The Bottom Five

Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, and Roy Halladay all had fantastic and very storied seasons. A couple of these guys will go home with some hardware before the year ends, and the rest can take solace in the millions of dollars they are, or will be, making. Some pitchers were, suffice it to say, not as good, and the opposite in terms of effectivenss, of the five mentioned above. Let’s take a look at the worst five pitchers in baseball this year, via WPA/LI, to see if there is anything at all positive to take away.

Brandon Backe just may be the worst pitcher in baseball consistently given start after start, and his league worst -2.90 WPA/LI topped or bottomed all others. In 166.2 innings, he posted a 6.05 ERA with a 1.67 WHIP. His FIP did not portend any type of luck, either, as it finished the season at 5.87, thanks to a rather pedestrian 1.65 K/BB. In raw numbers, 77 walks and 127 strikeouts might be acceptable for a rookie with massive upside, but that does not fit Backe’s bill. His .326 BABIP may have been a bit unlucky, but nowhere near the level of unluckiness that a couple other on this list experienced. Why this man still gets paid to pitch in the major leagues befuddles me.

Ian Snell was the next closest, with a -2.82 WPA/LI, but his story is a little different. Despite finishing with an ugly 5.42 ERA, his FIP pegged him at 4.57. Walking 89 and giving up 201 hits in just 164.1 innings results in a 1.76 WHIP, but the hits are unlikely to come at this rate in subsequent years, because it is very unlikely that Snell will sustain a .358 BABIP. His strikeouts may never be excellent compared to his walks, but he is better than he performed this season. The hits should regress next season but if he really wants to take the next step towards a solid career, he will need to control his controllable skills on top of that.

Everyone in the statistical analysis world fell in love with Brian Bannister this off-season after his interview with Tim Dierkes at MLB Trade Rumors. Bannister knows what he has to do to succeed, but just didn’t do it too well this season. His 5.76 ERA was mainly the byproduct of a 63.9% LOB coupled with a 1.49 WHIP. That WHIP is actually the lowest of the bunch, and his 1.95 K/BB is the highest. Additionally, his .316 BABIP was the least unlucky, and his xFIP says he actually posted better controllable skills metrics than last year. If anyone in this group has something positive to look forward to next year, it would be Bannister.

Kenny Rogers and Livan Hernandez, on the other hand, just should not be pitching in the major leagues anymore, period. The Rockies sure made an upgrade when they got rid of Kip Wells and replaced him with Hernandez. That’s the equivalent of, well, it’s the equivalent of replacing one really bad item with one that could actually be worse… and then using that potentially worse item for the rest of the season! Hernandez posted a 3.35 K/9. Matt and Marc could probably strike out more batters than that. Kidding aside for a second, he surrendered 257 hits this year in just 180 innings, struck out just 67 hitters, and stranded just 65% of the runners that reached base to the tune of a 1.67 WHIP. His FIP was much lower than his 6.05 ERA, at 4.94, but his career should be over.

Rogers’ numbers are very similar, as he had a 66% LOB, a 5.70 ERA, and a 5.22 FIP. He barely struck anyone out either, and walked enough to produce a 1.15 K/BB. He was not that unlucky in the BABIP department either, meaning he largely just stunk this year. He may have been a key cog in the rotation of the 2006 Tigers, but he is on the last legs of a solid career, and should walk away before we remember him for years like this past one. I would expect Snell and Bannister to experience some type of rebound next season, but Backe, Hernandez, and Rogers should be out of baseball.

Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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14 years ago

Being a Cardinals fan I hate Brandon Backe. He runs his mouth off a whole lot for a guy with little to no talent. I can only hope that the Astros keep running him out there on a regular basis.