By pretty much every metric you could think of, the Blue Jays have had the worst hitter in all of baseball this season. Isn’t that exciting!
2017 has been an incredibly disappointing year for the Blue Jays. Every single player and their mother got hurt and the replacements left a lot to be desired. Remember in 2015 when Pillar hit the DL after he sprained himself from a sneeze? That about sums up this season; a big, giant collective sneeze and nobody can walk anymore and there are sirens in the distance.
However, as tough as it has been to watch this season, we aren’t really that bad. 72-82 isn’t ideal, but it’s not even close to being as bad as a truly horrific season. The Giants, like the Jays, were expected to be contenders this year and they’re at 60-94. The Giants truly went down in flames, screaming for help as the Padres continued to sweep them. The Phillies are 61-93, but they’re in a clear transitional period.
As bad as the 2017 Jays were, they’re clearly not in the same tier as other teams who have had bad seasons this year like the Phillies or the Reds. The talent’s still there. The promise is there. It’s not hard to imagine this team doing well next year.
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You might expect the teams previously mentioned to have some pretty bad players. You would be correct. But the Giants, Phillies, Reds, Tigers and any other rebuilding team all have one thing in common: they don’t have the worst hitter. They have bad hitters, to be sure. But not the worst hitter in 2017. No, the Blue Jays do!
For those unfamiliar with wRC+, it’s a fairly simple metric. It measures how many runs created a player has produced relative to league average. A 100 wRC is league average, while a 120 wRC+ is 20% above league average, meaning somebody with a 120 wRC+ has produced 20% more runs than the average player. Mike Trout has a 183 wRC+ because he’s amazing. Jose Bautista has an 81 wRC+. He’s been awful.
Luke Maile has a wRC of -7. Negative seven. Among every single hitter who has taken at least 100 at-bats in 2017, nobody has hit worse than Luke Maile. Nobody else even has a negative mark; the next lowest mark is 6. Luke Maile stands completely alone at the bottom, and it’s not particularly close.
If you prefer to look at OPS, Luke Maile is again absolute dead last with a .384 mark. The next highest mark is nearly 50 points higher. His .136 average is also the absolute worst mark out of any single hitter.
That’s really special. It’s been a rough year for Luke Maile. I guess it’s like if you want to work on January 2, the most hungover you’ve ever been. You’re just kind of there, not really doing anything. Except for every day for the rest of the year is that exact same day and at some point, somebody needs to call an ambulance or start an intervention because you’re killing yourself. Somebody, please help Luke Maile.
To be fair and a little more serious, Luke Maile does appear to be a good defender. He does have some good qualities. He’s thrown out 35% of baserunners, which is well above average when you consider Martin’s 20% mark. He also appears to be a good framer and does call a good game. So all is not wrong in the world of Luke Maile. He does deserve credit.
Most teams value a catcher’s defense far more than they do any other position, which makes sense, given how important a catcher is and given the many facets of a game which they affect. So the leash is a lot longer for their hitting than, say, a poorly hitting first baseman. Jose Molina immediately jumps to mind. On any given team, Jose Molina was more than likely the worst hitter. But he provided so much value behind the plate that he was worth it.
But if you’re hitting .136, you could be a Decepticon from Cybertron whose only goal is throwing out base-runners that also transforms into sandwiches for everybody after the game and I’m still not sure it’d be worth it.
I would go out on a limb and say that if the Blue Jays do want to win in 2018, they should probably not continue to use the worst hitter in 2017. That seems like a good stepping stone.