in 398 AB), he still managed to get his OBP and Slugging over .300, a feat Womack couldn’t match. And he’s a catcher, a position more valued for defense than offense. Once again, my inner bias wants to eliminate Brosius, and one look at his 2000 Slugging Percentage of .374 has me nearly pressing the button. However, he committed his atrocity over 470 at bats, more than anyone else in the study. Additionally, he plays the more offensive oriented position of third base. Sorry, Scotty, but you’re stickin’ around for now.

PlayerABAvgOBPSlgK/BBPA/KPA/BBSingles/Extra Base Hits

After punching these numbers into the table, the winner becomes painfully obvious. While Brosius had the lowest batting average among the group, his OBP (while still in the dumpster) was the highest. He also boasted a slugging percentage a mere .004 points lower than White while playing at a more defensive oriented position. He had the best strikeout to walk ratio, neared Womack for the lowest strikeout rate, and walked at a much greater rate than the others. Scott Brosius, you are officially pardoned.

That brings us to the issue of Rondell White in 2002. As a left fielder, more is expected of him as a hitter than Womack, who played the majority of his time in center and at second base (though he did see plenty of time in left field). And, seeing as his slugging percentage was nearly 100 points higher than Womack’s, I think we can safely say White outperformed him. For the kicker, Womack’s ratio of one extra base hit for ever 8.11 singles pales in comparison to White’s 2.11 ratio. Oh yeah, and White walked more than once every 29 and a quarter plate appearances.

In fact, it looks pretty clear that Womack is the worst of the group, making Dan O’Brien look even more the fool for giving up any more than a pack of cigarettes for the dismal utility player. And, in the process, Cashman was able to right a wrong committed by the Tampa Contingent. And to boot, Cashman got more value than he did for Rondell (Mark Phillips – who? – and Bubba “Disappearing Boy” Trammell). So in retrospect, the Womack deal wasn’t a total killer. It may have cost the team a game or three, which just made them play harder in September, sans Womack, to make up for it.

You know what? I see potential for a follow-up here. Considering his lowly OBP, SLG, walk rate, power numbers, and OPS+, could Womack’s 2005 have been the worst season since, say, 1980 by a player with 300 AB? Of course, I’d need a bit more time for this question, but I think it’s one worth studying. Then again, the idea of “worst season ever” reeks of subjectivity, and I’m bound to run into a flurry of contradicting opinions along the way.

I guess, if nothing else, it would prove my undying hatred for one Tony Womack and the mental anguish he caused millions of Yankees fans in 2005. I have but one message for the soon-to-be free agent: enjoy your retirement, Tony. It begins today.