A few weeks ago, we took a look at the best/most valuable player for each team. This week, we’ll switch to investigating the worst/least valuable hitter for each team. Next week we’ll do the pitchers.
Welcome to The Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. Next to that, you’ll find the Dartboard Factor from the previous week. An explanation of our method can be found here.
#1 Tampa Bay Rays (Dartboard Factor = 101, 101): Jason Bartlett. Moving over to Tampa from Minnesota this season, Bartlett’s ability to draw walks apparently stayed behind in the Twin Cities falling from 8.3% to just 3.7% so far this season.
#2 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 99, 97): Jacoby Ellsbury. Since May 5th, Ellsbury has walked just 22 times and fanned 66 times after starting the year with 17 walks and just nine strikeouts. It seems as though pitchers have learned that Ellsbury cannot threaten them with power and he has just a .649 OPS since that May 5th date.
#3 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 97, 100): Felix Pie. What an offensive juggernaut this team has been in 2008. So much so that Felix Pie and his 70 plate appearances qualify as the most below average hitter on the team. Pie still has a lot of work left to do on making contact and occasionally trying to draw a walk.
#4 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 97, 97): Gary Matthews Jr. Just two years into one of the most ridiculous contracts ever handed out, Matthews revealed in year one that his defense wasn’t up to the level thought if you only watched Web Gems on Baseball Tonight and the Angels brought in Torii Hunter to take over center, pushing GMJ to a corner spot. His core stats don’t look favorable for a bounce back.
#5 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 93, 94): Juan Uribe. Orlando Cabrera has cost the White Sox more runs relative to average, but he’s also played a lot more and mans a more difficult defensive position so he gets let off the hook here in favor of Juan Uribe who’s actually had his best season at the plate since his first season in Chicago back in 2004.
#6 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 92, 93): Bill Hall. Hall found success in 2005 by limiting strikeouts and smacking line drives all over the place. In 2006 he followed an odd path by abandoning what worked in 2005. His strikeouts rose dramatically but so did his power and walks. Last year however, the power crashed, a trend that rebounded a bit this season but the contact rates continue to be a serious issue.
#7 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 89, 89): Melky Cabrera. Melky’s walk and strikeout rates have not moved much (though what they have moved have been in a poor direction), but his BABIP has taken a tumble for the worse despite a relatively stable batted ball profile. He’s never going to profile well with the bat, but out of center field that’s not expected and his slip this year looks far more like a fluke than a talent drop.
#8 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 89, 87): Endy Chavez. Chavez made more contact and swung at fewer pitches this season, but pitchers were piping strikes at him so his walk rate wasn’t able to improve though he did cut down on the whiffs. The problem is in the power, with just a single home run in almost 300 plate appearances.
#9 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 89, 91): Mike Lamb. Another year, another failed attempt at filling a hole on the left side of the infield. At Houston, Lamb had consistently seen around 3.9 pitchers per plate appearance, but moving to the American League that dropped to just 3.47 and saw his line drive rate dip to precarious levels. Oh yeah, and he hit a single home run in 236 at bats.
#10 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 88, 85): Brad Wilkerson. I’m somewhat surprised that Wilkerson was allowed to rack up enough at bats to achieve this dishonor given that this only counts his at bats with Toronto and coming off a release from the Mariners of all teams, you’d think he’d be given a very short leash in Toronto. Alas, Wilkerson was allowed to garner more than 200 plate appearances and managed to perform even worse than he did in Seattle.
#11 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 87, 86): Eric Bruntlett. Splitting time between third base and shortstop, Bruntlett has been a waste at the plate with a sub .600 OPS. Although he does a good job of drawing walks, his power is so meager that his on base percentage actually outpaces his slugging.
#12 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 85, 87): Adam Kennedy. Kennedy’s 2008 is a sight better than last year, but that’s damning with faint praise as his 2007 was pretty horrific. The average has rebounded somewhat as expected, but the power faded even further with just a lone home run over near 300 at bats.
#13 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 85, 82): Michael Bourn. Well, he’s fast. It’s just the whole hitting thing that appears to be a problem. A pitiful line drive rate coupled with the bat control of a mashing slugger and the frame of a slap hitting singles hitter do not make for much productivity.
#14 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 81, 81): Travis Hafner. Andy Marte has an argument here as well, but I’m going with Hafner for his position (DH) and the fact that yikes he has a four year, $57 million contract that hasn’t even begun yet! What’s happened to Hafner? His batted ball profile hasn’t moved much, but his home run power has steadily fallen and with the diminishing power comes more strikeouts and fewer walks and pitchers become less afraid to throw him strikes. If the power doesn’t come back substantially, Hafner will become the latest anchor contract.
#15 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 81, 79): Alfredo Amezaga. Never a great hitter, Amezaga apparently decided that walking a lot less and striking out more often might lead to a new direction. Unless you count worse as a new direction, it didn’t work out.
#16 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 81, 78): Andruw Jones. What an utter bust. The good news is that it’s only a two-year deal. The bad news is that there’s still another year on it. Wow. Can’t make contact anymore and the ball doesn’t go anywhere even when he does. If he’s not massively injured then he’s almost certainly completely done.
