When we started this league back in March, none of us had any clue how this would play out during the season. It was a simple enough idea, roster the players that don’t perform well on the field, but are still out there playing every day. We’re all baseball fans who watch our own teams on a regular basis, we know what it looks like when a team just won’t bench that one damn hitter that’s been in a slump all month. However, it turned out to be a lot more difficult than it looked. There aren’t many players who have the job security to survive month after month of poor play, and so our rosters were getting turned over frequently. It was even harder for pitchers, as between the new 10-day IL and the rise of bullpen usage, teams were finding more and more reasons to not keep throwing out bad starters every 5th day. The number of times we got an incredible performance from a pitcher, just to see him hit the IL the next day with a “sore shoulder,” was more than I could count.
Even with our shallow league settings (only starting 6 hitters and 6 pitchers, flexible lineup settings), it was sometimes hard to get players you felt good about each week. I remember starting Vlad Guerrero Jr one week during his slump in June, and thinking to myself, “this could be the dumbest thing I’ve done all year.” At least half of my pitching acquisitions were just two-start pitchers who had tough matchups, even if they had been having a good season up to that point. We all definitely learned a lot, and especially became more aware of the ends of rosters around the league. Who knew that Brandon Dixon played 117 games for the Tigers this year? We did, because he was one of our top 50 hitters.
Without further ado, let’s recap the inaugural Pitcher List WorstBall league.
Draft In Review
1st Pick, Chris Davis – After finishing as the #1 player in WorstBall in each of the last two years, Davis only finished as the 50th best hitter this season. However, it was not for a lack of lack of talent. Davis only started 86 games this season and had just 352 plate appearances, no other player in the top-75 finished with fewer than 400 PAs. The Orioles finally learned their lesson and stopped playing Davis every day, much to our dismay. He still was able to provide value though, scoring 547.5 points this year on the back of a .179 batting average and 39.5% strikeout rate. And yes, that does mean that Davis had more than double the number of strikeouts than he had hits. B
2nd Pick, Tim Anderson – You know, Tim Anderson really did his best this year, and that was problematic for us. His batting average jumped nearly a hundred points over last year, he cut his strikeout rate down, but his defense kept him afloat as a legitimate WorstBall option. His 26 errors led the majors by a decent margin, and overall, Anderson finished as the 79th best hitter in Worstball. C+
3rd Pick, Yoan Moncada – Kevin Dalby knew this was a risky pick when he made it. Moncada was a top prospect, expected to be one of the best hitters in baseball. But he was also a top-3 hitter in WorstBall in 2018, and had a lot of work to do still to reach his potential. Unfortunately, it seemed as though he made a lot of those strides. He hit .315 this year and upped his power production while suppressing his strikeout rate. He finished as just the 103rd hitter in WorstBall. D
4th Pick, Andrew Cashner – This was our first pitcher off the board, a pretty strategic move considering pitchers score less overall in our points setup than hitters. Cashner was the 2nd best pitcher last year, and started the season as the most expensive starting pitcher in the Orioles rotation, giving him a pretty good hold on a rotation spot. He had a much better 2019 than 2018, earning a winning record and a sub-4 ERA as a starter in Baltimore before being traded and getting demoted to the bullpen. While this was a good idea, the execution wasn’t there, and Cashner fell all the way to the 56th ranked pitcher. D
5th Pick, Felix Hernandez – Hernandez missed a lot of time due to a shoulder injury, but he was a fantastic pitcher for us while he was healthy. He racked up 8 losses and a 6.40 ERA across just 15 starts, and still managed to rank 42nd among pitchers even with all that missed time. Injuries are impossible to predict, so I won’t dock any points for that since he still managed half a season. A
6th Pick, Lewis Brinson – This was a fantastic first-round pick, Brinson posted a paltry wRC+ of 25 for the Marlins. However, he was too good of a WorstBall player, and was sent down to the minors for most of the season. A for effort, but he finished outside of the top 150 hitters on the season. C
