ELAINE: He’s reliable. He’s considerate. He’s like your exact opposite.
JERRY: So he’s Bizarro Jerry.
ELAINE: Bizarro Jerry?
JERRY: Yeah, like Bizarro Superman, Superman’s exact opposite, who lives in the backwards Bizarro world. Up is down, down is up, he says hello when he leaves, goodbye when he arrives.
ELAINE: Shouldn’t he say badbye? Isn’t that the opposite of goodbye?
JERRY: No, it’s still goodbye.
ELAINE: Does he live underwater?
ELAINE: Is he black?
JERRY: Look, just forget the whole thing.
— Elaine Benes and Jerry Seinfeld, The Bizarro Jerry
This is the third straight year I’ve chosen a Bizarro World All-Star team (2003, 2004), and it is always a lot more fun than picking the “real” All-Stars. For one thing, I don’t receive nearly as many e-mails from angry fans over my selections, since Bizarro World All-Stars rarely have any fans. Plus, everyone knows about the great players having great seasons. For instance, after last night I’m sure we’ll hear more than enough about how wonderful Miguel Tejada and Mark Teixeira are. How boring!
I like shining a spotlight on the worst of the worst. The lousiest of the lousiest. The dumb kids in the dumb class. The guys who couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. These guys don’t get nearly enough credit for the incredible jobs they’ve done in an attempt to ruin their teams’ first halves. So here they are, the Bizarro World All-Stars …
Travis Lee | Tampa Bay Devil Rays | First Base
AVG OBP SLG OPS Travis Lee .240 .319 .337 .656 Average MLB 1B .276 .358 .462 .820
This one went right down to the wire, with Travis Lee narrowly beating out Doug Mientkiewicz and Eric Hinske for the starting spot, thanks mostly to a pitiful .337 slugging percentage. Just how bad has Lee’s offense been at first base? Here is how his slugging percentage and OPS rank among first basemen with at least 400 plate appearances in a season over the last 20 years:
YEAR OPS YEAR SLG Andres Galarraga 1991 .604 Greg Brock 1988 .310 Pete O'Brien 1990 .622 Pete O'Brien 1990 .314 Todd Benzinger 1990 .631 Pete Rose 1985 .319 Keith Moreland 1988 .636 Keith Moreland 1988 .331 Greg Brock 1988 .640 Don Mattingly 1990 .335 Franklin Stubbs 1991 .641 Andres Galarraga 1991 .336 Kevin Young 1993 .643 TRAVIS LEE 2005 .337 Don Mattingly 1990 .643 TRAVIS LEE 2005 .656
The amazing thing about Lee’s season isn’t just that he’s been horrible, because Mientkiewicz and Hinske, among others, have been awful as well. No, the amazing thing is that Lee is a 30-year-old first baseman with a career slugging percentage of .406 who is in the middle of his worst season in the big leagues, and yet a last-place team going absolutely nowhere continues to give him regular at-bats. The Devil Rays playing Lee is like getting stood up by an ugly date and then taking yourself out for dinner at a fancy restaurant anyway. There was little reason to do it in the first place, and now it’s just silly.
Bret Boone | Minnesota Twins | Second Base
AVG OBP SLG OPS Bret Boone .231 .299 .385 .684 Average MLB 2B .275 .342 .414 .756
I find myself in a unique position today. On one hand, Bret Boone has been perhaps the worst all-around everyday second baseman in baseball so far this season and that deserves the same sort of pithy commentary and depressing statistical rankings that everyone else on the Bizarro World All-Star team receives. On the other hand, my favorite team just traded for him and announced that he’ll be their new starting second baseman and #3 hitter.
Basically, if ever there was someone whose stats said he was completely done as a good player, it is Boone. First, there’s his declining offense:
YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS IsoP 2003 .294 .366 .535 .901 .241 2004 .251 .317 .423 .740 .172 2005 .231 .299 .385 .684 .154
And, as if that weren’t enough, his defense (or at least his Zone Rating) has completely fallen off the map:
YEAR ZR 2001 .857 2002 .843 2003 .814 2004 .790 2005 .743
He ain’t pretty, but he’s mine. I guess.
