During Major League Baseball’s award season, the best of the best are featured (maybe not always with the Gold Gloves). And we should celebrate the best. But there is always a flip side. For every best, there was a worst. Saying that does understand that even the worst MLB players in a particular year are among the best players in the world. MLB players are an elite group of talent. So keep that in mind.
Baseball will award its most valuable player. The Flagrant Fan awards what my friend, Mike Hllywa of Off Base Percentage, likes to call the LVPs. These players did not have good seasons. These players were, in most cases, worse than replacement level. These players made fans look at GMs and ask, “What were you thinking?” Some of these players have big contracts that now look like albatrosses. Like I said, you celebrate the best? You also have to celebrate the worst.
Why are they called the Dan Meyer Awards? That’s a long explanation and I will save myself some typing by referring you to last year’s award post. Suffice it to say that Dan Meyer played twelve Major League seasons and compiled -6.5 fWAR and -5.5 rWAR. That was a lot of negative value for that long of a career!
To qualify, each positional player had to have at least 450 plate appearances except for catchers that only needed 350. Here are your 2014 Dan Meyer Awards for the LVPs (h/t to Mike) for each position. We will consider the pitchers in a later post:
Catcher: This one was easy. A.J. Pierzynski was the only catcher in baseball with more than 350 plate appearances that scored in the negative numbers on offense, defense and base running. Quite a few were in the negative for two of the categories, but only AJP nailed the three-fer. The Red Sox released him and then blasted him in the press (anonymously, of course) and then the Cardinals signed him and the guy actually played in the post season. AJP only walked 3.9 percent of the time and had a wOBA of .277. With positional points because of the importance of catching, it is very difficult to score a negative WAR as a catcher. AJP nailed it.
First Base: This is quite interesting that the first two positions winning this award feature players who played for both the Cardinals and the Red Sox in 2014. And I hate to pick Allen Craig here as it feels like I am piling on. Mr. Craig had a brutal season in 2014 after being feted as the world’s best clutch hitter in the years leading up to 2014. Injury probably played a part. Either way, he fell out of favor in St. Louis by a fan base that became enamored with Matt Adams and Craig became part of the trade that brought John Lackey to Cards. Hopefully, the season was an outlier for Craig as his 66 OPS+ for 2014 was half of what it was in the prior two seasons. Honorable mention goes to Ryan Howard, but that is another story entirely.
Second Base: Alberto Callaspo had a fairly brutal season for the Oakland A’s. His .580 OPS was awful and a hundred and twenty points below his career average. Plus, for the first time in his career, he scored in the negative for his fielding. He is a second baseman who turned 31 in 2014. The early thirties for second basemen is like the age of 27 for rock stars. Careers seem to die quickly at the position. Perhaps Callaspo will rebound. He will need to because his season was one of the rare misses of the Oakland front office. Oh, and Callaspo grounded into 18 double plays too. Ouch.
Shortstop: Yes, all you haters, Derek Jeter wins the Dan Meyer Award at shortstop for 2014. He was 20th in defense (there were worse, believe it or not) and he was next to last in offensive value. Obviously, his age caught up to him and his offense could not make up for his defense. But the commercials were cool and he will be in the HOF in five years. So there you go.
Third Base: This was another easy call. How about a 63 wRC+ and a .260 wOBA? How about being almost two wins below replacement level? How about doing that while not fielding well and not running well? And, he still came to the plate 607 times. Our hero here is Matt Dominguez of the Houston Astros. The former first round pick simply hasn’t found himself in the Majors. Dominguez doesn’t walk and he doesn’t hit. That is a deadly combination combined with not fielding well and not running the bases well.
Left Field: It is safe to say that this is another easy pick. No left fielder has a poorer season than Domonic Brown and like Dominguez of the Astros, the Phillies have hoped against hope that this prospect ship would come in and it foundered instead. Brown was absolutely brutal in 2014. Like Dominguez, Brown had almost two wins below replacement. He had a 75 wRC+ and a .280 wOBA to go along with having a poor season in the field. Either Brown needs a change of scenery or he simply is never going to live up to the hype. Interestingly, Dayan Viciedo was the runner up for the second year in a row. That’s hard to do.
Center Field: Fangraphs.com did not have any center fielders with a negative fWAR because of the position importance. Their two lowest ranking CF guys were tied at 0.4 and they were Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton. But Upton gets the nod because he had more plate appearances AND because baseball-reference.com DID rank him in negative territory. Poor Upton has become such a symbol of this new pitching age that he cannot seem to get beyond the mire he has found himself in the last two seasons. New glasses might have helped in the second half. But he still finished with a wRC+ of 74 and he struck out just shy of 30% of the time. Ouch. Fortunately, he is still capable in center field and can still go get the ball because his offense has been an Atlanta nightmare.
Right Field: What in the world happened to Jay Bruce? His OPS dropped a hundred and fifty-three points in 2014 from 2013. He batted his weight and his ISO dropped sixty points. His wins above replacement fell off five wins from the season before on both major stat sites. And while fielding statistics still have their flaws, they tell a story of a guy who fell down in his fielding as well. One big difference became his success against left-handed pitching. His OPS dropped against them by a hundred and eighty points from 2013 to 2014! I suspect that infield shifts hurt him as his BABIP fell to .269. Whatever the case, Bruce went from a very useful and valuable player to terrible in one fell swoop. Let’s hope that it was a fluke season and he’ll bounce back.
We could probably throw the DH in there too which would be Billy Butler. But he got to the World Series, so he can smile about it now. Adam Dunn was in the building, but at least he hit some dingers, a marketable skill set nowadays.
Thus is the list of Dan Meyer Award winners for 2014. God willing, come back this same time next year for the 2015 awards. And remember that the pitchers are not forgotten. The Kyle Davies Award winners will be announced soon.