7th Pick, Lucas Giolito – Giolito became an ace this year, and not the kind we want. After being one of the best pitchers in 2018, he posted a negative 102 points in 2019, making him one of the worst WorstBall pitchers in the game. F
8th Pick, Willy Adames – Now we’re talking! Adames finished the year as the 2nd best WorstBall hitter, slashing just .254/.317/.418 with a 26% strikeout rate, and awful run and RBI totals to boot. Adames never relinquished his starting role, starting in 145 games this year, and pretty much just managed to not do a whole lot out there. This is what WorstBall is all about. A+
9th Pick, Domingo Santana – What’s better than striking out 32% of the time while also slugging a mere .441? How about also leading the majors in outfield errors by almost double the next highest player? And still managing to start 115 games because, well, who else were the Mariners supposed to throw out there? Santana rode all that to being the 29th best hitter in WorstBall. A
10 Pick, Alex Cobb – I want to give myself more credit for this pick, I really do. Cobb was 2nd among all pitchers on a per-game basis, scoring an insane 33 points per appearance. The problem was he only made 3 starts before being shut down for the season due to injury. But what a glorious three starts they were. 10.95 ERA, 1.86 WHIP, and 9 home runs allowed across 12 innings. Screw it, I’m giving myself an N/A.
11th Pick, Yolmer Sanchez – You can set your watch to this kid. He finished 5th in 2018 and finished 5th again this year. He hit 2 home runs in 555 plate appearances. He hit .252 and slugged .321, what more can you want? A+
12th Pick, Jorge Alfaro – Fantasy curling expert Scott Chu made it clear that this choice was a strategic one. No other catcher was going to be allowed to suck as much as Alfaro would, with no threat to playing time in Miami. He couldn’t have been more right, as not only did Alfaro end up as the best catcher in WorstBall by a country mile, but he was also the #11 hitter overall. That’s what a 33% strikeout rate and a 4% walk rate will do for you. A+
These are like the Razzies, but for fantasy baseball! Let’s see who our 2019 winners are.
The Two-Timer Award
For the most part, there isn’t a ton of overlap between WorstBall leagues and regular fantasy baseball leagues. Why would there be? We look for hitters that don’t get on base and don’t do anything productive, and pitchers who give up as many home runs as humanly possible and get chased out of games before they can even finish an inning. Players like that simply aren’t viable in your standard fantasy baseball league. But every year, there are multiple players who are counted on by the masses, and also counted on by the few who play WorstBall, as they spend their season walking the thin line between dominance, and atrociousness.
Two-Timing Hitter of the Year: Manny Machado. Ask any San Diego Padres fan, and they’ll tell you that they were hoping for more from their pricy offseason acquisition. Machado was coming off of one of his best seasons in 2018, sporting a top-10 wRC+ of 140, which was powered by a .297 batting average and 37 home runs. He had the lowest strikeout percentage of his career, posting a sub-15% K rate, and was able to parlay that into a 300 million dollar contract this offseason, which I’m pretty sure is the median home price in San Diego. This year, his wRC+ dropped all the way to 108, ranking him at 78th among qualified hitters, and he struck out at the highest rate of his career. His 24 GIDPs led baseball, and all in all, Manny Machado finished the season as the 13th ranked hitter in WorstBall. Not good for someone who had an ADP of 20 coming into the season.
Two-Timing Pitcher of the Year: Miles Mikolas. While the fantasy community didn’t count on Mikolas as much as they did Machado, we still couldn’t quit him, and despite a very mediocre season he was still owned in more than 75% of leagues by the end of the year. This despite the fact that he had an ERA of 4.16, a HR/9 of 1.32 (nearly double last year’s mark of 0.72), and a strikeout rate south of 20%. Mikolas just kept toying with us all year, getting shelled for 7 earned runs in less than 2 innings, and then following that up with a 7 inning, 3 run, 9 strikeout performance. The latter had regular leagues holding on, the former had us WorstBallers holding on. Mikolas just couldn’t make up his mind, and ended up doing his version of the two-dates-to-the-prom trope. Doing just enough to keep us both interested, but also letting us both down time and time again.