Cristian Guzman | Washington Nationals | Shortstop
AVG OBP SLG OPS Cristian Guzman .201 .239 .291 .530 Average MLB SS .271 .324 .399 .723
This spot is normally reserved for Neifi Perez—and in fact last year I suggested creating a Lifetime Achievement Award for Suckiness and naming it “The Neifi”—but not even he can compete with how horrible Cristian Guzman has been this season. After years of uninspired, mediocre-at-best play in Minnesota, Guzman signed a four-year, $16.8-million deal with the Nationals this offseason and immediately took his game to new lows.
Guzman has played in 76 of Washington’s 88 games this season, yet he has driven in just 13 runs and scored only 20 times. That puts him on a pace for 24 RBI and 37 runs scored on the season, which is remarkably bad production. In fact, here is how Guzman’s projected run-production totals would rank among batters with 500 or more plate appearances in a season over the last 20 years:
YEAR RBI YEAR RUN Luis Castillo 2000 17 Rey Ordonez 2001 31 Gary Pettis 1989 18 Tom Pagnozzi 1992 33 Otis Nixon 1998 20 Manny Trillo 1985 36 Felix Fermin 1989 21 Jose Oquendo 1988 36 Bob Dernier 1985 21 CRISTIAN GUZMAN 2005 37 Omar Vizquel 1992 21 Otis Nixon 1992 22 Deion Sanders 1997 23 Jack Perconte 1985 23 Craig Counsell 2004 23 CRISTIAN GUZMAN 2005 24
I don’t know about you, but that’s what I’d call some elite company. Among all the major-league hitters with enough playing time to qualify for the batting title this year (there are 160 at the moment), Guzman ranks dead last in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS, and only Tony Womack (more on him in a second) has a lower slugging percentage. Oh, and Guzman is also just 3-for-7 (42.8%) stealing bases during the rare times he’s actually been on base.
Aaron Boone | Cleveland Indians | Third Base
AVG OBP SLG OPS Aaron Boone .211 .266 .362 .628 Average MLB 3B .272 .343 .436 .779
This is the second time the Boone brothers have been All-Stars in the same year. Back in 2003, Bret Boone made the AL squad by hitting .313/.375/.591 with 24 homers and 76 RBI in the first half for the Mariners, while Aaron Boone made the NL team with a .261/.326/.456 first half as a member of the Reds. Now, just two seasons later, they are half of the Bizarro All-Star team’s infield. What an honor it must be for one of baseball’s most storied families.
The sad part about the season Aaron Boone is having in Cleveland is that the Indians had to wait a whole year to get it. Boone was let go by the Yankees after injuring his knee two offseasons ago, and the Indians signed him and helped him rehab the injury while he missed the entire 2004 season. To make room for Boone at third base this year, they shifted Casey Blake to the outfield, where he has had a miserable season of his own after hitting .271/.354/.486 with 28 homers and 88 RBI last year.
Boone has been the target of frequent booing at Jacobs Field this season, both for his sub-par offense and his surprisingly spotty defense. In Boone’s defense, his overall numbers are dragged down by his ridiculously bad first two months, in which he hit .157/.211/.261. Since the start of June, however, Boone has hit .285/.335/.500 with five homers, seven doubles, and 16 RBI in 32 games. So he’s been awful and has been a waste of all sorts of time and money, but at least he’s getting better the further away he gets from knee surgery.
Tony Womack | New York Yankees | Left Field
AVG OBP SLG OPS Tony Womack .243 .276 .266 .542 Average MLB LF .275 .345 .448 .793
In previewing this offseason’s free agents back in November, I wrote the following about Womack:
I could see some team giving Womack a multi-year deal, which would be a mistake. He’ll be 36 years old in 2005, he hasn’t stolen 30 bases in a season since 2000, and this was the first time in his entire career that he’s had a better-than-average OBP. If I were a betting man, I’d let you set the line on Womack’s 2005 OPS and I’d take the under.
