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Worst OPS+ in a season with 200 hits

Posted by Andy on January 23, 2009

On a recent post, commenters discussed the relative merits of Mark Grudzielanek, who has stuck around in the majors for a long time. People forgoet that he had 200 hits in his first full season, and yet it wasn't all that impressive as he had an OPS+ of just 93 that year. Here are the worst OPS+ figures for a guy with 200 hits in a season since 1901:

  Cnt Player            **OPS+**  H  Year Age Tm  Lg  G   PA  AB  R  2B 3B HR RBI  BB IBB  SO HBP  SH  SF GDP  SB CS   BA   OBP   SLG   OPS  Positions
    1 Juan Pierre           82   204 2006  28 CHC NL 162 750 699  87 32 13  3  40  32   0  38   8  10   1   6  58 20  .292  .330  .388  .718 *8
    2 Doc Cramer            84   200 1940  34 BOS AL 150 712 661  94 27 12  1  51  36   0  29   1  14   0  13   3  5  .303  .340  .384  .724 *897
    3 Matty Alou            87   201 1970  31 PIT NL 155 718 677  97 21  8  1  47  30   3  18   4   4   3   9  19 11  .297  .329  .356  .685 *8/9
    4 Taylor Douthit        88   201 1930  29 STL NL 154 748 664 109 41 10  7  93  60   0  38   4  20   0   0   4  0  .303  .364  .426  .790 *8
    5 Juan Pierre           89   202 2001  23 COL NL 156 683 617 108 26 11  2  55  41   1  29  10  14   1   6  46 17  .327  .378  .415  .793 *8
    6 Mark Grudzielanek     93   201 1996  26 MON NL 153 696 657  99 34  4  6  49  26   3  83   9   1   3  10  33  7  .306  .340  .397  .737 *6
    7 Juan Pierre           94   204 2003  25 FLA NL 162 746 668 100 28  7  1  41  55   1  35   5  15   3   9  65 20  .305  .361  .373  .734 *8
    8 Michael Young         97   204 2003  26 TEX AL 160 713 666 106 33  9 14  72  36   1 103   1   3   7  14  13  2  .306  .339  .446  .785 *4/6
    9 Ralph Garr            97   200 1973  27 ATL NL 143 698 668  94 32  6 11  55  22   5  64   2   4   2  12  35 11  .299  .323  .415  .738 *97
   10 Pinky Whitney         98   207 1930  25 PHI NL 149 662 606  87 41  5  8 117  40   0  41   1  15   0   0   3  0  .342  .383  .465  .848 *5
   11 George Sisler         98   205 1929  36 BSN NL 154 686 629  67 40  8  2  79  33   0  17   4  20   0   0   6  0  .326  .363  .424  .787 *3
   12 Fresco Thompson       98   202 1929  27 PHI NL 148 715 623 115 41  3  4  53  75   0  34   1  16   0   0  16  0  .324  .398  .419  .817 *4
   13 Chick Fullis          99   200 1933  29 PHI NL 151 697 647  91 31  6  1  45  36   0  34   5   9   0  15  18  0  .309  .350  .380  .730 *8/5      

Juan Pierre makes it 3 times onto this list, and interestingly played for 3 different teams.

For the most part, these guys all didn't hit with a lot of extra-base power. The differences among them are interesting, though. Michael Young struck out 103 times while George Sisler struck out only 17. Pinky Whitney had 117 RBI while in 2006 Pierre had only 40. One thing they all had, though, was a lot of runs scored.

15 Responses to “Worst OPS+ in a season with 200 hits”

  1. pcg Says:

    "Juan Pierre makes in 3 times onto this list..."

    All BEFORE the Dodgers gave him $7.5M+/year for such abysmal production.

    "... and interestingly played for 3 different teams."

    Hmm, think they all KNEW SOMETHING?

    --Disgruntled Dodgers fan 🙂

  2. Jgeller Says:

    Juan Pierre is like the radioactive waste from The Simpsons. He's got a nice shiny green glowing color (his speed). Because of this, everybody keeps ignoring the "Danger" labels and plays with him anyways. Eventually the teams find a 3 eyed fish flopping around in center field and they ship him off before he makes things worse.
    I'd guess judging from the high runs totals and low RBI totals that other than Whitney (lots of RBI) and Sisler (this was at the tale end of his career), this is a list of some of the most overrated players who batted first or second of all time.

