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Worst Opening Day performance ever? Not quite.

Posted by Neil Paine on April 2, 2011

Regarding Albert Pujols' brutal season-opening performance vs. San Diego on Thursday, Greg Simons of The Hardball Times semi-facetiously wondered whether Pujols had the worst Opening Day performance ever.

The answer? No -- but it was close:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP GDP SB CS WPA RE24 aLI
1 Dusty Baker 1986-04-08 OAK MIN L 2-3 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.612 -1.888 2.988
2 Shane Halter 2001-04-03 DET MIN L 2-3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.572 -2.392 3.518
3 Glenallen Hill 2001-04-03 ANA TEX L 2-3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 -0.546 -2.862 1.975
4 Tony Horton 1966-04-12 BOS BAL L 4-5 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 -0.494 -2.979 2.382
5 Melvin Mora 2011-04-01 ARI COL W 7-6 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 -0.450 -2.563 2.028
6 Albert Pujols 2011-03-31 STL SDP L 3-5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 -0.436 -3.227 1.906
7 Josh Bard 2003-03-31 CLE BAL L 5-6 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 -0.414 -3.070 2.065
8 Terry Pendleton 1985-04-09 STL NYM L 5-6 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 -0.410 -2.155 2.642
9 Eddie Yost 1959-04-10 DET CHW L 7-9 7 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 -0.404 -1.892 2.111
10 Marlon Anderson 2001-04-02 PHI FLA W 6-5 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 -0.400 -1.761 1.934
11 Lou Brock 1974-04-05 STL PIT W 6-5 6 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 -0.394 -2.357 1.364
12 Ron Hassey 1981-04-11 CLE MIL L 3-5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.393 -1.515 6.840
13 Johnny Ray 1987-04-07 PIT NYM L 2-3 5 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 -0.391 -1.929 2.566
14 Dave May 1974-04-05 MIL BOS L 8-9 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 -0.373 -2.176 2.394
15 Mike Hargrove 1976-04-09 TEX MIN W 2-1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 -0.370 -2.526 2.156
16 Ed Kirkpatrick 1969-04-08 KCR MIN W 4-3 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 -0.370 -2.588 2.052
17 Dave Parker 1980-04-10 PIT STL L 0-1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 -0.368 -1.681 2.270
18 Bill Russell 1975-04-07 LAD CIN L 1-2 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 -0.368 -1.592 1.897
19 Frank Bolling 1959-04-10 DET CHW L 7-9 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.368 -1.977 1.979
20 Jim Northrup 1974-04-05 DET BAL L 2-3 5 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 -0.364 -1.828 3.208
21 Eddie Mathews 1966-04-12 ATL PIT L 2-3 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 1 0 0 -0.361 -1.881 2.048
22 Bret Boone 2002-04-01 SEA CHW L 5-6 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 -0.359 -0.915 2.090
23 Placido Polanco 2008-03-31 DET KCR L 4-5 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.354 -2.141 2.110
24 Eddie Joost 1950-04-18 PHA WSH L 7-8 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 -0.350 -2.610 1.790
25 Alex Arias 2001-04-02 SDP SFG L 2-3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.349 -1.560 5.960
Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO HBP GDP SB CS WPA RE24 aLI
26 Ken Griffey 1996-03-31 SEA CHW W 3-2 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 -0.349 -1.449 1.962
27 Spike Owen 1986-04-08 SEA CAL W 8-4 4 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 -0.349 -1.777 2.398
28 Luis Gonzalez 1994-04-04 HOU MON W 6-5 6 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 -0.344 -1.755 2.387
29 Gus Bell 1963-04-09 MLN PIT L 2-3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.343 -1.483 6.220
30 Kevin Kouzmanoff 2010-04-05 OAK SEA L 3-5 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 -0.342 -2.374 1.863
31 Darrel Chaney 1975-04-07 CIN LAD W 2-1 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.339 -1.356 3.210
32 Stan Musial 1953-04-14 STL MLN L 2-3 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.338 -1.984 2.044
33 Ralph Garr 1973-04-06 ATL HOU L 1-2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 -0.335 -1.839 1.977
34 Darren Lewis 2001-04-02 BOS BAL L 1-2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 -0.334 -1.364 4.240
35 Bill Tuttle 1960-04-19 KCA CHW L 9-10 6 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.333 -1.785 1.493
36 Kevin Seitzer 1992-04-06 MIL MIN L 2-4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.332 -2.015 2.222
37 Johnny Bench 1975-04-07 CIN LAD W 2-1 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 -0.331 -1.968 2.210
38 Bob Robertson 1969-04-08 PIT STL W 6-2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 -0.330 -1.895 2.010
39 Billy Pierce 1957-04-16 CHW CLE W 3-2 5 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 -0.330 -1.677 2.764
40 Troy Tulowitzki 2011-04-01 COL ARI L 6-7 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 -0.325 -1.659 2.188
41 Willie Stargell 1980-04-10 PIT STL L 0-1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 -0.323 -1.364 2.935
42 Carlos May 1975-04-08 CHW OAK L 2-3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.322 -1.553 2.353
43 Red Schoendienst 1953-04-14 STL MLN L 2-3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.322 -1.911 2.180
44 Gene Clines 1978-04-07 CHC PIT L 0-1 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.317 -2.027 2.023
45 Rufino Linares 1981-04-10 ATL CIN W 5-3 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.316 -2.693 1.678
46 Whitey Herzog 1957-04-15 WSH BAL L 6-7 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 -0.316 -1.572 1.855
47 Edgardo Alfonzo 2003-03-31 SFG SDP W 5-2 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 -0.315 -1.893 2.000
48 Steve Yeager 1975-04-07 LAD CIN L 1-2 6 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 -0.314 -1.692 1.647
49 Rocky Colavito 1957-04-16 CLE CHW L 2-3 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 -0.313 -1.758 1.946
50 Marc Newfield 1998-03-31 MIL ATL L 1-2 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 -0.311 -2.155 1.847
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/2/2011.

