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February 23, 2000

Two Point Four Five Million Dollars

Just how bad was Brian Hunter?

by Clay Davenport

Just over two weeks ago, Brian Hunter's arbitration case was heard. The Seattle Mariners offered him $1.75 million, while the player countered with a figure of $2.45 million. To the surprise of many, Hunter won the case, and will make the higher figure in 2000.

Well, that's just the kind of thing that pricks up our ears. See, Hunter isn't just another mediocre player. He was probably the worst regular in baseball last year, and...well, we'll let Clay Davenport tell the story. (For more on his methods, go here.)

The following list includes all major-league players with 20 or more games in left field in 1999. They're ranked by total value (VAL), which is offensive runs above replacement (a player with a .230 EqA and same number of outs) plus defensive runs above replacement (a player with an 86 rating at the position and equal net chances).

Brian Hunter was -13 on offense and +26 on defense for a net of -13. Of the 52 players who met the criteria, he was tied with Orlando Palmeiro for 46th place, ahead of only Karim Garcia, Shane Spencer, Daryle Ward, Tim Raines and Otis Nixon. All of these players had significantly less playing time than Hunter, and all but Nixon were producing at a better rate than Hunter.

All statistics are adjusted to a .270 BA, .340 OBP and .430 SLG hitting environment, with adjusted EqA held constant.

