The Worst MLB Seasons of All Time According to WAR

There are slumps and then there are bad seasons like those turned in by these baseball players

Andrew Martin
Nov 11, 2020 · 4 min read
The Worst MLB Seasons of All Time According to WARJerry Royster (Image via Wikipedia)
The Worst MLB Seasons of All Time According to WARJerry Royster (Image via Wikipedia)

The Worst MLB Seasons of All Time According to WARJerry Royster (Image via Wikipedia)

There are various methods to gauge the effectiveness of a baseball player’s season. A primary way is through statistics, and WAR is a good (but not perfect way) of measuring performance in comparison to peers. Using that stat as criteria, who has had the worst individual seasons in MLB history?

Jim Levey- St. Louis Browns, 1931 (-3.2 WAR): A switch-hitter, Levey was a terrific athlete who showed good pop and was a passable defender. After an eight-game cup of coffee with the Browns in 1930, he became their starter in 1931 and promptly turned in one of the worst seasons of all time. Appearing in 139 games, he hit .209 with five home runs, 38 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He also finished second in the American League with 83 strikeouts.

While he was rangy in the field, he also committed a whopping 58 errors. Unfortunately, that helped him fit right in with the Browns, who finished 63–91, 45 games behind the pennant-winning Philadelphia Athletics.

Chris Davis- Baltimore Orioles, 2018 (-3.6 WAR): After finishing third in American League MVP voting in 2013 and twice leading the league in home runs (2013 and 2015), the left-handed slugger’s career rapidly fell off a cliff. The descent began in 2018, the last time he played as a regular. In 128 games, he hit .168 with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs. Always piling up big strikeout numbers throughout his career, he was especially whiff-heavy, going down by strike a whopping 192 times in 522 plate appearances. He ended the year in a hitless streak that extended to 2019 — a total that ran to 62 plate appearances without a base knock.

He was just as bad in the field, where he was the regular starter at first base. His -1.8 Defensive WAR only compounded his miserable season. He has been just as bad over the past two seasons, but hasn’t played as much, somewhat mitigating the negative impact. Nevertheless, he is under contract for two more seasons on a seven-year, $161 million contract he signed in 2016.

George Wright- Texas Rangers, 1985 (-3.7 WAR): After a marvelous season with the Rangers in 1983 when the then-24-year-old hit .276 with 18 home runs and 80 RBIs and garnered MVP votes, the switch-hitter unfortunately saw his career take a huge tumble to the point that he was out of the big leagues for good by the time he was 27.

In 1985, Wright appeared in 109 games but hit an anemic .190 with two home runs and 18 RBIs. He was thrown out in seven of his 11 stolen bases attempts and saw his once excellent defense fall to the point that he accumulated a -0.7 Defensive WAR. He played as much as he did because Texas was terrible as well, going 62–99 with a popgun offense and an even worse pitching staff.

After departing the big leagues following the 1986 season, he went on to play for more than a decade in Japan, Korea and Mexico, mixing in some stints in the minors.

Jerry Royster- Atlanta Braves, 1977 (-4.0 WAR): Following a stint as a hotshot prospect, Royster reached the majors for the first time at the age of 20 in 1973 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He only appeared in a total of 29 games with them in various stints over three years before joining the Atlanta Braves.

In 1977, Royster was a regular and still just 24. He bounced around the infield, playing significant time at third, second and shortstop. Unfortunately, his versatility couldn’t mask an overall horrid season. In 140 games, he hit just .216 with six home runs and 28 RBIs. He did steal 28 bases but was caught 10 times, and his 46 OPS+ showed him to be 54% less effective than an average hitter.

A good fielding third baseman, he was out of place at the other infield positions, which led to him having a -2.0 Defensive WAR. He committed a total of 28 errors but 22 of those came in his 89 games at second and short. Although he went on to have a 16-year MLB career, most of it was spent as a utility man.

Jim Levey- St. Louis Browns, 1933 (-4.0 WAR): Unfortunately, the shortstop wound up on this list twice, including claiming the worst season ever. On a Browns squad that finished 55–96, he was able to get into 141 games, batting .195. When he did hit the ball, it typically didn’t go very far, as he tallied just 10 doubles, four triples, two home run and 36 RBIs. His 24 OPS+ was bested by three of his pitcher teammates who appeared in at least 20 games.

Despite his two awful seasons, as mentioned previously, Levey was a top athlete. 1933 ended up being his final big-league season but he played in the minors until 1945 and threw in a three-year stint (1934–1936) as a running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers of the NFL.

SportsRaid

Sign up for SportsRaid

By SportsRaid

Sports Data Journalism Take a look.

By signing up, you will create a Medium account if you don’t already have one. Review our Privacy Policy for more information about our privacy practices.

Check your inbox
Medium sent you an email at to complete your subscription.

Andrew Martin

Written by

Dabbler in history & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about diversity, culture, sports, investing and education.

SportsRaid

Original reporting and curated sports data journalism. Actively looking for additional writers.

Andrew Martin

Written by

Dabbler in history & writing. Master’s degree in baseball history. Passionate about diversity, culture, sports, investing and education.

SportsRaid

Original reporting and curated sports data journalism. Actively looking for additional writers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store