Who is the worst Pirate to play at PNC Park?
This follows up on our OPS+ conversation from an earlier blog post, where we used the sabermetric "Adjusted On Base Percentage + Slugging Percentage." OPS+ uses ballpark effects and league effects with OPS and SLG to put a player's offensive hitting prowess (base-running aside) on a scale where 100 is league average, 90 is 10% below league average, etc.
For the current 2012 version of the Pirates, through July 16th as I write this, Clint Barmes lags the team with a 43 OPS+. Barmes, therefore, has been a 57% below-league-average hitter through the first few months of the season.
Alex Presley is next worst at 62, with Pedro Alvarez at 72. Matt Hague and Yamaico Navarro have scores of 40, but with more limited plate appearances in reserve roles.
To be fair, all of these current players deserve a full year to get their at-bats and have a chance to get their scores out of the quagmire.
That said, how do these scores compare with the worst in the PNC Park-Era Pittsburgh Pirates?
Going back through the baseball-reference.com archives through PNC Park's first season, 2000, I used two criteria to make this list:
1 – It takes a minimum of 200 plate apperances to qualify
2 – The player must have taken the majority of at-bats for one of the eight infield positions. In other words, he was the team's primary starter at a position for the year.
Here's the worst of the worst:
#1 – Pat Meares with an OPS+ of 39 in 2001
The team's starting second baseman that season (after playing primarily SS in 2000), Meares was wasting $3.79 million a season at an impressive rate. His standard stat line for the year in 284 plate appearances was a .211 batting average, an OBP of .244, with 4 HR, 11 2B, and one 3B. Pirates fans suffered through 87 games of Pat Meares in the second year of the beautiful ballpark's existence.
#2 – Jack Wilson with an OPS+ of 40 in 2001
How to lose 100 games? Have Meares and a 23-year old rookie Jack Wilson as your middle infield. Wilson's .223 average with 3 HR, 17 2B, and 1 3B barely edged out Meares for worst offensive season in PNC Park-Era Pirates history. At least Jack Flash was only making $200,000.
#3 – Andy LaRoche with an OPS+ of 52 in 2010
LaRoche barely played more than Pedro Alvarez in 2010, 102 games to 95, and although he had fewer plate appearances than Pedro I'm qualifying LaRoche for my list as the team's primary third baseman that year. A batting average of .206, with 4 HR, 8 2B, and no 3B, this supposed-key-piece of the Jason Bay trade had one of the worst (and most) offensive seasons in modern Bucco history.
#4 – Adrian Brown with an OPS+ of 53 in 2002
Meares may have been gone by 2002 (although still chewing up payroll), but the Bucs found a way to replace him with a starter in the lineup who was nearly as poor. Adrian Brown .216 batting average over 232 plate appearances as the team's starting CF is awesome in ineptitude. 1 HR, 10 2B, 2 3B, and just 19 BB fill out his line.
#5 – Tike Redman with an OPS+ of 65 in 2005
What a lineage of centerfielders sandwiched around one season of Kenny Lofton (with Chris Duffy soon to follow) as Tike hit .251 with 2 HR, 12 2B, 4 3B, and just 19 BB in 344 plate appearances in his last season as a Pirate. To make matters worse, if memory serves, he hit third in the lineup for a large chunk of the season.
By the way, if bench players were included in my list (keeping the 200 plate appearance minimum), the following guys would have made the top-5:
Luis Rivas in 2008, a 54 OPS+ as he hit .218 with 3 HR, 6 2B, and 2 3B
Jose Hernandez in 2003, a 57 OPS+ as he hit .223 with 3 HR, 9 2B, and 1 3B
The other worst Pirate regulars season-by-season?
2011 – Michael McKenry with a score of 67
2009 – Brandon Moss with a score of 77
2008 – Jack Wilson again with a score of 76
2007 – Chris Duffy with a 76
2006 – Chris Duffy with a 70
2004 – Ty Wigginton with a 68
2003 – Jeff Reboulet with a 69
2000 – Pat Meares again with a 73
Ronny Paulino's 56 in 2008 didn't qualify with only 130 plate appearances.
In 2012, if Clint Barmes doesn't pick it up, he's slotting in as the third-worst offensive Pirate starter we've seen in the last 13 seasons.