Name                   Age  Yr  Team     Lg  AB  H    DB  TP  HR  BB  SO R   RBI  SB  CS OUT  BA   OBP  SLG    EQA EQR VAL FVL DEFENSE
LUIS GONZALEZ           31 1999 Arizona_ NL  617 207  47   4  25  58  62 107 105   8   5 415 .335 .400 .546  .310 111  70  66 145-LF  94
B.J. SURHOFF            34 1999 Baltimor AL  670 206  33   2  28  35  78  95 101   5   1 465 .307 .344 .488  .276  93  69  54 143-LF 110
GARY SHEFFIELD          30 1999 LosAngls NL  551 166  18   0  34  94  63  97  96   9   5 390 .301 .407 .519  .308 103  68  69 136-LF  99
RUSTY GREER             30 1999 Texas___ AL  546 160  41   3  18  88  67  96  90   2   2 388 .293 .396 .478  .295  91  67  69 143-LF 101
GEOFF JENKINS           24 1999 Milwauke NL  447 138  43   3  20  30  86  66  76   4   1 310 .309 .363 .553  .298  75  63  98 113-LF 111
BARRY BONDS             34 1999 San_Fran NL  360  98  23   2  35  70  61  91  82  14   2 264 .272 .395 .639  .328  82  62  86  88-LF 104
GREG VAUGHN             33 1999 Cincnnti NL  552 135  22   2  44  78 136  99 111  13   2 419 .245 .342 .531  .286  91  56  49 132-LF 102
JOHNNY DAMON            25 1999 KansasCy AL  576 173  38   9  13  60  50  92  70  36   6 409 .300 .369 .465  .287  90  56  66 131-LF 102
REGGIE SANDERS          31 1999 San_Dieg NL  481 137  25   7  25  59 107  86  68  31  13 357 .285 .371 .522  .294  83  56  64  81-LF 101 29-RF 103
TROY O'LEARY            29 1999 Boston__ AL  589 161  38   4  25  49  91  76  92   1   2 430 .273 .333 .479  .268  80  54  50 153-LF 104
RON GANT                34 1999 Philadel NL  515 131  27   5  16  78 111  99  71  11   3 387 .254 .354 .419  .266  70  48  45 126-LF 108
RONDELL WHITE           27 1999 Montreal NL  538 163  27   6  20  25  84  76  58   8   6 381 .303 .348 .487  .275  76  47  50  71-LF 102 57-CF  96
RAY LANKFORD            32 1999 St_Louis NL  423 128  31   1  15  44 109  72  59  12   4 299 .303 .373 .487  .288  67  46  60  98-LF 104
RICKEY HENDERSON        40 1999 NY_Mets_ NL  440 138  20   0  15  77  81  81  41  33  15 317 .314 .418 .461  .301  79  45  47  99-LF  94
BEN GRIEVE              23 1999 Oakland_ AL  484 129  18   0  28  57 108  73  81   4   0 355 .267 .353 .477  .278  72  41  66 111-LF  99
RICHARD HIDALGO         23 1999 Houston_ NL  387  90  26   2  15  51  72  47  54   7   5 302 .233 .329 .426  .254  49  41  71  78-LF 117 22-CF 102
DAVE JUSTICE            33 1999 Clevelnd AL  422 119  16   0  20  87  90  67  80   1   3 306 .282 .407 .462  .295  72  39  47  75-LF  94
HENRY RODRIGUEZ         31 1999 ChiCubs_ NL  444 130  24   0  26  50 112  65  80   1   4 318 .293 .364 .523  .288  71  39  47 111-LF  94
BRUCE AVEN              27 1999 Florida_ NL  386 115  20   2  12  39  81  56  69   3   0 271 .298 .377 .453  .283  58  35  50  62-LF 105
AL MARTIN               31 1999 Pittsbrg NL  543 150  38   8  23  42 118  91  59  17   3 396 .276 .329 .503  .276  79  33  32 125-LF  90
RYAN KLESKO             28 1999 Atlanta_ NL  408 124  31   2  21  48  68  54  78   4   2 286 .304 .380 .544  .302  72  32  44  58-1B  85 43-LF  80
BUBBA TRAMMELL          27 1999 TampaBay AL  280  80  15   1  14  40  37  44  36   0   2 202 .286 .377 .496  .288  45  30  59  53-LF 106
BENNY AGBAYANI          27 1999 NY_Mets_ NL  278  80  20   3  13  29  59  40  39   5   4 202 .288 .362 .522  .288  45  29  57  34-RF 110 29-LF  94
ALEX OCHOA              27 1999 Milwauke NL  277  81  18   3   7  41  43  44  37   5   4 200 .292 .394 .455  .288  44  27  56  38-LF 103 25-RF  93
DANTE BICHETTE          35 1999 Colorado NL  575 150  32   2  28  45  83  84 106   4   5 430 .261 .317 .470  .258  73  27  19 140-LF  93
CLIFF FLOYD             26 1999 Florida_ NL  254  78  20   1  11  27  47  36  47   4   6 182 .307 .379 .524  .291  42  26  63  58-LF  99
RICHIE SEXSON           24 1999 Clevelnd AL  476 119  17   7  29  29 117  65 105   3   3 360 .250 .299 .498  .258  61  25  38  54-1B 117 41-LF  89
RICKY LEDEE             25 1999 NY_Yanks AL  251  72  12   6   9  26  73  43  39   4   3 182 .287 .354 .490  .278  37  25  65  61-LF 105
BUTCH HUSKEY            27 1999 Seattle_ AL  259  73   7   0  15  23  45  39  45   3   1 187 .282 .340 .483  .273  36  24  51  26-LF 106 20-RF 103
ERIC OWENS              28 1999 San_Dieg NL  444 120  22   3   9  32  49  51  59  29   7 331 .270 .324 .394  .251  52  24  30  44-LF 103 31-CF 109
SHANNON STEWART         25 1999 Toronto_ AL  602 178  28   2  10  51  83  92  61  36  15 439 .296 .359 .399  .262  77  24  31 136-LF  88
LUIS POLONIA            34 1999 Detroit_ AL  330 104  21   8   9  12  32  41  29  16   9 235 .315 .343 .509  .278  48  22  35  26-LF 101
DARIN ERSTAD            25 1999 Anaheim_ AL  583 145  23   5  12  40 101  77  49  13   7 445 .249 .298 .367  .225  54  21  25  72-1B  97 64-LF 118
GERALD WILLIAMS         32 1999 Atlanta_ NL  427 119  24   1  17  27  66  71  65  16  11 319 .279 .332 .459  .261  55  21  26  81-LF  90 20-RF  97
CARLOS LEE              23 1999 ChiSox__ AL  492 145  34   2  15   7  72  61  79   4   2 349 .295 .310 .463  .255  57  19  37  97-LF  92
JOHN VANDERWAL          33 1999 San_Dieg NL  248  68  13   0   8  34  58  25  42   2   1 181 .274 .367 .423  .270  34  19  39  32-LF 112
JUAN ENCARNACION        23 1999 Detroit_ AL  508 127  32   6  17   8 113  56  67  32  12 393 .250 .274 .437  .238  54  19  34 108-LF 100
GLENALLEN HILL          34 1999 ChiCubs_ NL  252  74   8   1  19  18  60  39  50   4   1 179 .294 .341 .560  .291  41  18  33  27-LF  88 22-RF  81
ROB DUCEY               34 1999 Philadel NL  187  47  12   2   7  36  56  27  30   2   1 141 .251 .372 .449  .279  29  17  45  23-LF 113
STAN JAVIER             35 1999 San_Fran NL  338  97  16   1   3  25  54  47  30  11   6 247 .287 .338 .367  .243  36  16  22  47-LF 101 30-RF 101
CHAD ALLEN              24 1999 Minnesot AL  476 127  20   3   9  31  89  61  41  14   7 356 .267 .314 .378  .236  48  15  28 126-LF  96
CHAD CURTIS             30 1999 NY_Yanks AL  196  53   6   0   5  41  35  35  23   8   4 147 .270 .404 .378  .278  30  15  43  52-LF  94
ORLANDO MERCED          32 1999 Montreal NL  193  50  13   1   7  24  27  23  23   2   1 144 .259 .341 .446  .264  26  15  38  33-LF 106
PAUL SORRENTO           33 1999 TampaBay AL  292  68  15   1  10  45 101  37  38   1   1 225 .233 .343 .394  .253  36  14  21  50-LF  98 22-1B  89
WIL CORDERO             27 1999 Clevelnd AL  192  56  11   0   9  13  37  31  30   2   0 136 .292 .355 .490  .282  29  14  41  28-LF  96
BRIAN HUNTER            28 1999 Seattle_ AL  481 107   9   5   4  27  80  64  31  44   5 379 .222 .265 .287  .203  35  13  13 105-LF 110
ORLANDO PALMEIRO        30 1999 Anaheim_ AL  314  85  11   1   1  36  30  42  21   5   5 234 .271 .357 .322  .238  32  13  22  49-LF 100 24-RF 100
KARIM GARCIA            23 1999 Detroit_ AL  287  67  11   3  13  17  67  35  29   2   4 224 .233 .276 .429  .229  28   9  30  49-RF  95 26-LF 105
SHANE SPENCER           27 1999 NY_Yanks AL  206  50   8   0   8  16  51  24  19   0   4 160 .243 .304 .398  .229  20   8  20  40-LF 107
DARYLE WARD             24 1999 Houston_ NL  152  42   7   0   8   7  31  11  29   0   0 110 .276 .308 .480  .258  19   7  36  23-LF  96
TIM RAINES              39 1999 Oakland_ AL  134  28   5   0   4  25  17  19  16   4   1 107 .209 .333 .336  .239  15   7  22  29-LF 102
OTIS NIXON              40 1999 Atlanta_ NL  152  32   2   1   0  22  15  28   8  23   7 127 .211 .310 .237  .215  14  -3 -18  32-LF  81

