This probably won’t surprise you, but there have been a lot of bad baseball players in the Royals’ history. In fact, there have been 40 instances of a player being worth -1 fWAR or less in a season since the franchise’s inception in 1969. More than half of those seasons have come since 2000. That probably doesn’t surprise you either.
As a fan of the Royals, particularly one who started following the team more intently around the year 2000, masochism is in my DNA. I can’t avoid it. For whatever reason, I always “enjoy” looking back at the history of ineptitude of the franchise, particularly the recent history. One could make the argument that years of focusing on this organization has taken its toll on my mental stability, and that argument probably makes as much sense as anything else.
With that being said, the Royals appear to be in a window of success in which there shouldn’t be many seasons like the ones I described. “Shouldn’t” is obviously the key word there, but hopefully the years of awful baseball are behind us as Royals’ fans, so I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the five worst seasons (by fWAR) in the franchise’s history. Yes, I did say “fun.” Before you close your browser, shut down your computer, and throw it in a fire, let’s take a horrifying walk down memory lane.
5. Pat Tabler, 1989 – (-1.9 WAR)
Tabler played in 121 games that season, amassing 434 plate appearances to the tune of a .259/.325/.308 line. His offense wasn’t completely worthless, as evidenced by a decent on-base percentage due to his 8.5% walk rate. However, an ISO of .049 and defensive value that was WELL below average pushed this season up the list.
4. Jose Guillen, 2009 – (-2.0 WAR)
The most impressive thing about Guillen’s banner season was the fact that he accumulated that much negative value in literally one half of a season. Guillen had a line of .242/.314/.367 and hit 9 home runs in 312 plate appearances. He made such poor contact (LD% of 14.2), that his .265 BABIP didn’t seem all that bad. Add in negative baserunning and defensive value (-19 DRS), and you end up with this nightmare of a season.
3. Tony Pena, 2008 – (-2.3 WAR)
Pena actually provided positive defensive value in the 95 games in which he appeared, which tells you how unbelievably atrocious he was at the plate. Pena “hit” .169/.189/.209 in 235 plate appearances, although he did have 1 home run. I know, it surprised me, too. And despite having a reputation for being fast, Pena was worth 4.8 baserunning runs below average. His 0.00 ERA and 9 strikeouts per 9 as a pitcher apparently did not bring enough value to the team.
2. Lou Piniella, 1973 – (-2.4 WAR)
Piniella’s line of .250/.291/.361 was good enough for a wRC+ of 76, which was 24% below the league average, after adjusting for park factors. There have been worse offensive seasons, but Piniella played in 144 games that year, meaning the negative value he brought to the plate continued to add upon itself as the season progressed. He also was worth 1.5 baserunning runs below average and had negative defensive value, but the Royals’ insistence on playing Piniella every day contributed to him ending up so high on this list.
1. Neifi Perez, 2002 – (-2.9 WAR)
I think if we’re being honest with ourselves, we all knew Perez would occupy this spot. The Royals trading Jermaine Dye for Perez remains one of the worst trades in the history of the franchise city sport world. Through 145 games and 585 plate appearances, Perez posted a line of .236/.260/.303. He had a walk rate of 3.4%. His ISO was .067. His wRC+ was 39. And still, the Royals trotted him out to shortstop for 145 games. It makes batting Alcides Escobar in the leadoff spot sound like a logical decision. I can’t spend too much time looking at Perez’s statistics or my eyes may start bleeding. Even a masochist like me has limits.
So there you have it. I’m sure we’re all hoping we never see any seasons that compare to the ones above ever again. I’d like to apologize for any tears caused by this little exercise, and you are now free to turn off and/or destroy your computer as needed.