Unfortunately, no one took me up on that bet. While Womack has finally found his rightful place on the Yankees’ bench, the idea that the richest team in baseball spent nearly half a season (and almost 300 plate appearances) playing him every day—first at second base and then, unbelievably, in left field—is absolutely astonishing to me. Assuming Womack gets at least some semblance of regular playing time in the second half, he has an excellent shot at posting the worst OPS by a corner outfielder with at least 400 plate appearances in a season over the last 50 years:
YEAR OPS TONY WOMACK 2005 .542 Brian Hunter 1999 .576 Vince Coleman 1986 .581 Billy Hatcher 1989 .585 Bob Bailor 1979 .585 Ken Walters 1960 .585 Miguel Dilone 1982 .592 Paul Householder 1982 .592 Don Buford 1972 .593 George Altman 1964 .594
So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Corey Patterson | Chicago Cubs | Center Field
AVG OBP SLG OPS Corey Patterson .232 .270 .379 .649 Average MLB CF .274 .340 .430 .770
Corey Patterson is one of the most disappointing prospects of the last decade. Blessed with just about every physical tool in the world, Patterson was the third overall pick in 1998 draft, shot all the way through the minor leagues in less than two seasons, and took over as the Cubs’ starting center fielder just weeks after his 21st birthday. In the years since, he has shown all sorts of flashes of brilliance, from great defense and outstanding work on the bases to high batting averages and significant power. Yet here he is, 25 years old and back at Triple-A.
There are two things Patterson hasn’t been able to do. One is a combination of controlling the strike zone and showing discipline at the plate, and the other is hitting left-handed pitching. In 546 games spread over six seasons, Patterson has drawn 92 non-intentional walks while hitting .242/.274/.385 against lefties. He does a fine job patrolling center field, has been an efficient base stealer throughout his career, and from 2002-2004 batted .274 with a .455 slugging percentage against righties. Those are all very nice things, but Patterson’s flaws have been significant enough to outweigh them.
Sammy Sosa | Baltimore Orioles | Right Field
AVG OBP SLG OPS Sammy Sosa .225 .305 .383 .688 Average MLB RF .270 .348 .453 .801
Sammy Sosa‘s decline as a player has been one of the swiftest and most pronounced in recent memory, as he has essentially gone from being an elite MVP-caliber player to being one of the worst outfielders in baseball over the span of just a few seasons. The most interesting thing about Sosa’s decline is that his numbers have dropped in nearly every way, and they have done so for five straight years.
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 AVG .328 .288 .279 .253 .225 OBP .437 .399 .358 .332 .305 SLG .737 .594 .553 .517 .383 OPS 1.174 .993 .911 .849 .688 IsoP .409 .306 .275 .264 .158
Sosa had his best season in 2001, hitting .328/.437/.737 with 64 homers, 34 doubles, 116 walks, 160 RBI, and 146 runs scored. He finished second in the NL MVP voting (behind one of the greatest seasons in baseball history) and led the league in both RBI and runs scored. Since then, his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and Isolated Power have each gone down every season. The end result has Sosa at just .225/.305/.383 this year and on pace for a measly 17 homers and 50 RBI in 127 games.
J.D. Closser | Colorado Rockies | Catcher
AVG OBP SLG OPS J.D. Closser .205 .308 .336 .644 Average MLB C .249 .312 .381 .693
There are a number of catchers having truly horrendous seasons, from Miguel Olivo (.148/.173/.250) in Seattle and Henry Blanco (.158/.177/.250) in Chicago to Chad Moeller (.212/.260/.339) in Milwaukee and Alberto Castillo (.207/.267/.329) in Kansas City. But none of those guys have consistently been starters behind the plate, and what the Bizarro World All-Stars really need is a young backstop who can lead them to a long future of humiliating defeats while eating up hundreds and hundreds of outs. I believe J.D. Closser is the man for the job.
Not only has Closser started half of Colorado’s games to put him on pace for nearly 800 innings behind the plate this season, he’s been equally inept offensively and defensively. On defense, Closser has thrown out a pathetic 15.4% of the 39 stolen base attempts that have come against him, and Colorado’s pitching staff has an ERA that is about 5% worse when he’s doing the catching (which is really saying something, considering how bad their ERA is in general). And compared to his offense, Closser’s defense makes him look like Johnny Bench.
Closser is one of the few players who hasn’t taken advantage of Coors Field. His .191/.270/.303 line on Planet Coors is pathetic, so bad in fact that I refuse to actually give him credit for hitting passable on the road. If you can’t hit in Colorado, you’ve got something very, very wrong with you. With a .644 OPS and 169 plate appearances at the All-Star break, Closser is on pace to become just the fifth player in Rockies history to come to the plate at least 300 times in a season without breaking a .650 OPS. The other four? Kirt Manwaring (.567, 1997), Juan Uribe (.627, 2002), Walt Weiss (.639, 1994), and Alex Cole (.644, 1993).