40 Worst Fielders in Baseball History

Doug MeadCorrespondent IFebruary 10, 2012

40 Worst Fielders in Baseball History

0 of 40

    In the great history of Major League Baseball, there were guys who were born to hit, guys who were born to run, guys who were born to throw a baseball with dazzling accuracy and power, and guys who were born to perform every skill with magnificent ease.

    And then, there were the guys who were born with hands of stone.

    In today's statistical world, every single player in baseball is measured in terms of different metrics. Defensively, sabermetricians use such terms as dWAR, UZR, Rtot (Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Average) along with many others.

    In my terms, it basically means a whole bunch of guys who couldn't field if their life depended on it. Yes, it's safe to say I'm not a card-carrying member of SABR.org.

    However, despite anyone's opinion regarding the use of analytics to measure a player's defensive worth, just about everyone on this particular list were and are just classically bad fielders, and while many of them were assets with the bat, they also were a complete liability on the field.

    Here, then, is a list of 40 of the worst defensive players in MLB history.

Edwin Encarnacion

1 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .934

    League Average 3B: .956

    Career dWAR: -6.3

    Career Rtot: -61

    It's safe to say that Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion is not a reincarnation, so to speak, of Brooks Robinson. Throughout his career, Encarnacion has managed to make the most basic of fielding plays turn into an adventure, leaving fans breathlessly anticipating what will happen when the ball is hit his way.

Derek Jeter

2 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .976

    League Average SS: .972

    Career dWAR: -14.7

    Career Rtot: -141

    There is no question that numbers can at times be deceiving, as evidenced by the fact that New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has won five Gold Glove Awards during his career despite the negative numbers seen above.

    However, the managers and coaches who vote for Gold Glove Award players each year routinely ignore analytics. Rafael Palmeiro won the American League Gold Glove Award in 1999 while playing only 28 games all year at first base, so controversy abounds concerning criteria for Gold Glove Award winners.

Pete Browning

3 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .880

    League Average all: .892

    Career dWAR: -2.3

    Career Rtot: N/A

    For 13 seasons, Pete Browning toiled in the old American Association and National League, playing five positions overall and none of them with any skill whatsoever. Details are actually sketchy regarding Browning's defensive prowess, but several accounts claim that Browning played defense standing on one leg to prevent opposing players from running into him.

    Other accounts suggest that Browning's raging alcoholism also contributed to his faulty fielding as well.

Julio Lugo

4 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .964

    League Average SS: .971

    Career dWAR: -3.0

    Career Rtot: -29

    Let's just get this out there right now—shortstop Julio Lugo was not Ozzie Smith. In fact, Lugo in many ways represented the anti-Ozzie in terms of defense.

    Boston Herald reporter Sean McAdam once said of Lugo, "The next base hit Lugo takes away will be the first. Seldom has an infielder thrown himself on the ground more and come up with fewer plays."

Frank Howard

5 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .978

    League Average all: .985

    Career dWAR: -10.5

    Career Rtot: -110

    For many years with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Senators, Frank Howard was one of the premier power hitters in the game, leading the league twice in home runs and swatting 382 during his 16-year career.

    However, Howard's defense was anything but power. Howard's rookie year of 1960 was the only year in which he posted a positive dWAR, and his range throughout his career was absolutely abysmal.

    Howard spent the last year of his career as a DH in 1973, the first year the DH was in place. It's a shame the rule wasn't in place earlier; the DH position was truly made for Howard.

Lonnie Smith

6 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .964

    League Average OF: .980

    Career dWAR: +3.1

    Career Rtot: +24

    In a career that spanned 17 seasons from 1978-94 with the Phillies, Cardinals, Royals, Braves, Pirates and Orioles, outfielder Lonnie Smith is the only player in baseball history to play in the World Series with four different organizations (the '80 and '81 Phillies, '82 Cardinals, '85 Royals, and '91 and '92 Braves) and to win a World Series Championship with three different teams in the same decade (the '80 Phillies, '82 Cardinals and '85 Royals).

    Smith was often in the right place at the right time. However, defensively he never seemed to really be in the right place. While the numbers above don't appear to be horrible, noted baseball statistician Bill James once said that Smith should teach a course in "defensive recovery and cost containment" since he spent so much of his time working on it.

