I’m in love with the new Baseball-Reference WAR data. WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, is the uber-stat that attempts to encompass the total value of what makes a player, erm, valuable. With the development of FanGraphs and other saber-slanted websites, WAR has become a pretty well known statistic. If you’re new to the game, check out the glossary section of the site for a definition.
One of the components of WAR is fielding. Now that BB-Ref is providing WAR data, I’ve been having a good time running various queries. Best WAR seasons, best baserunning seasons, best fielding seasons — and today’s post, the worst fielding seasons in Giants’ history. A few words before we jump in and have fun. Baseball-Reference’s fielding component for WAR comes in the form of Total Zone. It’s expressed in runs above (or below) average. Also, when considering defense at a position we must realize that a -10 run first baseman isn’t the same as a -10 run shortstop. The shortstop is a much more athletic group when compared to your average group of first basemen. So, we can assume that if we moved a SS to 1B he would be very good, if we moved a 1B to SS, he wouldn’t do so hot.
Now, let’s check out the 10 worst fielding seasons — as measured by the Total Zone component of BB-Ref WAR — in Giants’ history.
A graph plus the data table. Click the graph to enlarge. It looks much better at full resolution.
|6||Jim Ray Hart||-18||160||1965||23||*57/9|
A good mix of Giants past and present. A few words on some of the names on our list.
- #1 on our list is Bobby Murcer’s 1975 season which clocks in at -22 runs below average just on defense. Bobby Murcer is known for a few things in his baseball career. First and foremost, from a Giants’ perspective, is that he’s the player the Giants traded for when Bobby Bonds was sent to New York in the offseason of 1974. Bonds went on to have maybe his finest season that year when he hit .270/.375/.512 (151 OPS+). For the Giants Murcer had a fine year on offense batting .298/.396/.432 (127 OPS+) but, as our graph and data table show, his defensive numbers in the outfield were terrible. Oddly enough, Murcer — a gold glove winner in 1972 — scores poorly by Total Zone throughout his career. He owns a career mark of -97 runs below average in the outfield. It’s almost as if the Gold Glove Award doesn’t do a good job of assessing good defense. Hmmm.
- Ron Hunt was never considered a strong fielder and his 1970 season and the -20 runs (nearly negative 2 wins) he accumulated on defense was a career worst. Hunt, a career 2B, played primarily 2B in ’70 but he also saw some time at 3B. Hunt — the master of getting hit by pitches– has maybe one of my favorite baseball quotes of all time, “Some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball,” And to back that statement up he ended his career with an astounding 243 HBPs. To this day, he owns the record for most HBP in a single season with 50(!) in ’71 with the Expos. The HBP magnet only played 3 seasons with the Giants from 1968-70.
- Maybe my favorite player on the list, Dick ‘The Mule’ Dietz, shows up for his 1970 season and the -20 runs on defense that accompanied it. Dietz’s season is really a tale of two different skill-sets. On offense Dietz was incredible — batting .300/.426/.515 (152 OPS+). It’s probably the best offensive year ever for a Giants’ catcher. However, on defense, Dietz was another story. His -20 runs is damaging, but also consider some of the traditional stats that, I think, tell a story. Dietz made 14 errors, 25 passed balls, and caught only 19% of base-stealers. Dietz gave up 92 stolen bases that year while only throwing out 21 runners. Even more amazing is he was still worth +4.5 wins that year — even docking him nearly 2 wins by defense — he was an All-Star and still remains one of my favorite Giants of all-time. You have to wonder if Dietz would have been moved over to first base if he hadn’t played with McCovey.
- Hey look, a Marvin Benard sighting. His -19 runs below average on defense in ’99 is our most recent Giant to make the Butcher List. I have to admit, I’ve got a soft spot for Benard. He was generally acceptable on defense — a career +2 runs by TZ — and he had a couple of average to above-average years (’98, ’99, and ’01) on offense. He was most likely stretched as a CF and the Giants didn’t help themselves by primarily playing him there. He would have most likely done much better in a corner spot.
- You’ve got to feel for Johnnie LeMaster. He was futile on offense — career OPS+ of 60 — and his defensive numbers don’t stack up. Since he was a SS, we should note that he was playing in a more athletic peer group than the OF/1B group, but LeMaster scored poorly across the board over his career on defense. In fact, by BB-Ref’s WAR, he’s -7 wins below replacement level for his career. His -15 run defensive season in ’82 was paired with an OPS+ of 51. And yet he still appeared in 130 games and collected 436 at-bats.
An interesting list. Dick Dietz’s season in 1970 in particular is notorious for it’s defensive problems. Total Zone is really handy when we’re trying to examine historical players that fall past the scope of current defensive metrics like UZR.
Comment Starter: Anyone on the list surprise you? Anyone you think should be added to our Top 10?