The ten worst Yankee offensive seasons ever

1. Frank Crosetti – 1940: This year Crosetti put together happened at the tail end of a nineteen year run of impressive league offense. From 1921 to 1939, the league OPS never dipped below .726. Crosetti’s 1940 season came in at .572 giving him the lowest OPS+ in Yankee history at 52. Crosetti came to the plate 632 times with 546 at bats. He registered only 106 hits for a .194 batting average. Crosetti did manage to walk 72 times and was hit by ten pitches, but his on-base percentage still only reached .299. His slugging percentage was .278. His season bWAR was -0.8. Ouch. Crosetti had a long association with the Yankees and became sort of a godfather around the park for decades. But 1940 was his last full season as the Yankees’ shortstop.

2. Everett Scott – 1924: We associate the 1920s as the Babe Ruth Era culminating of course in Murderers Row. But the only thing Everett Scott murdered was at bats. Scott has the second and third lowest Yankee OPS+ seasons of the team’s history. The league OPS that season was .742. Scott finished at .593 good for a paltry 53 OPS+. In 153 games, he walked only 21 times and his on-base percentage of .278 was recorded despite a batting average of .250. Like Babe Ruth, Scott played with the Red Sox during their World Series runs, and so he had four World Series rings to his credit (did they have rings back then?). But in a hundred plate appearances in the World Series, he only had fourteen hits and three walks for a .357 World Series OPS. Like Crosetti, Scott was a shortstop and 1924 was his last major playing time in the majors.

3. Everett Scott – 1923: Scott’s 54 OPS+ in 1923 was the third lowest in Yankee history and gave him an impressively awful two-year run. In 568 plate appearances, Scott walked only thirteen times all season.

4. Clete Boyer – 1964:  The 1964 Yankees finished fourth in the league in OPS. But that wasn’t because of its infield. The combination of Boyer, Bobby Richardson, Tony Kubek and Joe Pepitone all failed to reach an OPS+ higher than 91. None had an on-base percentage over .300. This lack of infield offense would plague the Yankees right through the 1960s. Of the four, Boyer had the worst season and is tied for the fourth worst OPS+ in club history. Boyer batted .219 and had an OBP of .269. Since he batted in front of the pitchers, he received eleven intentional walks. Those IBBs inflated that .269 OBP. The excellent fielding third baseman found more power in the following years and had some good seasons for the Yankees and then the Braves.

4. Johnny Sturm – 1941: The Yankees won the World Series in 1941, but it wasn’t because of Sturm. He was a first baseman who played nine years in the minors but 1941 was his only season in the big leagues. Apparently, first basemen were fungible in that point in baseball history. Can you imagine today having a first baseman who only finished with an OPS of .591? That would never fly today…unless you are the Miami Marlins and employ Gaby Sanchez.

6. Bobby Meacham – 1985:  How bad a hitter was Bobby Meacham? He led the league in 1985 in sacrifice bunts. Yeah, that is pretty bad. Meacham played 156 games and only managed to hit .218 with a .266 slugging percentage. His resulting 59 OPS+ for the season puts him sixth on our list. 1985 was the only season Meacham was featured as the starting shortstop. He played a total of six seasons and finished with a career OPS+ of 73.

7. Horace Clarke – 1968:  1968 was the famous year of the pitcher. And Horace Clarke set a record that may ever stand. His OPS of .512 is the lowest ever for any player with 600 or more plate appearances. Since 1968 was such a poor season for the league in hitting, his OPS+ fared a little better at 60 than some of the others on our list so far. But Clarke’s season was really, really ugly. Clarke came to the plate 607 times that season and had nine extra base hits all season. Nine! The unbelievable fact about his season was that despite his .258 on-base percentage, Clarke batted lead-off for the Yankees for 135 of their games. With all those games in the lead-off position, Clarke scored 51 runs that season. What was Ralph Houk thinking!?

8. Rafael Santana – 1988: 1988 was not a pleasant season for the New York Yankees. It was Billy Martin’s last hurrah as a Yankee manager and was typically fired and replaced with Lou Piniella. The truth of the matter is that the Yankees performed better that season under Martin and tanked pretty hard under Piniella. But Martin could not keep out of trouble and was gone for the last time. The Yankees infield consisted of Mike Pagliarulo at third, Santana at short and Willie Randolph at second. All had poor offensive seasons with Pagliarulo with the highest OPS+ of the three at 80. Santana finished at 65, giving him the eighth worse offensive season in Yankee history. Santana had played the previous five seasons with the Mets and his offense was terrible there too. So it was not like the Yankees did not know he could not hit. After this 1988 clunker of a season, Santana played only seven more games in the majors. Santana also hit into 17 double plays that season.