Of course, I don't have to remind you that this basically says nothing about Albert going forward -- Pujols will likely go on to have another MVP-type season, and this bad game will be forgotten within a week.

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 2nd, 2011 at 1:43 pm and is filed under Game Finders, Play Index, Stats. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

23 Responses to “Worst Opening Day performance ever? Not quite.”

  1. I wanna see him go hitless today so he can have his first 2-game start of season hitless streak of his career

  2. Looking at Dusty's box score, I saw the Mariners beat the Angels that day 8-4 in 10 innings.

    Seattle's Jim Presley hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game, then won the game with a grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the tenth. ... WPA: .907!
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SEA/SEA198604080.shtml

    Best Opening Day Performance (non-Bob Feller Division)?

  3. When I saw the title, I thought it was about Fausto Carmona :-(

  4. if you sort it by RE24, puujols DID have the worst game. he simply didnt have the lowest wpa becuase he was in lower leverage situations.

  5. Bogus!
    I just noticed...once again xtra inning games are counted!

  6. So Albert Pujols wasn't even the worst Opening Day performaince this year, being outdone by Melvin Mora's performance for the Diamondbacks against the Rockies in their opening game. Thought the D-backs actually won despite Mora's efforts - he had the lowest WPA of any winning Arizona position player in franchise history.

    I wrote more about Mora's suck here. I'd love to know if his -45% was the worst by a player making his debut for a team, but I can't work out how to see that.

  7. Well, in thinking about 'worst' as 'compared to expectations', you could make a case for Pujols... it's not like you'd be as surprised that Glenallen Hill had a sucky game. Nothing against him, but you know what I mean.

  8. April 7, 1975, was a bad day to be a catcher or shortstop in Cincinnati. Johnny Bench and Steve Yeager, and Darrel Chaney and Bill Russell, are all on this list from the same game.

  9. My bad. Chaney played third in that game.

  10. All this proves are the flaws in WPA.

  11. @2 Redsock - nice catch on Presley; that is one heck of an Opening Day (or any day)! That game probably convinced the Mariners it was a good idea to keep Edgar Martinez in the minors ;-)

    I also noticed in the boxscore that Danny Tartabull was the leadoff hitter for the Mariners...and played 2B. I had no idea he ever played the IF but in looking over his career, I see he played a total of 61 games there early in his career (5 at 3B, 24 at SS & 32 at 2B).

  12. [...] Worst Opening Day performance ever? Not quite. » Baseball … [...]

  13. Some pretty good ballplayers on that list. Do you think a guy like Gene Mauch would want to platoon any of these guys? How many runs/27 outsnwould these guys score?

    RF Musial
    CF Griffey, Jr.
    3B Mathews
    1B Pujols
    DH Stargell
    C Bench
    SS Tulo
    LF Brock
    2B Schoendienst

  14. @10

    Exactly. WPA really doesn't have anything to do with the player who had the worst game, it has more to do with how that performance lined up with what the rest of the team was doing. If you ground into a double play with your team losing 2-1 or winning 13-2, it's still just as bad of a play individually. However, the WPA in the 2-1 game will be significant, while in the 13-2 game it is negligible.

    There was a post a few weeks back about best birthday performances, and I was surprised to not see Nomar's 3-homer game against Tampa in 2002 on there. I then remembered that the Red Sox ended up winning that game something like 22-5, compromising the quality of his performance in WPAs eyes.

    WPA can be a useful tool to measure trends over a long period of time - for example, to measure a claim that certain players will be more "clutch" than their statistics would otherwise show. It can also be useful when analyzing a game, both real time and in hindsight, to identify critical points/plays. However, what WPA is not useful for is comparing games of two different players, because it is dependent not just on outcome but on situation.

    I mean, just look at the results this generated. Which is a worse individual performance, going 1 for 5 with a GIDP, or 0 for 5 with 3 GIDP? According to WPA, it is the former. I don't need a complex linear weights formula to tell me that's wrong.

  15. Well, that's an argument about the difference between performance in a vacuum and value within the context of a game. Depending on which definition you use, you're going to get different results. Like #4 said, if you want to ignore the leverage aspect, you can sort by RE24.

  16. John Autin Says:

    @11, Dave V. -- Tartabull came up through the minors as an infielder, mostly at 2B. Although he was error-prone and seemed not long for that job, early rotisserie players salivated.

    BTW, check out the 1986 AL rookie class: Tartabull had 25 HRs, 96 RBI and a .270 BA -- and placed 5th in the ROY vote, behind Canseco (33-117-.240), Joyner (22-100-.290), reliever Mark Eichhorn (14-6, 1.72 ERA in 157 IP, with 10 saves), and Cory Snyder (24-69-.272 as an OF/SS).

  17. Neil,
    You hit the nail on the head. "Value within the context of the game" can be misleasding, so, in my mind, it's a very poor way to measure best and worst. I mean, if Player A gets hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, one could easily argue that he has more "value within the context of the game" than a guy who hit three homers in a game that his team loses 10-5. But did the guy who gets hit by the pitch have a "better" game? That's awfully hard to defend.

    It's possible that sabermetricians don't do enough to consider the importance of game context. By the opposite token, I feel that considering WPA to determine "best" or "worst" on the basis of a single game set us back to the days of sports reporting where players were considered "clutch" or "goats" simply on the basis of what they did in high-leverage situations.

    I hope I'm not coming off as condescending here - I just think it's important to have a discussion on what our interpretations of "best," "worst" and "value" are. My view is that WPA gets it wrong.

  18. Take a look at the play-by-play of the game Dusty Baker had that WPA calls the "worst opening day ever." He was having an ordinary 1-for-4 game, nothing particularly significant, until he came up in the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and the A's down by a run. He batted into a game-ending double play. That must have been crushing, but it was his only big negative; he played DH so he made no fielding miscues, and he made no base-running mistakes. So was a game-ending double play even the worst opening day at-bat ever?

    Until now I never realized how bogus WPA is.

  19. John Autin Says:

    @17-18 -- I, too, have criticized WPA on a number of counts. I do not think it is a particularly good measure of "good" or "bad" games in the general sense.

    At the same time, I don't think it's fair to say that WPA is bogus or gets it wrong. WPA is what it is, a purely probabilistic measure of how a player's offensive events change his team's odds of winning the game; it can be useful in various aspects of analysis and discussion, as long as we don't try to make it do too much. If someone uses WPA in a way that distorts its meaning, that doesn't devalue the stat itself, any more than batting average is devalued when someone argues that one player is better than another because of a higher BA.

    In the case of this blog entry, I'm not jumping all over Neil. But I do think it would have been better to call it, "Worst Opening Day WPA ever?"

  20. Dusty still did more to help his team win that day than at any point as a manager

  21. @19

    I agree with everything you said, with the exception of "If someone uses WPA in a way that distorts its meaning, that doesn't devalue the stat itself." While the statistic itself may remain useful in its own way, misuse of that statistic will result in people mistrusting it and stop using it altogether. Think of it this way - is RBI a meaningless stat? I would say no - it is a very simple function of how many runs a batter drives in, and how many opportunities he had to drive them in. However, it was misused for decades as a way to determine what player was "best," when it isn't. Now, anyone who quotes RBI in an argument gets a funny look from anyone in the statistical analysis community. It's not the meaninglessness of the stat, but the years of misuse, that brought us to that point.

    I'd hate to see the same thing happen with WPA, which, as you said, is a useful stat for its purposes. Dusty Baker did not have a worse game than Albert Pujols. Claiming that WPA proves he did, when that's not what WPA is meant to measure, will simply turn people off of WPA.

  22. Wow, I didn't expect this to be so controversial.

    Again, it all depends on your definition of "worst". Here, I'm defining worst as: "players who decreased their teams' chances of winning the most within the context of each specific game".

    If you think that clutch considerations like leverage index should not be taken into account, you can re-run the above list but sort by RE24, which shows how much a player decreased his team's run expectancy without considering how "crucial" the situation was. That's another way to define "worst". There's no right or wrong answer, it just depends on whether you're focusing on the value of each performance in a vacuum, or within the context of the actual game itself.

  23. Neil, you should mention that this is for 1950-2011, since it requires p-b-p data.

    Pujols' opening day was the 263rd worst by RE24 overall (not just for opening day games). He has the 813th, 871st and 918th best RE24 in a game. Aramis Ramirez has the most RE24 games above 4.9 with 7 (I took 4.9 to compare with Pujols, who had 3 games over that).

    RE24 also has context; if the bases are empty, the most you can increase RE is 1.000. Not surprisingly, Mark Whiten's 4-HR, 12-RBI game in 1993 has the best RE24, 9.495.
    Mike Cameron hit 4 solo HR in a game in 2002 and had only 4.064 RE24 (the extra .064 came from a HBP minus an out). From a linear weights standpoint, Cameron had the better game because of the HBP (they both went 4 for 5).