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August 18, 2006

Prospectus Matchups

Baseball's Dirtiest Dozen

by Jim Baker

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What positions are costing teams the most offensively? There are currently 254 positions in the bigs (eight times 16 in the National League and nine times 14 in the American) and a few of them have been pretty toxic. Going by cumulative VORP, we'll talk about the 12 worst.

-25.3, St. Louis catchers: BP lists 88 catchers for 2006. Ranked 88th in VORP is Yadier Molina. Ranked 86th is his tandem buddy, Gary Bennett. The latter backstop doesn't play much and when he does, it's almost like having two pitchers in the lineup. Over the last month he's 2-for-31 with three walks. The great thing is, during the playoffs, we'll hear the announcers bending over backwards to sing their praises. Hitters this bad have to be truly awesome at other stuff, right? In his defense, Molina does have a 30/13 FRAR/FRAA and is only 23. Bennett is at 1/-4.

-20.5, Indians third basemen: Are your catchers and shortstops on this list? These things happen. We hope for better things from our third basemen, however. Aaron Boone is the main culprit here, although he hasn't been the worst in the bigs at -8.9. What drags the Tribesters down is that the men who have gotten the rest of the playing time at third have stumbled badly in their small sample sizes. The oft-dealt Andy Marte is in the midst of his second straight nasty cup of coffee, while veteran Ramon Vazquez is .209/.267/.284 in his brief showing. The three worst VORP figures on the Indians belong to their third basemen.

-18.0, San Diego third basemen: If Vinny Castilla were actually going to play much now that he's signed with the Rockies, he would find that his new home was not the Coors Field of his youth. He's on a minor league deal and won't return to Denver until September in what is sure to be his farewell tour. His replacements haven't fared much better. Mark Bellhorn is .165/.270/.321 at third while Geoff Blum is .239/.304/.310. Maybe recently acquired Todd Walker can yank it higher up the list.

-17.6, Houston catchers: Brad Ausmus is outdoing himself this year. The long-time stathead whipping boy is possibly having the worst year of his career, posting an EqA of .207. For much of the season, the Astros lineup has more holes than a syphilitic's brain and there is none bigger than catcher. It wasn't all that long that his backup, Eric Munson, used to do something when he'd come to the plate.

-16.8, Twins designated hitters: What I said about third basemen before? That goes triple for designated hitters. After all, when the rest of these guys aren't busy not hitting, they're at least out there trying to keep their foes off the scoreboard. Not so DHs. As BP's John Erhardt pointed out, Rondell White was the first man in 2006 to cost his team a game, reaching a -10.0 VORP earlier than anybody else. The Twins, who have taken more missteps than a baby carrying a pallet of refrigerator motors this year, could ill-afford that. White was so completely bad that he has managed to drag this position down this low in spite of 50 awesome DH at bats by Joe Mauer and good shorter turns from Josh Rabe and Torii Hunter. Ruben Sierra and Jason Kubel haven't helped much while DHing.

-16.3, Mariners centerfielders: There's only way sure to make sure you're going to get even less production out of a position than Jeremy Reed provides--give the majority of the rest of the playing time to Willie Bloomquist. Actually, Adam Jones has been even worse in his brief time there (.217/.239/.319). Reed's injury should have been a blessing for the M's run-scoring desires. Miraculously, they've managed to make it look like a curse.

-14.7, Blue Jays shortstops: John McDonald hits like it's 1968 and his name is Ray Oyler. Unfortunately, it's 2006 and teams need a lot more runs to win these days. Russ Adams has contributed a -7.5 VORP to the cause. Aaron Hill has hit well while being number six and Troy Glaus has played enough games there (eight) to qualify for the Most Hulking Shortstop of All-Time contest.

-14.6, Royals shortstops: 85 percent of this is on former Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, but the bit players Tony Graffanino and Andres Blanco haven't helped. Kansas City shorties other than Berroa are at .203/.312/.234 in their 70 plate appearances.

-14.4, Rockies catchers: Four catchers and all of them are below replacement level. Unique on this list, though, the guy with the most playing time has the best VORP. Yorvit Torrealba is nearly neutral. Miguel Ojeda, JD Closser and Danny Ardoin are wrestling them down the list.

-14.0, Mariners designated hitters: Why are the Mariners not part of a four-team race in a four-team division? Giving away two spots in the batting order where most teams find strength or, at worst, neutrality, has a lot to do with it. The now-departed Carl Everett was a bad gamble, but the rest of the lot haven't done much to show him up, combining for .246/.312/.395. You'd take that from your shortstop if he was a good glove guy.

-13.8, Rockies shortstops: I want you to close your eyes and let your mind drift back to a time when the nation was younger and more innocent. Are you feeling the cool breeze of nostalgia on your aging skin? It was early June 2005 and a young Clint Barmes had raced out to a VORP of about 20.0. Then he disappeared after a dead deer got the better of him. When he came back, the magic was gone and it has yet to return. He's better than he was in his September return last year, but those 17 walks and .236 BA are killers. Jamey Carroll and Omar Quintanilla haven't done much when filling in, doing .188/.312/.245 in about 60 plate appearances.

-13.3, Devil Rays first basemen: The only thing worse than having your designated hitters on this list? Right: having your first basemen. Travis Lee is an echo of the team's past, haunting their present. He will be exorcised in time for the future to begin.

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