At the end of every season, the baseball media likes to focus on the league’s best players, going as far as honoring them after the season with arbitrary awards, based on meaningless things like “performance.” But these awards neglect some of the most important players in baseball. The best players are nothing without the players on the other end of the spectrum. But while there is plenty of buzz surrounding the top 1% of MLB players, there is almost none surrounding the bottom 1%. This is where we step in. Introducing the Gallardo Awards. Named after Yovani Gallardo and his 30.86 ERA in 3 appearances with the Reds this year, the Gallardo Awards are here to honor the players who had the worst seasons in baseball this year. For each league, we will be choosing winners for the following awards:
Least Valuable Player
Worst Starting Pitcher
Worst Relief Pitcher
Worst Free Agent Signing
Worst Individual Performance
Aluminum Slugger (9)
Now that we’ve explained the awards, let’s get underway! Here are the worst players in the National League:
Least Valuable Player: Lewis Brinson, CF, Miami Marlins
On January 25th, the Marlins traded Christian Yelich to the Brewers, for a package headlined by Lewis Brinson. Brinson, a speedy outfielder with solid gap power, was a consensus top prospect heading into the season. But while Yelich is looking like the likely NL MVP this year, the same can not be said about Brinson. Brinson started 109 games in Miami this year, drawing only 17 walks. His -1.0 WAR was the worst in the entire National League, as were his 56 wRC+ and .240 OBP. And though his defense has been advertised as a strength, Brinson was 3.1 runs worse than the average center fielder according to UZR. He’s only 24, so Brinson has plenty of time to turn it around. But this was definitely not the way he nor the Marlins thought his rookie season would go.
Worst Starting Pitcher: Homer Bailey, SP, Cincinnati Reds
As far as bad contracts go, very few top the extension the Reds gave Homer prior to the 2014 season. Five seasons and countless injuries later, the deal has been a disaster. In 2018, Bailey made $21 million. Making 20 starts, his most since 2014, Bailey put up a 6.09 ERA, the worst in the National League. His -0.2 fWAR was better than only Tyler Chatwood, who walked nearly 20% of the batters he faced. Opposing batters hit .307 against Bailey, and his team went 1-19 in his starts. If the Reds are serious about contending in 2019, cutting ties with the worst pitcher in the National League would be a good place to start.
Worst Relief Pitcher: Brian Duensing, RP, Chicago Cubs
There were a lot of good options for this award, including Brett Cecil, Jake McGee, and Matt Albers. However, no reliever was as bad in 2018 as Brian Duensing. Following a strong 2017 season, the 35-year-old Duensing signed a 2-year extension with the Cubs. But as you can imagine, he did not live up to expectations. In 37.2 innings, Duensing had an NL-worst 7.65 ERA, and his 190 ERA- was the worst since Chad Qualls in 2010, whose peripherals looked much better than Duensing’s. Duensing walked 6.93 batters per 9 innings, and he and Cecil were the only 2 relievers in baseball to walk more batters than they struck out this season.
Worst Fielder: Rhys Hoskins, LF, Philadelphia Phillies
Hoskins was stellar at the plate in 2018, hitting 34 home runs with a 129 wRC+. The same, however, could not be said about his glove in left field. Hoskins’ -24 defensive runs saved were the second worst in the National League, better than only Charlie Blackmon. His -11.3 UZR was also better only than Blackmon’s. Statcast paints an even worse picture of Hoskins. His -19 outs above average were last in the league by six whole outs. And on fly balls with a 91-95 percent catch probability, known by Statcast as “1 Star catches,” Hoskins only caught 82.6%. Only Hunter Renfroe, Bryce Harper, and Nick Markakis were worse in the National League. Whatever way you slice it, Hoskins was atrocious in the field this season. His bat, of course, makes him well worth the playing time, but with first base occupied by Carlos Santana, Hoskins desperately needs to work on his glove.
Worst Free Agent Signing: Eric Hosmer, 1B, San Diego Padres
Anyone could have seen this one from a mile away. Hosmer has been an up-and-down player over the course of his career, and after a solid season (largely due to his unsustainably high BABIP) he signed an 8-year deal with the Padres. So far, it’s looking like it’s going to be a long 8 years. From 2017 to 2018, Hosmer’s K% rose from 15.5% to 21.0%, while his OBP dropped from .385 to .322. Interestingly, he was the only player in baseball with a negative launch angle in 2018. Overall, Hosmer finished the season below replacement level for the third time in the past seven years. Theoretically, the team would have been better off without him, even without factoring in the $20 million he made. The future looks bright for the Padres, but they probably wish they could take this one back.
Worst Individual Performance: Zack Weiss, RP, Cincinnati Reds
Poor Zack Weiss. Formerly a highly regarded minor leaguer, Weiss was added to the Reds’ major league roster for Opening Day 2018. He was sent down before pitching in any games, but quickly called back up on April 9th. Three days later, he made his major league debut, coming into the 7th inning with the Reds down just 5-4. Here is the sequence of events that then transpired.
