Most Offensive Offensive Seasons

Have you ever wondered who had the worst offensive season of all time in a Tiger uniform? Well, I hadn’t either until this morning. I came across (via Knuckle Curve) a post at the Blue Jays blog Batters Box that looked at the worst pitching seasons in the organization’s history. This peaked my interest.

The calculation called the suckage index is really pretty simple:


Essentially it is the suckage density (how far below replacement level the performance was) multiplied by the suckage volume (IP in this case). ERA+ is used because it adjusts for the era.

I went to Baseball Reference PI to get my set of data for the Tigers. The site offers a slick tool for qualifying seasons, but so far that’s only available for batters. That’s why I’ll adapt the pitching suckage index to offense using OPS+ instead of ERA+ and plate appearances instead of innings pitched.

I filtered on and OPS+ less than 80 and at least 300 plate appearances. The resulting data can be found here.

When I applied the Suckage Index, here is how the top (or bottom) 10 season were ranked:

The full spreadsheet is also available

If you look at the bigger list, you’ll see that the 1904 and 2003 teams each had 3 of the 50 worst individual seasons. The number in 2003 shouldn’t be suprising. In 1904 the team finished 62-90 which was good enough for 7th place above the 38-113 Washington team.

Taking a look at the individual culprits on the list, Oscar Stanage and Charley O’Leary have the unfortunate distinction of appearing twice. Stanage played 12 seasons for the Tigers as a catcher and racked up a career OPS+ of 67 across more than 3500 plate appearances. It appears that catchers have always been hard to get.

O’Leary was a Tiger from 1904-1912 and manned the shortstop position. He was a starter over 4 of those years and his best season was 1907 when he posted an OPS+ of 83.

Brandon Inge was one of 7 players to appear twice on the list for his work in 2002 and 2003. It is amazing how far he’s come and it also really makes you wonder what would have happened if A) he wasn’t rushed to the Majors and B) he’d stayed an infielder all along.

15 thoughts on “Most Offensive Offensive Seasons”

  1. Neifi racks up a pretty impressive 4,270 based on his time with the Tigers last year (19 OPS+, 70 PA). Close to making the top 50, despite having only a quarter the necessary plate appearances.

    His score for the entire season is 10,744 (54 OPS+, 316 PA), which would be good for #15.

    Pretty impressive suckage.

  2. Oyler 67 came in 32nd. He was “buoyed” by it being a pretty pitching dominant year so his OPS+ was 61.

  3. Best Year?

    Cash ’61 has to be near the top. Greenberg ’37, ’38 and ’40. Cobb ’11 (and a bunch of other ones) . Gehringer ’36. Heilman ’23, ’27. Kaline’s best was probably ’55 when he won the batting title, OPS+ 162.

    Since ’68 I’d say Fielder ’90 and Trammell ’87. Both finished 2nd for MVP.

  4. Sorry to spoil the surprise. I’ll guess in context that Cash 1961 will be #1. Don’t tell me.

    I am far too lazy to figure it out on my own.

    BTW, I talked to John Sickels on XM this morning. He likes the Bazardo trade. We talked about Maybin’s GB/FB ratio which was extreme on the GB side. The theory is that this means he won’t develop much power. Sickels says there isn’t much research on it. I’d wager it will even out some this year. Looks to me the kid has awesome power potential.

  5. Ty Cobb dominates the best seasons by OPS+ in Tigers history with 6 of the top 7 (only 1961 Norm Cash at #3 intervenes) and 10 of the top 13. 1967 Kaline (#14) and 1990 Fielder (#24) are the only ones in the top 25 since 1940.

  6. Stats do no justice. There are two glaring omissions on the least productive Tigers:

    1. DEAN PALMER!! Useless. Totally useless. We gave him all that money and all he did was use up all the ice in the training room. And he hit like .250.

    2. Melvin Nieves…As proud founder of the I hate melvin Nieves club, he was the worst ever. His hacks could be heard across the stadium, and you could feel the drift of wind as he struckout.

    Honorable Mention: Milt Cuyler and Andujar Cedeno. Wo! Now, there’s another crappy one. Doug Brocail, opening day starter. Ok this, is makin me depressed now.

  7. Melvin Nieves wasn’t too shabby in Detroit posting OPS+ of 102 in 1996 and 97 in 1997. He was essentially a perfectly average hitter, at least as far as OPS is concernred. He had a very Craig Monroe-esque hitting line in 1996 going .246/.322/.485 with 24 home runs in only 120 games played.

    Nieves doesn’t even compare to the ineptitude of guys like Deivi Cruz and Neifi Perez and Milt Cuyler.

    Palmer? It’s not his fault he got a big contract and then got hurt. His first 2 years in Detroit he was pretty good posting a slugging percentage near .500 and hitting 67 HRs with 202 RBI. OPS+ of 114 and 105. Then his career was derailed by injury. The fact that he didn’t produce up to his contract doesn’t mean he was useless.

  8. Tom Veryzer…. It seems like every Tiger baseball card I had as a kid was either Tom Veryzer , Chuck Scrivener, or Verne Ruhle.
    Not that the Tigers had many good players in the mid-70s, but come on!

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