  3. TheGoof Says:

    Sure, Juan Pierre's numbers show that he's no superstar. I won't disagree with the notion that these seasons don't have the luster we associate with 200 hits, and there are more valuable seasons out there with 150 hits or a .250 average. BUT.... let's face it, as it was noted, they score a lot of runs. If you have a guy who gets 200 hits and 100 runs, it's not broke, even if it's a weak 200 hits. The goal is to get runs. If that's how Pierre does it, it may be worse than most, but it works. Just like 20 wins. Unless the guy loses 15 or more games (and nobody does both anymore), who would honestly turn down a 20-win season? If Pedro Martinez goes 15-7 with a 2.50 ERA and Jack Morris goes 22-7 with a 4.50, who do you take for that season? I take Morris.

    Of course, if you've got a great offense and great bullpen, you might pick Pedro for your guy for next year. If you have nobody with pop in the lineup, you might want to replace Pierre with a guy who scored 50 runs but can help turn your lineup into a better run-scoring machine. Or with a guy who had 180 hits and 80 runs batting lower in the order. And you have to take into account factors that inflate numbers, like if Pierre's average was influenced by turf, or his runs by the guys behind him.

    At the end of the day, it's not about better numbers, but what makes a team win. In most cases, 200 hits and 100 runs for a leadoff guy with at least an average glove for his position is a success, regardless of whether it is from 200 singles or 50 homers.

  4. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Goof, agreed, the goal is to get runs. His '03 season is pretty good. He got on base at a fair clip and indeed that was a good team. In '01 he scored 108 runs, which looks good on the surface, but this was pre-humidor Coors. Those 108 runs might be worth 85 somewhere else, which no one would take much notice of. And then that '06 season, scoring 87 runs in 750 plate appearances is not a good ratio. He made one of the highest number of outs in major league history. The goal is to maximize the number of runs scored by the _team_. When Pierre makes that many outs and doesn't push others around the bases, he limits the amount of runs the rest of his team can score, even if he gets a few himself.

  5. David in Toledo Says:

    "If Pedro Martinez goes 15-7 with a 2.50 ERA and Jack Morris goes 22-7 with a 4.50, who do you take for that season? I take Morris."

    How many innings did each pitch? If they're comparable, take Martinez forsure. If Morris pitched 100 extra innings and the only alternative for your team is bullpen guys whose ERAs are 7.50, then the decision is tougher.

    But while you might be able to transfer Morris and his 4.50 ERA to your team, you can't just transfer the 22-7 record his old team made for him. In fact, what you should want to acquire are the hitters and relievers who enabled a 4.50 ERA starter to compile a 22-7 record.

  6. Jgeller Says:

    Well David, those are 2 different arguments.
    Who had the more valuable season: Morris for his 22 wins
    Who would be better on a neutral team, which is what you argue: Martinez for his 2.50 ERA
    Morris on Pedro's mythical team might only have 10-15 wins with that 4.50 ERA, whereas Pedro with a 2.50 ERA should have 20+ wins on Morris's team

  7. David in Toledo Says:

    It's Morris's TEAM that made possible his 22-7 record. We don't know whether HE had a "more valuable" season than Martinez unless we know a lot more about the two pitchers' work that year and about the makeup of their teams. Perhaps Martinez left 15 starts that were tied 2-2 after 8 innings. Perhaps Morris's 22 wins came with average scores of 10-5, when he left the game after 7 innings and had good relief.

    There have been eight times when a pitcher had a 22-7 record (in 2008, Brandon Webb, ERA 3.30). The ERAs of the others were 1.78, 2.32, 2.46, 2.63, 3.23, 3.25, and 3.65. Of course, ERA+ would be a more useful comparative stat, but Goof didn't suggest that. Jack Morris did not win 22 games, during any season, with a 4.50 ERA or with his career ERA+ of 105.

  8. Andy Says:

    This mythical Pedro vs Morris discussion reminds me of a real-life case of people saying that the Yankees will be no better off with Sabathia since he's just replacing Mussina, who had 20 wins last season. The key, though, is that Mussina averaged less than 6 innings per start in 2008, meaning that the pretty bad Yankee bullpen had to pitch in a lot of his games. Mussina had a good year but it was some good luck that allowed him to get 20 wins. (Neutralized record in 2008 is just 14-8.) Sabathia, however, averaged 7.2 innings per start, meaning nearly one out into the 8th inning, allowing his teams to require just a setup reliever and closer in most of his starts.