WorstBall Players of the Year
Hitter of the Year: Eric Hosmer. Man, there’s a lot of Padres, huh? Between Machado and Hosmer, the Padres paid 48 million dollars to a couple of WorstBall guys. And Hosmer really took the cake this year. It isn’t easy to be the #1 WorstBall hitter, as in the past few years that was reserved for Chris Davis levels of bad offense. Hosmer may not have been quite that bad, but this was easily the worst season of his career. He managed a measly .735 OPS, with career-worst marks in walk rate (6%) and strikeout rate (24.4%). He wasn’t just bad at the plate either, Hosmer led all first basemen with 14 errors as well. Unlike most bad hitters, who didn’t get to spend very long as a starter or even stay in the majors, Hosmer had a stranglehold on first base all season long, and he probably will next year too. I expect Hosmer to be picked in the first two rounds next season.
Pitcher of the Year: Glenn Sparkman. First of all, good for Glenn Sparkman. Prior to this year, he had a combined total of 39 innings pitched in the major leagues, and this year he was able to make 23 starts and throw 136 innings, so good for him for being in the majors for a full season. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the season that I think he was hoping for. Sparkman had a real tough time with the long ball, giving up 2 HR/9, and he couldn’t seem to fool batters at the plate either, posting the third-worst strikeout rate (13.4%) of any pitcher with at least 100 innings pitched. His 6.02 ERA and 1.51 WHIP were each in the bottom 10 as well. Just to add insult to injury, he also hit 6 batters, threw 6 wild pitches, and balked twice. Hopefully, Sparkman can improve in 2020 or else he might not pitch long enough to be a repeat WorstBall stud.
WorstBall Champion: Josh Botelho
Josh was the last person to join the WorstBall league, coming in right before the draft as one of our original league members had to drop out at the last minute. “I’ve done no research, but I could probably do WorstBall for funsies,” he said as he joined the league, clearly hustling us all as he lulled us into believing that he didn’t know what he was doing. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he added while making his first round selection of Willy Adames, who finished as the #2 hitter in WorstBall. He did show us pretty quickly though that he got it, as he was the one who uttered the words of our motto. “Be crap. Have playing time.” Amen Josh, amen.
Josh followed up his Adames pick with Freddy Galvis in the second round, securing him two top-10 WorstBall hitters as Galvis finished the season as the 9th hitter overall. Of course, he figured that was going to be too easy for him, so he dropped Galvis for Jung-Ho Kang, who was at least terrible but so terrible that he didn’t last very long as a starter. He drafted Teoscar Hernandez in the 3rd round and Eric Lauer in the 4th, both of whom finished in the top-75. He also received significant contributions from Kevin Pillar, Brian Anderson, and Jorge Lopez.
Of course, he didn’t simply walk his way into a championship. He wasn’t even the favorite to win it all, as he entered the championship round an underdog to the bulldozer that was Donny Moskovits’s team, who had gone 19-3 during the regular season. Moskovits had his own slew of complete studs, with Starlin Castro (#3 hitter) and Leury Garcia (#8 hitter) leading the way. His pitching staff was led by Reynaldo Lopez and Jordan Zimmermann, who both finished as top-10 pitchers, and had another two top-15 pitchers in Rick Porcello and Mike Leake. Donny’s team was stacked. But as we all know when it comes to winning any kind of H2H championship, timing is everything. Donny was abandoned when he needed his players most, as Reynaldo Lopez and Rick Porcello each scored negative points as they found a way to succeed on the mound, and Josh got masterful performances from Eric Skoglund, who got shelled in his only start for 6 earned runs across 3 innings pitched, as well as Alex Young, who had a two-start week that began with a shellacking from the St. Louis Cardinals. In the end, Josh got the production at the right time, and was able to complete the decisive upset, taking home the WorstBall crown.
Congratulations to Josh, and thank you to all the WorstBall managers who indulged me in this wild league this year. I know we are all looking forward to doing it again next year!