Hunter's 1999 season, when he hit for a .203 Equivalent Average with more than 500 plate appearances, is almost unprecedented in major-league history. Since 1901, only seven outfielders in the prime ages of 27-29 have had 250 or more at-bats and an EqA under .210.

One is Hunter.

One is George Barclay, who did it in 1904 and played his last major-league game in 1905:

 AGE YR  TEAM    AB   H   DB  TP  HR  BB+  SB  CS  OUT  RUN  RBI  BA   OBP  SLG   UEQR   EQA   EQR  RAR  WAR
 26 1902 STL-N  543  163  14   2   3   37  30  10  390   79   53 .300 .345 .350    76 0.2843   84   35   18
 27 1903 STL-N  419  104  10   8   0   17  12   4  319   37   42 .248 .278 .310    40 0.2219   37   -3  -20
 28 1904 BOS-N   93   21   3   1   0    4   3   1   73    5   10 .226 .258 .280     8 0.2236    9   -1   -4
 28 1904 STL-N  375   75   7   4   1   18  14   5  305   41   28 .200 .237 .248    25 0.2058   29   -9  -25
 29 1905 BOS-N  108   19   1   0   0    4   2   1   90    5    7 .176 .205 .185     3 0.1450    4   -8  -13
               1538  382  35  15   4   80  61  20 1176  167  140 .248 .286 .298   151 0.2380  162   14  -44

The same description applies to Pat Carney, except that he didn't make it to 1905:

 AGE YR  TEAM    AB   H   DB  TP  HR  BB+  SB  CS  OUT  RUN  RBI  BA   OBA  SLG   UEQR   EQA   EQR  RAR  WAR
 24 1901 BOS-N   55   16   2   1   0    4   0   0   39    6    6 .291 .339 .364     8 0.2591    7    2    0
 25 1902 BOS-N  522  141  17   4   2   54  27   9  390   75   65 .270 .339 .330    71 0.2821   82   33   16
 26 1903 BOS-N  392   94  12   4   1   32  10   3  301   37   49 .240 .297 .298    41 0.2314   39    1  -14
 27 1904 BOS-N  279   57   5   2   0   13   6   2  224   24   11 .204 .240 .237    17 0.1983   20   -9  -21
               1248  308  36  11   3  103  43  14  954  142  131 .247 .304 .300   137 0.2489  148   27  -19

Forty-five years later, in 1949, Paul Lehner did it. He would make a strong recovery in 1950, but was then only a part-time player for the final two years of his career.