    If anything, the concern with Sabathia is that he's pitched too many innings. There is no question that he represents a tremendous upgrade over Mussina, despite Mussina having a very nice final year.

  9. David in Toledo Says:

    Indeed, Andy. Sabathia 253 innings in 2008, Mussina 200. Sabathia 17-10, Mussina 20-9. Sabathia ERA+ 162, Mussina ERA+ 132. Can there be doubt as to whom was more valuable, despite their won/loss records?

  10. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Well, Sabathia did put up a lot of his numbers against a minor league 🙂

  11. TheGoof Says:

    To clarify on the Pedro vs. Morris item, I meant under similar circumstances. Coors Field, a lineup with Manny Ramirez batting eighth, or 100 innings lost to a one-time injury (fragility does matter) would change the equation. But if you have a guy would would go 15-7 for your team or a guy who would go 22-7 for your team, each in 35 starts, I don't care about ERA. I want the latter. I'm not saying he's better. I'm not saying he's the better bet for next year. I'm saying he got the job done.

    I think David Wells and Jack Morris were never as good in their primes as Pedro. But their ERAs could be misleading. I bet that a careful check of their stats would prove that many of their runs allowed were after the game was well in hand. Wells would pitch one-run ball into the eighth or ninth of many games before giving up a pointless homer. And if you know your team has 11 runs, it doesn't really matter if you give up 2 or 4. Morris knew that. He pitched to win, not to get a great WHIP or ERA. El Duque and Livan Hernandez pitch that way, too. They don't care about walks and strikeouts, but they do tend to keep their teams, good or bad, in the game. Livan has been at .500 every year for a decade now with drastically different stats and support every year. So he's not great at closing the deal, but he'll give you as much of a chance with 6 ERA and 1.75 WHIP as he does with a 3 and 1.25.

    And I'm not saying that ERA or WHIP are pointless. In most cases, especially if you never saw the pitcher, it's safe to say that they are good judges of how well the guy pitched, far better than wins and losses. I just believe that the trend to dismiss old fashioned stats like wins, runs and batting average has gone a little too far.

  12. Andy Says:

    Honestly, TheGoof, I think you're writing a lot more from the heart than the head. While it's true that stats are overall less meaningful in many cases that many think, they are rarely without meaning. I find very unlikely that Wells allowed an atypical fraction of runs when games were already in hand. Competitive guys like him don't like allowing any runs, regardless of the score. If he allowed runs while way in the lead, it was due to the same skill set he used when the game was tied.

  13. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    People have studied that issue on Morris and it just doesn't seem to be the case. There is very little evidence he pitched to the score. For example see here: His winning % is so good because of run support. You can also look at his splits page, which doesn't have the level of granularity that some studies have gone into, but you can see he basically pitched with the same effectiveness whether the game was close or not, whether high leverage situations or low.

    I will agree that some people go too far in completely dismissing the "old fashioned" stats.

  14. TheGoof Says:

    Thanks for bringing those up, Johnny. I love that kind of analysis. I'd rather be corrected (or at least persuaded) by a good argument than assume a false position. It appears Morris didn't pitch to score, or at least that if he did, it didn't make a difference. I still, however, believe durability is vital, especially with how relievers are used today. I prefer the guy who gives up three runs over eight innings to the guy who gives up one in five. As was pointed out in the Baseball Prospectus article, Morris turned the ball over more frequently to the top relievers. A five-inning pitcher turns it over to two of the team's weakest links, who in turn (if the lead isn't blown yet) turn it over to the top two relievers. An eight-inning guy goes straight to K-Rod, Mariano, or your choice of game-ending hero. I'm sure that someone has or could crunch the numbers and prove this concept right or wrong.

    That article reminds me of the great Bill James analysis of Don Drysdale in clutch games. Drysdale was absolutely unable to close out the big ones down the stretch. Yet he has this lasting impression as a tough guy who you'd want in those games, better than his record--kind of like Morris.

  15. JohnnyTwisto Says:

    Agreed on durability being important. For his time, Morris wasn't an incredible workhorse. He only led the league in IP once and in CG once. But he was among the leaders for many years, while many of his '80s peers weren't able to remain healthy/effective for as long.