#17 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 80, 81): Chris Burke. A move to the weakest division in baseball hasn’t helped stave off Chris Burke’s career decline but to be fair, with a 15% line drive rate, his .216 BABIP is much lower than you’d expect suggesting he has some favorable regression heading his way. However, with his meager power output, don’t expect much.
#18 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 80, 80): Ben Broussard. Another Seattle cast-off, Broussard wasn’t given much of a leash, but still managed to rack up a lot of negative value at first base. However, with the small sample, it’s hard to discern how much of that is indicative that his talent is gone. He did suffer from bad luck on BABIP, but he was swinging (and missing) at more pitches than he ever had prior.
#19 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 78, 79): Jacque Jones. It’s somewhat of a testament to Detroit’s great offense and somewhat of a testament to how bad Jones was that a hitter with just 90 plate appearances ranks as the least valuable. A .239 wOBA courtesy of just four extra base hits and a pathetic 8% line drive rate caused Jones to get dumped off to Florida where he did even worse.
#20 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 76, 79): Freddy Bynum. Bynum hasn’t received numerically more playing time this season than in previous years but what little offense he provided before has gone completely out the window this season. He’s even striking out less and walking more, but nothing can help his .444 OPS.
#21 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 76, 77): Daric Barton. Once a highly regarded catching prospect, it turned out that Barton couldn’t hack it with the glove behind the plate and was forced to move to first base. With that move, Barton would need his bat to really come alive and it simply hasn’t. He draws walks a somewhat decent rate, and his batting average is a little depressed due to bad luck on BABIP, but the overall indicators aren’t too promising.
#22 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 74, 75): Willy Taveras. Unlike a few others on this list, Taveras doesn’t even have bad luck to blame much as his BABIP is right in line with his line drive rate. No, it’s the utter lack of power. A single home run while playing nearly a full season with Coors Field as your home?
#23 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 71, 70): Corey Patterson. Patterson was never more than a stopgap for Jay Bruce, he’s faced a troublesome and unlucky .208 BABIP despite an ordinary line drive rate. Patterson has managed to continue garnering playing time with Bruce shifting to right field.
#24 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 70, 71): Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur did manage to cut down on his swings for the third straight year, but pitchers are throwing him more strikes overall, so that doesn’t really help out. Francoeur also had his power slip again which is a troubling sign, though he’s due for some regression in the batting average department.
#25 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 70, 69): Mark Teahan. So many choices here as Tony Pena, Joey Gathright and John Buck put up fights but are edged out by Teahan thanks again to defensive positioning. Teahan had a rough freshman year but seemed to shake it off in his sophomore season, but fell back in the year following (2007) and has suffered a complete collapse in 2008. Part of it is bad luck on BABIP, but his lack of power isn’t helping matters.
#26 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 69, 69): Freddy Sanchez. Despite disappointment over Sanchez’s 2007 campaign following his high average 2006 year, 2007 still marked a successful year as offense around the entire league fell a few points. 2008 however is by no means a success. Sanchez is making better contact this year, but he’s taken far too many strikes hurting his already minuscule walk rate.
#27 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 67, 69): Omar Vizquel. Vizquel has been making noise about playing in Japan next year. Well, that’s probably going to the the only place that he can find work as his hitting skills have deteriorated to the point of not being able to pass muster even as a gold glove shortstop, something he’s not anymore anyways.
#28 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 65, 63): Jose Vidro. Lots of choices here too, but Vidro easily stands out given his DH position. It was made even worse by the incompetent managers in the Seattle organization that refused to drop Vidro in the batting order, even hitting him in the 4th spot for long stretches of time.
#29 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 61, 59): Wily Mo Pena. Another year, another bust for Pena who must have been hoping to build off a pretty good 2007 in limited action. Instead, his OPS is ranging around .500 and his power is gone.
#30 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 61, 61): Khalil Greene. There was a time that Khalil Greene was under appreciated as a hitter because PetCo destroyed his numbers at home. Now, apparently all parks are doing it as he progressively keeps missing more and more pitches that he swings at. Expect a little help next season in the BABIP department however as this year’s .255 mark shouldn’t hold.
The playoff picture takes the above ranking and reforms the teams back into their leagues and divisions including the wild card. This is in no ways a prediction, this is an assessment of how teams have played so far this season, not how each team is going to play.
Rays – 101
Red Sox – 99
Yankees – 89
Blue Jays – 88
Orioles – 76
White Sox – 93
Twins – 89
Indians – 81
Tigers – 78
Royals – 70
Angels – 97
Rangers – 80
Athletics – 76
Mariners – 65
AL WILD CARD
Red Sox – 99
Yankees – 89
Twins – 89
Blue Jays – 88
Mets – 89
Phillies – 87
Marlins – 81
Braves – 70
Nationals – 61
Cubs – 97
Brewers – 92
Cardinals – 85
Astros – 85
Reds – 71
Pirates – 69
Dodgers – 81
Diamondbacks – 80
Rockies – 74
Giants – 67
Padres – 61
NL WILD CARD
Brewers – 92
Phillies – 87
Cardinals – 85
Astros – 85