 AGE YR  TEAM    AB   H   DB  TP  HR  BB+  SB  CS  OUT  RUN  RBI  BA   OBA  SLG   UEQR   EQA   EQR  RAR  WAR
 25 1946 STL-A   45   10   1   2   0    1   0   0   35    6    5 .222 .239 .333     3 0.2100    4   -1   -3
 26 1947 STL-A  483  120  25   9   7   31   5   5  368   59   48 .248 .294 .381    52 0.2412   53    6  -12
 27 1948 STL-A  333   92  15   4   2   30   0   2  243   23   46 .276 .336 .363    40 0.2384   34    3   -9
 28 1949 STL-A  297   68  13   0   3   17   0   2  231   25   37 .229 .271 .303    21 0.1918   19  -11  -23
 29 1950 PHI-A  427  132  17   5   9   32   1   1  296   48   52 .309 .357 .436    64 0.2756   59   21    9
 30 1951 CHI-A   72   15   3   1   0   10   0   0   57    9    3 .208 .305 .278     6 0.2208    7   -1   -4
 30 1951 CLE-A   13    3   0   0   0    1   0   0   10    2    1 .231 .286 .231     1 0.1937    1    0   -1
 30 1951 PHI-A   28    4   1   0   0    1   0   0   24    1    1 .143 .172 .179     0 -.0617    0   -3   -5
 30 1951 STL-A   67    9   5   0   1    6   0   1   59    2    2 .134 .205 .254     2 0.1367    2   -5   -9
 31 1952 BOS-A    3    2   0   0   0    2   0   0    1    0    2 .667 .800 .667     2 0.6290    2    1    1
               1768  455  80  21  22  131   6  11 1324  175  197 .257 .309 .364   191 0.2356  178   10  -54

In 1954, his only full-time season in the majors, Bob Talbot did it.

 AGE YR  TEAM    AB   H   DB  TP  HR  BB+  SB  CS  OUT  RUN  RBI  BA   OBA  SLG   UEQR   EQA   EQR  RAR  WAR
 26 1953 CHI-N   30   10   0   1   0    0   1   0   20    5    0 .333 .333 .400     4 0.2559    3    1    0
 27 1954 CHI-N  403   97  15   4   1   19   3   6  312   45   19 .241 .275 .305    28 0.1954   26  -13  -30
                433  107  15   5   1   19   4   6  332   50   19 .247 .279 .312    32 0.1999   30  -12  -30

Another 34 years elapsed before it happened again, this time with Mike Davis. Davis was a pretty good hitter from 1985 to 1987 before plummeting in 1988, and though he recovered somewhat in 1989, he was out of the majors for good.

 AGE YR  TEAM    AB   H   DB  TP  HR  BB+  SB  CS  OUT  RUN  RBI  BA   OBA  SLG   UEQR   EQA   EQR  RAR  WAR
 21 1980 OAK-A   95   20   2   1   1    7   2   1   76   11    8 .211 .265 .284     6 0.2077    7   -2   -6
 22 1981 OAK-A   20    1   1   0   0    2   0   0   19    0    0 .050 .136 .100    -1 -.1041    0   -3   -4
 23 1982 OAK-A   75   30   4   0   1    2   3   2   47   12   10 .400 .416 .493    13 0.3226   14    8    6
 24 1983 OAK-A  443  122  24   4   8   32  32  15  336   61   62 .275 .324 .402    59 0.2680   62   20    5
 25 1984 OAK-A  382   88  18   3   9   32  14   9  303   47   46 .230 .290 .364    40 0.2468   46    7   -7
 26 1985 OAK-A  547  157  34   1  24   52  24  10  400   92   82 .287 .349 .484    92 0.2992   98   47   31
 27 1986 OAK-A  489  131  28   3  19   35  27   4  362   77   55 .268 .317 .454    73 0.2828   77   31   16
 28 1987 OAK-A  494  131  32   1  22   43  19   7  370   69   72 .265 .324 .468    75 0.2810   77   31   15
 29 1988 LA_-N  281   55  11   2   2   25   7   3  229   29   17 .196 .261 .270    20 0.2081   23   -6  -18
 30 1989 LA_-N  173   43   7   1   5   16   6   5  135   21   19 .249 .312 .387    21 0.2692   25    8    2
               2999  778 161  16  91  246 134  56 2277  419  371 .259 .316 .415   398 0.2696  430  141   39

The final player to pull it off also did it in 1999, the Expos' Manny Martinez.

