By Mary Cunningham
It is difficult to quantify just how bad the Phillies have been in 2014, over and above the fact that they have just clinched their first NL East cellar spot since 2000.
But Ryan Howard at first base and Domonic Brown in left field have been singled out by Fangraph.com’s WAR formula, which isn’t a perfect metric, but it’s generally considered the best way to look at a player’s complete overall contribution (hitting/fielding/base running/etc.).
These are the least-productive every day players in baseball, not the overall worst players. The worst players in the majors don’t see the field very often. We’re only looking at hitters who have started at least 70 percent of the team’s games at the given position (the one exception is at DH), starting pitchers who have enough innings to qualify for the ERA crown and relievers with at least 50 innings. These guys are good enough—or paid enough money—to warrant consistent playing time.
RYAN HOWARD, 1B
WAR (and other stats): minus-0.6, .220 average, 22 home runs, .682 OPS
Starts at 1B: 137
2014 salary: $25 million
Yes, on the surface it seems odd for WAR to say a player who is fourth in the NL with 93 RBIs is the worst everyday first baseman in baseball. And Howard has certainly been at his best with runners on base: a .256 average and .802 OPS, compared to .182 and .552 with the bases empty. But he’s never been much of a fielder (Inside Edge numbers) show he’s only made 17 of 50 plays at first base deemed to be outside of the routine this year) or much of a runner. And when you add his career-worst .220 average and .682 OPS to the mix, he winds up on this list for 2014.
DOMONIC BROWN, LF
WAR (and other stats): minus-1.3 WAR, .239 average, 10 home runs, 81 OPS+
Starts in LF: 113
2014 salary: $550,000
In 139 games last year, Brown hit 27 home runs and posted a 1.7 WAR for the Phillies in a breakthrough season. This year, through 140 games, he has 10 home runs and a minus-1.3 WAR. That’s quite a regression. His struggles reached the point where, earlier this month, there were reports that the Phillies will look to trade him in the offseason. That’s not what anyone expected after Brown made the 2013 All-Star team. Worth a mention: The Rangers gave Shin-Soo Choo a massive seven-year, $130-million deal last offseason, but he struggled all season with ankle and elbow injuries and hit just .242 with a .340 on-base percentage (he was at .285 and .423 for the Reds in 2013). His WAR dropped from 5.2 to 0.2.