And that’s it. Weiss was taken out of the game, and he never pitched in the majors again. After spending the rest of the season in the minors, Weiss was released in early September. Both of those runners came around to score, so his career major league line looks like this.
0 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 4 ER, inf ERA
Weiss threw 15 pitches. Just three of those were strikes, and two of those were hit for home runs. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it live. Only three pitchers ever have faced more batters in their career without retiring a single one, and none since Jim Schelle of the 1939 Philadelphia Athletics. And Weiss is the only pitcher in baseball history to allow two home runs and retire no batters. Hopefully Weiss gets another chance at some point, because his lone major league appearance could not have gone worse.
In contrast to the Silver Slugger, the Aluminum Slugger is awarded to the worst hitter at each position, including pitcher. Just a reminder that these awards only factor in how the player hit this season. Other aspects of their game are ignored. With that said, let’s look at the winners!
Pitcher: Ivan Nova, Pittsburgh Pirates
Pittsburgh’s opening day starter, Nova was decent on the mound this year, pitching 161 innings with a 4.19 ERA. His bat, on the other hand, was a different story. After going 1-51 at the plate in 2017, Nova followed that up by going 1-53 in 2018, good for a league worst .019 batting average. His one hit came, unsurprisingly, against the Reds in a game on July 22nd. But aside from that one stroke of genius, Nova struck out 30 times in 2018.
Catcher: Pedro Severino, Washington Nationals
Thanks to injuries to starter Matt Wieters, Severino was able to bat 213 times for the Nationals in 2018. The result was not great. Severino hit just .168 this season with a 32 wRC+, both of which rank him dead last in the NL, not just among catchers but among all hitters. His .247 slugging percentage is at the bottom of the list as well.
1st Baseman: Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies
As much as Desmond struggled this year at the plate, he still may have improved from last year, his first in Colorado. His 81 wRC+, still last among NL first basemen, is actually 12 points better than it was last year. Desmond started 160 games for the Rockies this year and hit just .236. His .307 OBP was also the worst by an NL first baseman. Even worse, Desmond made $22 million this year and is on the books for at least three more seasons.
2nd Baseman: Wilmer Difo, Washington Nationals
Not a great start for the Nationals, who have two Aluminum Slugger award winners. Difo started 84 games at second, batting .230 with just 7 home runs in 456 plate appearances. His 71 wRC+ was better only than Logan Forsythe and Carlos Asuaje at the position, and they each batted half as many times as Difo. Additionally, he hit just 18.9% of his batted balls above 95 MPH. In the NL, only Billy Hamilton was worse.
Shortstop: Orlando Arcia, Milwaukee Brewers
Arcia was phenomenal at the plate in the postseason, hitting three home runs and slugging .606 in nine starts. However, these awards only factor in the regular season, and Arcia struggled in this larger sample. Prior to the playoffs, he had hit just three home runs all season. Arcia’s 54 wRC+ was by far the worst of any NL shortstop, and he walked in just 4.1% of his plate appearances. That’s worse than Javy Baez, Billy Hamilton, and any regular NL player except for Corey Dickerson.
3rd Baseman: Jose Reyes, New York Mets
Jose Reyes insists he is not ready to retire, but his numbers suggest he might be. Reyes hit just .189 in 2018, the lowest of any third baseman with 200 plate appearances. His .260 OBP, .320 Slugging Percentage, and 62 wRC+ were all last in the NL at the position. Now 35 years old, Reyes is coming off the worst season of his career, and it is hard to see another team taking a chance on him.
Left Field: Adam Duvall, Cincinnati Reds/Atlanta Braves
An All-Star in 2017, Duvall had hit 30 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons heading into 2018. He was adequate for the Reds the first half of the season, but with the emergence of Jesse Winker, Duvall saw a dip in playing time. And when he was traded to the Braves in July, his production absolutely cratered. In 33 games for the Braves, Duvall hit just .132, failing to hit a single home run. His .344 OPS was over 100 points worse than his slugging percentage was in any season in Cincinnati, and his -7 wRC+ over a full season would be the worst of any player ever. Overall this year, he had an OBP of just .274, and he was left off the Braves postseason roster after an incredibly disappointing season.
Center Field: Lewis Brinson, Miami Marlins
There’s not much more to be said about how awful Brinson was at the plate in 2018. He, Duvall, and Chris Davis were the only players in the majors who hit below .200, and of those three, his 4.2 BB% was easily the lowest. Brinson’s .240 OBP is the worst by an NL player with as many at bats as he had since Alex Gonzales reached base at a dismal .229 clip in 2000, also with the Marlins.
Right Field: Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals
Fowler was the victim of some bad luck this year. His BABIP was .210, 120 points lower than his career number of .330. This in part helps to explain his .180 batting average and 62 wRC+. Still, there’s evidence that he just wasn’t making great contact in 2018. Fowler hit just 28% of batted balls above 95 MPH this year, down from 37.5% a year ago. And he barreled the ball just 7 times, one third of his number from 2017. Even before he was shut down in August for a foot injury, this season was largely a lost cause.