23 May 2012
It struck me today that this 2012 baseball season marks the 20th year in which I have been “baseball conscious”*. Usually such milestones would cause one to wax nostalgically about the greatest players they saw play, but I’ll take the opposite approach. I caught the tail end of Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammel, and Kirk Gibson, which was cool, and I clearly remember Cecil Fielder blasting 30 home runs every year as a youngster, but the Tigers slugged through mediocrity in my youth, and then fell into the abyss when I turned into a teenager. (Remember that long gap between winning seasons in 1993 and 2006? That was ages seven and twenty for me.)
*Now that I think back and count the years, it’s probably year 21 (or 20 and a half), but that would ruin my even number upon which I’m basing this post.
I know I’m likely in the minority, but I count all the horrible years filled with horrible players among the things I’ve been blessed with as a Tigers fan. It gives me great perspective on the “horribleness” of this year’s currently “failed expectations”. With that in mind, I present to you the bottom of the barrel: the most forgettable player seasons of the last two decades**.
**To qualify for my list, a player must have played more games at his position than any other player on the roster that year. I’m taking the player with the lowest single-season OPS at each spot.
Catcher – Brandon Inge, 2002 (.202/.266/.333)
Brandon Inge’s .599 OPS in 2002 was downright awful, but the 25 year old actually out-hit (by OPS) each of the other catchers that spent time on the roster (Mike Rivera, Matt Walbeck, and Mitch Meluskey). In an ideal world, Inge probably would have spent all of 2001 and 2002 in Toledo, but the early 2000’s were far from ideal in Detroit. Inge clearly wasn’t ready to hit major league pitching, but he had a solid arm behind the plate and occasional power, and that was apparently enough to warrant a roster spot.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Inge, 2003 (.203/.265/.339)
First Base – Sean Casey, 2007 (.296/.353/.393)
A .746 OPS isn’t usually so terrible, but it’s not good to have a below-average hitter (even if it’s only slightly) locking down the first base position. Casey easily has the best batting average and OBP of any player on this list, but he hit for almost no extra base power – only belting four home runs in 143 games – which is not what you want from a first baseman.
I won’t be too hard on The Mayor though. The Tigers had some truly bad players on their roster from time to time, but they mostly avoided total suck at first base. Cecil Fielder, Tony Clark, and Miguel Cabrera were/are all excellent hitters, and Carlos Pena wasn’t that bad either (although Casey did get beat out by two (!) seasons of Chris Shelton).
Honorable Mention: Carlos Pena, 2003 (.248/.332/.440)
Second Base – Damion Easley, 2002 (.224/.307/.355)
In a group that included Warren Morris, Ramon Santiago, and Will Rhymes, I didn’t expect to end up with typing Damion Easley’s name. Easley was a pretty good offensive second baseman (he had a 101 OPS+ during his seven-year stay in Detroit), but his batting numbers plummeted hard during his final years as a Tiger, and the team eventually bought out his multi-million dollar deal and let him walk.
Honorable Mention: Warren Morris, 2003 (.272/.316/.373)
Third Base – Chris Truby, 2002 (.199/.215/.282)
We’re only to our fourth player, and we already have our third member of the 2002 team. The 2003 squad gets all the glory, but I think the offense was every bit as bad the year before. Chris Truby was the epitome of terrible at the plate. He had very poor contact skills, almost no power, and zero plate discipline. In 2002, he struck out more than 24% of the time, and walked in less than 2% of his plate appearances.
Honorable Mention: Brandon Inge, 2011 (.197/.265/.283)
Shortstop – Andujar Cedeno, 1996 (.196/.213/.358)
I’ll be honest in saying that I pretty much don’t remember Andujar Cedeno at all. His numbers suggest that he had some decent home run power (he knocked seven homers in 186 plate appearances), but he didn’t make enough contact with the ball to do a lot of damage. He also had a nearly non-existent walk rate, so he seemed to hardly ever be on base. Coming off two decades of Alan Trammell, the Tigers were used to much more offense from the shortstop position.
Honorable Mention: Ramon Santiago, 2003 (.225/.292/.284)
Left Field – Craig Monroe, 2007 (.222/.264/.373)
Craig Monroe was a clutch as clutch can be in 2006 as the Tigers surprised everyone en route to a World Series appearance, but hit very poorly in 2007 which would be his last season in Detroit. Never much of an on-base guy, Monroe’s value diminished drastically when his power began to wane. The club eventually parted ways with him in late August, trading him to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later (Clay Rapada).
Honorable Mention: Dan Gladden, 1992 (.254/.304/.357)
Center Field – Eric Davis, 1994 (.183/.290/.292)
He only played 37 games with the Tigers, so maybe this shouldn’t count, but Eric Davis only managed a paltry .582 OPS for the Tiger in 1994. The two-time silver slugger award winner had easily the worst year of his career, striking out in over 32% of his plate appearances, and hitting for extra bases at half his career rate. Davis had a career OPS+ of 125, but it was only 51 in 1994.
Honorable Mention: Milt Cuyler, 1992 (.213/.276/.313)
Right Field – Danny Bautista, 1995 (.203/.237/.314)
Danny Bautista was an energetic 23 year old that loved to strike out, and hated to walk. Or, at least, that’s how it seems. My single recollection of Danny Bautista: my dad, brother, and I sitting in the upper deck in left field at Tiger Stadium, and my Dad being utterly shocked that Bautista had just homered.
Honorable Mention: Magglio Ordonez, 2011 (.255/.303/.331)
Designated Hitter – Eddie Williams, 1996 (.200/.267/.307)
Can you imagine a DH with a .307 slugging percentage? That’s what the Tigers trotted out for 77 games in 1996. Eddie Williams never played in more than 100 games in a season, and his career OPS was .717, but he served as the designated hitter more than any other player did that year. He finished the season with only 11 extra base hits, 26 RBI, and 22 runs scored.
Honorable Mention: Greg Jeffries, 1999 (.200/.258/.327)
Of the current Tigers regulars, only Ryan Raburn is at risk of joining this list. His .429 OPS would bump out Damion Easley for top honors at the position. I doubt he’ll maintain that lowly pace, but he could give Easley’s .662 OPS a run for its money. No other Tiger regular would even garner an honorable mention at this point.
Matt Snyder is the editor of The Tigers Den. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.