Terrible Hitters Who Help Their Teams

If you want a quick glimpse of some players who probably shouldn’t qualify for the batting title, go to the leader boards, click on Advanced, and then click on wOBA. There you will see a list of players whose wOBAs range from pretty damn bad, Will Venable at .285, to downright putrid, Miguel Tejada at .224. Some of these players figure to rise from their unworthy starts and earn their spots in the lineup. Others will find spots on the bench, or, in some cases, the waiver wire. Such is life in baseball.

Despite their horrible overall production, some of these players have managed to get their scant few hits in a timely manner. A few of the bottom dwellers have racked up a decent number of runs and RBI in their travels. While it’s not at all indicative of their talent, it has helped their team in some small way. I’d like to highlight a couple of these instances today.

Gets Hits in Timely Situations

After a quality showing during his rookie campaign, Danny Valencia has taken quite a stumble in his follow-up effort. He’s already halfway to his PA total from last year, but has just a third the number of hits. His power is down, his BABIP is way down, and, well, basically everything he’s done has been worse. The only thing he’s done better is draw more walks (he’s just four away from his total from last year). That only adds up to a .272 wOBA. Still, his hits have come at the right time, as he already has 19 RBI.

To put that RBI total into context, it’s as many as David Ortiz (.374 wOBA) and two more than Howie Kendrick (.389 wOBA). (There are others in similar ranges, but many of them are leadoff hitters.) It is also the second most on his team, one behind Jason Kubel. This actually goes a long way in explaining the team’s offensive woes. So does the fact that his wOBA is fifth highest among his teammates with 100 or more PA. It’s a bit lucky, then, that nine of his 31 hits have come with men in scoring position.

Teammates Have a Knack

While it’s better to time your hits so they come with men in scoring position, it’s still beneficial when your teammates knock you in once you’ve gotten on base. The most prolific at this in 2011 has been Alex Rios. He’s at a .266 OBP and .255 wOBA — just 41 times he has reached via non-HR hit or a walk. Yet in 22 instances his teammates have driven him in. True, some of those have undoubtedly come after he’s reached on a fielder’s choice or on an error. But it’s still quite impressive that a player can get on base so infrequently and still score so many runs.

In the search for context, we can see that he’s scored as many runs as Placido Polanco (.374 OBP) and more runs than Carlos Beltran (.377 OBP). Jhonny Peralta has a .360 OBP this season, yet has scored four fewer runs than Rios. Here’s another: despite having the seventh-highest OBP among the White Sox with more than 100 PA, he has scored 13 percent of the team’s runs on the season. What makes this even more remarkable is that for the past few weeks he’s been hitting seventh, which means that he has Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel hitting behind him.

The Unproductive One

Not everyone can be as lucky as Rios and Valencia, getting hits in timely spots and coming around to score in the few instances that they do reach base. The goat here is James Loney. He has only seven runs scored and 13 RBI to go with his .240 wOBA. That’s more in line with expectations. Loney does have a few handicaps, in that he usually hits eighth and so doesn’t come around to score often, because the pitcher hits behind him. He also hits in the Dodgers lineup, which doesn’t feature many guys getting on base ahead of him.

Of course, James Loney’s biggest handicap of all is that he’s James Loney and doesn’t hit baseballs particularly well. But that’s a story for another post.

We hoped you liked reading Terrible Hitters Who Help Their Teams by Joe Pawlikowski!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

newest oldest most voted

“Loney does have a few handicaps, in that he usually hits eighth”

The huge majority of Loney’s PAs have come hitting 6th. He hasn’t hit 8th all year.


Yeah – he’s not unproductive because he hits eighth; he hits eighth because he was/is unproductive. An utter lack of offensive improvement in the last few years when he should be in his prime.


He DOESN’T hit 8th is my point.

Other than a few games hitting 2nd or 7th, he has hit 5th/6th all year.

The article takes a questionable approach and doesn’t make any particularly coherent points, but that can be forgiven. Making things up like Loney being handicapped by hitting 8th is inexcusable though.