There are 264 players in Major League Baseball with at least 250 plate appearances this season. Out of all of them, Alex Rios ranks 249th in OPS. Omar Infante ranks 263rd (thank you Rene Rivera!). Despite two black holes in the lineup, the Royals have still been able to cruise out to the league's best record and look like a virtual certainty to make the post-season.
Rios has produced -1.1 rWAR while Infante has played better defense, totaling a -0.7 rWAR. While Ned Yost has indicated that the pair needs to improve their performance, if they were to start for the team in October, there is a good chance they would not even be the worst starters to ever start for a post-season team. They may not even be the worst regulars for a post-season team this year, if Starlin Castro and his -1.4 rWAR continue to play for the Cubs.
Who are the worst regulars to play on a post-season team? I looked at players who had at least 400 plate appearance on a team that made the playoffs. Going back to 1969 I found names like Pete Rose (1983 Phillies), George Bell (1993 White Sox), and even former Royals second baseman Jose Lind (1992 Pirates). For this article however, I decided to limit it to players since the work stoppage in 1994. Using rWAR, here are the worst players to start for a post-season team.
10. Dan Uggla and Melvin Upton, 2013 Braves, -1.3 rWAR
The Braves started two black holes of their own for most of the 2013 season, yet still won 96 games. Dan Uggla and Melvin (then known as "B.J.") combined to collect $25.5 million from the Braves that year to produce -2.7 rWAR. Upton hit .184/.268/.289 with a staggering 151 strikeouts in 446 plate appearances. Uggla was a bit better at the plate, hitting .179/.309/.362 and 22 home runs, but was terrible in the field, producing -1.9 dWAR. Uggla was left off the post-season roster completely, while Upton managed just three pinch-hitting appearances as the Braves lost in the Divisional Series.
9. Terry Pendleton, 1996 Braves, -1.4 rWAR
In 1996, the Braves lost regular shortstop Jeff Blauser to hand injury for six weeks. To fill this hole, they asked third baseman Chipper Jones to move back to shortstop and re-acquired Terry Pendleton, who won an MVP with the Braves in 1991, from the Marlins in an August deal. Pendleton had been replacement level in Miami, but was downright terrible in Atlanta, hitting .204/.271/.315 in 42 games with the Braves. He was benched in the playoffs when Blauser returned, although he got regular pinch-hitting duty, and served as the designated hitter in the World Series.
8. Derek Bell, 1999 Astros, -1.4 rWAR
Bell hit .314 with 108 RBI and 5.4 rWAR the previous season, but he was a disaster in 1999 for the 97-win Astros. Bell was especially terrible down the stretch, hitting .157/.267/.236 in 25 games after August 1, while battling groin injuries. Even though Houston was thin in the outfield, Bell was benched in the playoffs, starting just one game.
7. Delino DeShields, 1996 Dodgers, -1.5 rWAR
Its bad enough that by 1996 Pedro Martinez was an All-Star pitcher, but the man he was traded for - Delino DeShields - was killing the Dodgers with his atrocious play. DeShields hit .224/.288/.298 with -1.0 dWAR in 1996 despite being one of the highest-paid players on the team. The 90-win Dodgers also had poor hitters like Wayne Kirby hitting at the top of their lineup, so its no surprise they managed just five runs in a quick three-game sweep at the hands of the Braves.
6. Nick Castellanos, 2014 Tigers, -1.5 rWAR
Castellanos was a highly-touted rookie third baseman last year who some managed to get Rookie of the Year votes despite being a full run and a half below replacement level. His bat was adequate, with 94 wRC+ and a line of .259/.306/.394. But his defense was brutal, ranking dead last in baseball in Defensive Runs Saved at -30.
5. Bernie Williams, 2005 Yankees, -1.6 rWAR
Bernie Williams was once an All-Star and one of the best defensive players in baseball. By 2005, those days had long passed him by, but no one had the heart to tell the TRUE YANKEE he couldn't play centerfield anymore. Bernie amassed a terrible -2.5 dWAR that year, and couldn't help much at the plate either with a line of .249/.321/.367 with 12 HR 64 RBI. The Yankees still let him start all five games of their Divisional Series before they were bounced out.
4. Craig Monroe, 2007 Cubs, -1.6 rWAR
Monroe really spent most of the season with the Tigers, sucking it up in Detroit. He was acquired in late August to be terrible with the Cubs for 23 games so they could win 85 games and win the division. Because he hit .219/.268/.370 for the year, the Cubs did not let him hit at all in the post-season.
3. Jorge Cantu, 2010 Rangers, -1.6 rWAR
Cantu had a decent bat with the Marlins that year, but was a major liability with the glove at third base. So the Rangers acquired him mid-season to move to first base to platoon with lefty Mitch Moreland. That upgraded Cantu's defense to merely "bad" while his bat went into the tank as well. Cantu hit .256/.304/.392 for the year and was kept on the bench through the World Series, even against tough lefties like Madison Bumgarner.
2. Michael Young, 2012 Rangers, -1.7 rWAR
Michael Young was terrible in 2012 but had grit in spades, which is why he played in 156 games that year despite a line of .277/.312/.370. In fairness, he was coming off a year in which he finished in the top ten in MVP balloting, finishing third in batting average. Young was a former Gold Glove winner, but was a huge defensive liability by 2012. The club tried to mitigate his lead glove by having him play 41 games at first base and 72 at designated hitter, but his defensive numbers at third were so bad, he was the second-worst hitter by rWAR to qualify for the batting title that year behind only Kansas City's Jeff Francoeur.
1. Raul Ibanez, 2011 Phillies, -2.0 rWAR
Raul Ibanez was always considered a subpar fielder who was in the lineup for his power bat. So its not really his fault that at age 39, the Phillies kept trotting him out in the field to do things like this:
Ibanez's season that year was the tenth-worst defensive season by dWAR since 1995 at -3.1. To make matters worse, he only hit .245/.289/.419 that season, but I'm sure he gave a helluva pep talk speech. The Phillies won 102 games that year despite having Raul play 134 games in left-field, but lost in the Divisional Series with Ibanez hitting .200 with a home run and no hilarious animated gifs in the field.
Will Alex Rios or Omar Infante make this list or are their days in the lineup numbered?