 AGE YR  TEAM    AB   H   DB  TP  HR  BB+  SB  CS  OUT  RUN  RBI  BA   OBA  SLG   UEQR   EQA   EQR  RAR  WAR
 25 1996 PHI-N   36    8   0   2   0    2   2   1   29    2    0 .222 .263 .333     3 0.2140    3   -1   -2
 25 1996 SEA-A   17    4   2   1   0    3   2   0   13    3    3 .235 .350 .471     3 0.2909    3    1    1
 27 1998 PIT-N  180   45  11   2   6   11   0   3  138   21   24 .250 .293 .433    21 0.2407   20    2   -4
 28 1999 MON-N  331   81  12   7   2   17  19   6  256   48   26 .245 .282 .341    31 0.2088   26   -7  -20
                564  138  25  12   8   33  23  10  436   74   53 .245 .286 .374    58 0.2229   51   -5  -26

The final entry I have is a portion of our forecasting routine, which identifies the players who, over a three-year period, were most similar to the player being tested. This chart means that the player (since 1950) who most resembled Brian Hunter's 1997-99 performance was Tom Goodwin, between 1995 and 1997. In 1998, the fourth year, Goodwin had 33 fewer at-bats than he had averaged over the prior three years, seven fewer hits, six fewer doubles, etc.

Virtually every player on the list declined across the board in the fourth year of the comparison. Stolen bases decline especially rapidly, an ominous sign for Hunter, since that and defense are his only real skills. Jerry Royster, Freddie Patek, Luis Polonia and Bump Wills are the only ones who ever hit for a .260 (league average) EqA in the entire remainder of their career.

Hunter's comp list looks like this.

                                       AB    H   DB   TP   HR   BB   SB  CS   EQR
 5007 TOM       GOODWIN        1998.  -33   -7   -6   -1    0   31  -26  -3    1
 6943 DAVID     HULSE          1996. -296  -88   -9   -8   -1  -17  -20  -4  -35
 6992 OMAR      MORENO         1983. -112  -30    2    0   -2  -22  -24  -8  -17
 7041 FRANK     TAVERAS        1980.  -70   -5   -6   -8    0  -12  -21  -2  -10
 7230 IVAN      DEJESUS        1982.  -98  -17    2    0    0  -10  -15 -10   -3
 7240 JERRY     ROYSTER        1982. -120  -20   -8   -1    1  -13   -7  -2   -6
 7449 CHICO     FERNANDEZ      1960.   64   17    1    0    0    9    4   0    8
 7785 FRANK     TAVERAS        1979.  103   29   14    0    0   -6  -12   1    4
 7806 ROGER     METZGER        1976.  -58  -26    5   -4    0   13   -8  -5   -5
 7845 PEDRO     GONZALEZ       1967. -103  -31   -8   -1   -1   -2   -2   1  -13
 8313 DARREN    LEWIS          1997. -350  -86  -14   -4   -3  -40  -17  -9  -35
 8355 FREDDIE   PATEK          1974.  -14  -16   -3   -2    0   31  -20   0   -2
 8630 JOE       SIMPSON        1983. -253  -72  -17   -2   -3  -14  -14  -6  -28
 8631 LUIS      POLONIA        1994. -102  -20    7    2    0    5  -24  -3    0
 8644 GENE      CLINES         1976.  196   71    6    0    0   -2   -1   3   19
 8900 DAVE      NELSON         1975. -455 -136  -24   -3   -3  -44  -48 -17  -54
 9181 CHUCK     CARR           1995.  -66  -27   -3   -1    3   19   -9   1   -3
 9460 BUMP      WILLS          1982. -161  -48  -10    0    4    0   -5  -3   -8
10116 DON       BLASINGAME     1961. -115  -55   -3   -4   -1  -18  -24  -7  -31
10147 EDDIE     MIKSIS         1954. -388 -105  -21   -2   -3  -29  -18  -7  -39

Hunter's projection for 2000:

           AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  SO  SB  CS   BA   OBP   SLG     EQA  EQR
 2000 SEA 513 127  18   4   3  38  86  32   9 0.247 0.299 0.313  0.222  46

Even with superior defense, these numbers would keep him among the worst left fielders in baseball.

Related Content:  Age 27,  Jerry Royster,  SLG,  Al,  Nl

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