With all due respect to Chris Carter’s awful strikeout rate (36.9%), Dan Uggla’s .197 batting average, and Starlin Castro’s defensive liabilities (“turn around, Starlin”), we have found the worst player in baseball. And his name is Jeffrey Scott Keppinger. According to Fangraphs, Jeff Keppinger’s WAR rating is -1.7, which is good enough for 152nd out of 152 eligible baseball players at this point in the season. What exactly does this all mean? Well, let me tell you.
WAR, also known as Wins Above Replacement, is a sabermetric number that was designed to tell the whole picture of a baseball player and not just what he delivers while standing in the batter’s box. Consider it a jab at Runs Batted In, if you will, claiming that the person that gets on base and the person who moves the runner from 1st to 2nd with a bunt is just as valuable as the person knocking in the runner. An infamous case of “is WAR relevant or not?” happened just last year during the 2012 AL MVP race. In that, we saw all-around god Mike Trout utterly destroy everyone in the WAR category (while notching one of the highest WARs ever), yet he still lost to Miguel Cabrera and his Triple Crown. But let’s get back to Keppinger.
Jeff Keppinger had nothing to do with that right? Yes and No. Keppinger had a pretty good 2012, where he hit .325 with an OPS of .806 in 115 games with the Tampa Bay Rays. His WAR last year was a serviceable 2.8 which was good enough that it got him his first real contract in the form of a 3-year, $12 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. The White Sox figured he could become their starting 3B – if not a super-utility player – and everything would be fine. Well, not according to WAR.
Keppinger is having quite a notoriously bad season. At least with Uggla or Chris Carter there is something positive that comes with those strikeouts and lack of a good batting average – home runs, in both of their cases. For Keppinger, though, there is almost nothing redeeming about his 2013 baseball season. He is last in the league in Slugging %, has the 4th-worst On-Base %, and in total has the worst overall OPS (on-base plus slugging). But it doesn’t stop there: he’s slow (16th worst speed rating), can’t steal (0-for-1 in steals), has the 4th-worst walk rate (3.7%), and even though he doesn’t strike out that much (6th BEST strikeout rate at 8.9%), he still can’t get any hits as his .237 average shows (23rd-worst). On the season, he has 79 hits total and 8 of them were infield singles (none while were bunting). In total, he has cost his team 18.58 runs over the course of the season (or, per his WAR, 1.7 wins under what your average minor league replacement could give you).
So, with all of that said, you’d think this guy was hitting somewhere in the lower third of the lineup, right? There’s no way he is hitting higher than that…right? Wrong. He has spent more time in the 2 hole than anywhere else in the lineup. He has more at-bats as the 3rd and 4th hitter than as the 9th hitter. Does Robin Ventura have a secret son named Jeff Keppinger? This makes no sense whatsoever. What makes less sense? He’s actually been INTENTIONALLY WALKED once this year. Why? Why would any coach order that to happen? MLB doesn’t have any coaches that dumb do they? Why would anyone want to walk a guy who is hitting the baseball like it’s a Chicago 16-inch softball that will go only as far as the grass on the infield?
If you really want to catch Kepp on a bad day, go watch him play indoors where he owns a nearly-impossible-to-get .293 OPS. And if you really want to see what it’s like to struggle, head to Toronto, where in nearly 20 PAs he has a .114 OPS. That is like getting your name wrong on the SATs bad.
We know there are other players having tremendously bad seasons. But none of them have the consistency of Mr. Keppinger. He honestly has done nothing right all year – not hitting, not fielding, not base-running…nada. He is the antithesis of why WAR exists. No metric should be so evil to just one guy. While Keppinger may very well
hit .250 turn this season around, the very least can be said about his season so far – thanks to WAR – and that is (in honor of Rob Lowe leaving Parks & Rec after this season) you, sir, are literally the worst player in baseball right now.