Leaderboarding: Worst seasons by a player with a .400+ OBP

Xander Bogaerts has a .403 OBP and a .752 OPS.
Xander Bogaerts has a .403 OBP and a .752 OPS. (USATSI)

More MLB: Power Rankings | Expert Picks | Latest news & notes | Fantasy news

Every few days I take a look at the various stat leaderboards just to see who ranks where around the league. Chase Utley and Charlie Blackmon both current lead MLB with a .406 batting average, Giancarlo Stanton leads with 26 RBI, Stephen Strasburg leads with 42 strikeouts. Stuff like that.

As I was making my way through the leaderboards this morning, I noticed Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts has a .403 on-base percentage. That is impressive for any player, especially a 21-year-old kid in his first full season. I also noticed this: Bogaerts only has a .752 OPS. Again, that's really good, but it is also by far the lowest OPS among the 22 qualified hitters with a .400+ OBP. Emilio Bonifacio and Christian Yelich are second worst with a .838 OPS, so we're talking about an 86-point gap in OPS. That's huge.

Anyway, this got me wondering about the worst offensive seasons by a player with a .400+ OBP. OPS is pretty basic -- consider the differences between Bogaerts' and Yelich's home ballparks and that 86-point gap in OPS looks even bigger -- so we're going to look at this two ways. First, let's use OPS+, which adjusts for ballpark and league and things like that. Here are the 15 worst seasons by a qualified hitter who reached base at least 40 percent of the time:

RkPlayerOPS+OBPYearAgeTmGPAH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBBASLGOPS
1 Walt Weiss 76 .403 1995 31 COL 137 537 111 17 3 1 25 98 57 15 .260 .321 .724
2 Lyn Lary 90 .404 1936 30 SLB 155 745 179 30 6 2 52 117 54 37 .289 .367 .771
3 Ralph Young 91 .406 1921 32 DET 107 487 120 8 3 0 29 69 23 11 .299 .334 .740
4 Tony Piet 93 .400 1936 29 CHW 109 432 96 15 2 7 42 66 48 15 .273 .386 .787
5 Dusty Cooke 94 .401 1936 29 BOS 111 414 93 20 3 6 47 72 48 4 .273 .402 .803
6 Muddy Ruel 94 .411 1925 29 WSH 127 473 122 9 2 0 54 63 16 4 .310 .344 .754
7 Max Bishop 95 .431 1926 26 PHA 122 529 106 20 2 0 33 116 41 4 .265 .325 .756
8 Johnny Bassler 96 .408 1925 30 DET 121 433 96 19 3 0 52 74 6 1 .279 .352 .760
9 Max Bishop 97 .442 1927 27 PHA 118 491 103 15 1 0 22 105 28 8 .277 .323 .764
10 Whitey Witt 98 .400 1922 26 NYY 140 628 157 11 6 4 40 89 29 5 .297 .364 .763
11 Max Bishop 99 .412 1932 32 PHA 114 520 104 24 2 5 37 110 43 2 .254 .359 .772
12 Max Bishop 99 .420 1925 25 PHA 106 471 103 18 4 4 27 87 37 5 .280 .383 .803
13 Rickey Henderson 101 .400 1997 38 TOT 120 509 100 14 0 8 34 97 85 45 .248 .342 .742
14 Johnny Bassler 101 .401 1921 26 DET 119 463 119 18 5 0 56 58 16 2 .307 .379 .780
15 Ferris Fain 102 .405 1953 32 CHW 128 564 114 18 2 6 52 108 28 3 .256 .345 .750
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2014.

There are a few familiar names there, specifically Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson -- he had a .400 OBP at age 38, lol -- and current Rockies manager Walt Weiss. How he managed to hit .260/.403/.321 in the heyday of Coors Field, I'll never know.

Most of those players are way before our time, unfortunately. A little further down the list is 1996 Rickey (.410 OBP and 106 OPS+), 1996 Tony Phillips (.404 OBP and 109 OPS+) and 2000 Corey Koskie (.400 OBP and 110 OPS+). The worst .400+ OBP season by a player since 2010 belongs to Joe Mauer, who had a league-leading .416 OBP in 2012, but "only" a 140 OPS+ overall. Bogaerts, for the record, is currently sitting on a 112 OPS+.

Now let's look at the worst .400+ OBP seasons using WAR because, hey, defense matters. If a guy is hitting .300/.400/.500 but is a total butcher in the field, his overall impact is not nearly as great as it may seem. Here are the 15 worst overall seasons by players with a .400+ OBP:

RkPlayerWAROBPYearAgeTmGPAH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBBASLGOPS
1 Ralph Young -0.1 .406 1921 32 DET 107 487 120 8 3 0 29 69 23 11 .299 .334 .740
2 Don Hurst 0.8 .401 1930 24 PHI 119 451 128 19 3 17 78 46 22 6 .327 .522 .923
3 Bernie Friberg 0.9 .425 1930 30 PHI 105 388 113 21 1 4 42 47 35 1 .341 .447 .872
4 Dusty Cooke 1.2 .400 1935 28 BOS 100 346 90 18 6 3 34 46 24 6 .306 .439 .839
5 Dusty Cooke 1.4 .401 1936 29 BOS 111 414 93 20 3 6 47 72 48 4 .273 .402 .803
6 Prince Fielder 1.5 .401 2010 26 MIL 161 714 151 25 0 32 83 114 138 1 .261 .471 .871
7 Nick Johnson 1.5 .426 2009 30 TOT 133 574 133 24 2 8 62 99 84 2 .291 .405 .831
8 Pat Burrell 1.5 .400 2007 30 PHI 155 598 121 26 0 30 97 114 120 0 .256 .502 .902
9 Mickey Tettleton 1.5 .419 1994 33 DET 107 444 84 18 2 17 51 97 98 0 .248 .463 .882
10 Riggs Stephenson 1.5 .421 1930 32 CHC 109 382 125 21 1 5 68 32 20 2 .367 .478 .899
11 Rickey Henderson 1.6 .400 1997 38 TOT 120 509 100 14 0 8 34 97 85 45 .248 .342 .742
12 Walt Weiss 1.7 .403 1995 31 COL 137 537 111 17 3 1 25 98 57 15 .260 .321 .724
13 Billy Goodman 1.7 .414 1948 22 BOS 127 527 138 27 2 1 66 74 44 5 .310 .387 .801
14 Patsy Dougherty 1.7 .407 1902 25 BOS 108 489 150 12 6 0 34 42 41 20 .342 .397 .805
15 Rickey Henderson 1.8 .423 1999 40 NYM 121 526 138 30 0 12 42 82 82 37 .315 .466 .889
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/21/2014.

Because of his defense at shortstop, Weiss' all-time worst OPS+ by a .400+ OBP guy is "only" the 12th worst season by WAR. Prince Fielder and Nick Johnson were worth only a win and a half to their teams in recent years because of poor defense despite great offensive numbers, and Pat Burrell is right there with them. Again, Rickey pops up a few times.

In the most basic sense, the single best thing a hitter can do at the plate is not make an out. Guys with a .400+ OBP are making outs at a lower rate than their peers, but that alone doesn't automatically make them a great hitter. If that sky-high on-base percentage comes with no power or relatively few base hits or poor glovework, then they aren't any more valuable than a league average player. It doesn't happen often, but it's not unheard of either.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories