One of the ways fun is had from this seat is using the stat sites to make lists. Just yesterday, a list was created to find the ten worst wOBA scores for Yankees since 1961 with a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances. The thought was that 1,000 plate appearances gave the player at least two equivalents to full seasons to prove how bad a hitter he was. The data includes the time with the Yankees only and not with other clubs. The list came out to look like this from lowest to highest:
- Fred Stanley – 1,157 plate appearances, .269 wOBA (1973 – 1980)
- Gene Michael – 2,659, .270 (1968 – 1974)
- Alvaro Espinoza – 1,528, .270 (1988 – 1991)
- Jake Gibbs – 1,795, .274 (1962 – 1971)
- Sandy Alomar- 1,005, .278 (1974 – 1976)
- Bucky Dent – 2,429, .282 (1977 – 1982)
- Bobby Richardson – 4,217, .286 (1961 – 1966) **started career in 1955
- Bob Meacham – 1,591, .288 (1983 – 1988)
- Tony Kubek – 2,251, -289 (1961-1965) **started career in 1957
- Horace Clarke – 5,143, .289 (1965 – 1974)
As you can see from that list, only Gibbs was not a middle infielder. Phil Linz was twelfth on the list and Randy Velarde, Pat Kelly and Mike Gallego are in the top thirty (or bottom thirty). Dent was a defensive wizard of the group. Kubek, Clarke and Espinoza also have very good defensive metrics. The rest were just ordinary with the glove and Gene Michael and Bob Meacham were below average. The norm before Jeter and the combination of Knoblauch, Soriano and Cano was weak-hitting, no power guys with nicknames like, “Stick,” and, “Chicken.”
Fred Stanley had a Yankee career OPS of .565 with a slugging percentage of .266. Ugh! Gene Michael had an OPS with the Yankees of .585. Ramiro Pena would be a starter back in those days.
But it is not just the Yankees. Second baseman and shortstops have had few offensive superstars over the years. Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar and Robin Yount come to mind. Traditionally, the positions are populated by less than stellar batters. For example, since 1961, Robinson Cano is tied for the sixth highest wOBA among all second baseman behind guys like Joe Morgan, Sandberg, Chase Utley, Rod Carew and Jeff Kent.
And the trend continues to this day. Around baseball, 2012 MLB second basemen have a collective OPS of .699. 2012 shortstops have a collective OPS of .687. Those two positions have the worst OPS scores of all positions (not including pitchers). OPS+ is calculated relative to all batters around baseball. But if you were to rate Cano and Jeter against their positions only, their OPS+ would be astronomical.
What we probably take for granted is not the norm around baseball and it certainly hasn’t been the norm for the Yankees over the last fifty years. Shortstops and second baseman usually bat in the bottom of the batting order, not at the top. Shortstops and second basemen that hit like Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano…usually end up in the Hall of Fame.