8. Sandy Alomar – 1975: Alomar played 150 games for the Yankees in 1975 at second base. And again, it is not like the Yankees did not know when they acquired him that he could not hit. Alomar incredibly played fifteen seasons despite the fact that he never could swing the bat. His lifetime OPS was .578. 1975 was his last season as a starting player and the 65 OPS+ he put up that season was probably why. Billy Martin took over as manager in the second half of that season. By 1976, Willie Randolph would begin his Yankee career and the team would finish in first place. Alomar was relegated to a utility player.

10. Frank Crosetti – 1939: The Yankees of 1939 were a juggernaut and perhaps one of the best teams in history. The team finished first in on-base percentage, slugging AND ERA. They won 106 games against only 45 losses and went on to win the World Series. How good was that offense? Despite Crosetti’s 66 OPS+, he still scored 109 runs that season.

There you have it. The ten worst offensive seasons in the history of the New York Yankees. And just for the sake of comparison, Russell Martin is having a terrible year offensively and his OPS+ is 74. He would not break into this list even if he had enough plate appearances.

William Tasker grew up in Bergenfield, New Jersey but has lived in New England since 1975 and in the far reaches of northern Maine since 1990. Tasker is the author of nine (non-baseball related) books and, besides writing here for three years, has written for his own site at www.passion4baseball.blogspot.com since 2003.

13 thoughts on “The ten worst Yankee offensive seasons ever

  1. Professor Longnose

    Great column. I love this stuff.

    I still remember Michael Kay’s constant defense of Bobby Meacham: “He was the starting shortstop on a team that won 97 games!” QED. (That ’85 team broke my heart. They should have won the division.)

    Most of the ’64 infield, except for Pepitone, was on the great ’61 team, and they were nearly as bad. Skowron, at first, led the infield with a .318 OBP. Despite their legendary power, the Yankees in ’61 didn’t lead the league in runs scored. Richardson and Kubek hit 1 and 2, in front of two guys who combined for 115 HRs, and neither scored 100 runs.

    • williamjtasker

      Great comments, Professor. Loved that 61 factoid.

  2. JEP

    Horace Clark libel! You forgot about his career year in '69 when his OPS+ was 101.

    I was six years old in 68 and remember cheering for him at the Stadium with my father and brother. For some reason I really liked Horace Clark. I think it was because I liked the way his name sounded.

    • williamjtasker

      I was twelve in 1968 and I never liked him. Something about the way he stuck his butt out when he hit and those glasses just didn't do it for me.

      • JEP

        I don't think I was very discerning back then. I also liked Jake Gibbs, but that was only because I got his bat for Bat Day. Strangely enough, no one wanted to trade me for it.

        In later years I got a Bobby Murcer, a Thurman Munson and a Lou Piniella. I still have those three.

        • Professor Longnose

          I remember going to Picture Day, when you could have your picture taken with a Yankee. Unfortunately, you didn’t get to choose which Yankee. I was hoping for Roy White, but I got Jim Mason. At the time I was disappointed, though of course Mason later went on to set the all-time record for World Series OPS.

          • ProfRobert

            Later tied by Kirk Gibson! The Jim Mason question is one of my all-time favorite pieces of trivia.

            I became a fan in 1970 when I was 7 and also loved Horace Clarke. Part of it was, as JEP notes, the sound of his name, at least coming out of Bob Sheppard's mouth (I can still hear it in my head). The other part was, I remember watching a game on channel 11, and Clarke fouled off something like 10 straight pitches, hitting a home run on No. 11 (or whatever it was). I don't remember the year, but he was my hero after that.

  3. Bill

    If you look at the Yankees of the late 60s, Ralph Houk didn't have a whole lot to choose from. But 1968 was a doozy. Down the stretch that year, when they actually played quite well to finish over .500, the 1-2 hitters were Clarke (OPS+ of 60) and Jake Gibbs (OPS+ of 70). It's a wonder they ever scored at all. The numbers for that year across the board are incredibly bad. I look at the teams of the past 15-20 years and can't comprehend how had that offense really was. And I saw it first hand!

  4. Norm

    Wow, Horace Clark! That's a name I haven't heard in a very, very long time. Brings back a lot of memories, most of them bad. Like when he anchored that great infield of Clarke at second, Len Boehmer (sp) at first, Gene (The Stick) MIchael at SS, and a cast of thousands at third. If I recall, one season (think it was '69), they signed some kid from the Mexican League to play third who used to throw the ball underhanded to first.

  5. Frank S.

    Hey, don't pick on my man Bobby Meacham! When I played SS in HS — or handball or anything else — every time I went for the ball I'd shout " MEACHAM!!" My friends started calling me Meacham. My HS g-friend signed my yearbook to "Meacham." No, I am not making this up.

  6. williamjtasker

    Fun memory, Frank. No, I'm not picking on Meacham. I'm just reporting the facts.

  7. William Miller

    I would do a similar column like this on my Mets, but it would go on waayyyy too long.
    Excellent post, William.
    Bill

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