    Smith had great speed and would often get a great jump on the ball, only to bobble it several times once he actually got there.

Ryan Raburn

7 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .958

    League Average OF: .985

    Career dWAR: -0.9

    Career Rtot: -7

    It may be no wonder why Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland has a conundrum concerning where to play Ryan Raburn—he simply doesn't play well defensively anywhere.

    I offer up the attached video for analysis. Anyone who can bounce a ball off their glove 20 feet into the stands for a home run deserves a spot on this list.

Jason Giambi

8 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .992

    League Average 1B: .993

    Career dWAR: -8.0

    Career Rtot: -73

    Through a 17-year career that isn't over quite yet, Jason Giambi has one a Most Valuable Player Award and clubbed 428 home runs. However, one accolade that will never be attached to Giambi's is that of fielding genius.

    His Rtot and dWAR numbers certainly suggest that a minor league replacement player would have put up a better defense at first than Giambi, known to have limited range and mobility, and hands that were not exactly soft in nature.

Juan Samuel

9 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .973

    League Average all: .982

    Career dWAR: -12.8

    Career Rtot: -113

    When Juan Samuel first debuted for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1983, he quickly became known for a solid bat and tremendous speed, stealing 72 bases and leading the league in triples in his rookie season.

    However, the Phillies also quickly found out that Samuel couldn't field worth a lick as well.

    The above numbers represented Samuel's career primarily at second base, although he played six different positions during his career. No matter where he played, Samuel was a liability on the field.

Babe Herman

10 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .971

    League Average all: .981

    Career dWAR: -3.6

    Career Rtot: N/A

    As a hitter, Babe Herman had an outstanding career, hitting .324 in 13 seasons with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates and Detroit Tigers.

    As a fielder, Herman's life was an adventure. In the November 1992 issue of the Baseball Digest, writer Glenn Liebman quoted a teammate of Herman, who said of him, "Babe wore a glove for only one reason. It was a league custom. The glove would last him a minimum of six years because it rarely made contact with the ball."

    Liebman quoted another source as saying Herman actually did get a bit better later in his career. "Herman improved greatly in his ninth season. He still hadn't caught a ball yet, but he was getting a lot closer."

Alfonso Soriano

11 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .969

    League Average all: .982

    Career dWAR: -5.4

    Career Rtot: -54

    When Alfonso Soriano first debuted with the New York Yankees in 1999, he was a second baseman who hit the ball a country mile. Unfortunately, as a fielder he could boot a ball a country mile as well.

    Soriano's Rtot in nine years at second base was -78, so his transition to the outfield has actually helped, although you would no doubt find many Chicago Cubs fans who would dispute that notion.

Bill Dahlen

12 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .927

    League Average SS: .915

    Career dWAR: +13.0

    Career Rtot: N/A

    It may be a bit unfair to include long-time shortstop Bill Dahlen on this list. He was better than the average shortstop during his day, and his dWAR number certainly indicates he was not exactly a liability on the field.

    However, he does hold the all-time record for most errors lifetime with 1,080, and once committed 86 errors while playing for the Chicago Colts in 1895.

    Dahlen still holds the record for total chances by a shortstop, and oftentimes led the league in putouts and double plays as well. So the numbers certainly indicate that Dahlen was not necessarily bad in any way, but he does have the dubious record nonetheless.

Gary Sheffield

13 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .964

    League Average all: .972

    Career dWAR: -18.4

    Career Rtot: -177

    When Gary Sheffield first came up with the Milwaukee Brewers, he was primarily a shortstop. However, the Brewers saw just how bad Sheffield was there, and moved him to third base.

    Well, that was an adventure as well, so with Sheffield's trade to the Florida Marlins from the San Diego Padres, he was moved to right field.

    Sheffield was only marginally better in terms of numbers in the outfield, and considering where he was numbers-wise before he got there, that's not saying much either.

    Just take a look at the photo—does that look like a man who's confident he can field that grounder?

Nolan Ryan

14 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .895

    League Average P: .952

    Career dWAR: -1.7

    Career Rtot: N/A

    While Nolan Ryan may be in the Hall of Fame, have seven no-hitters to his credit and be the all-time strikeout king, he will never be compared to either Jim Kaat or Greg Maddux in terms of defense.

    Ryan was simply abysmal as a fielder, once committing 30 errors in four seasons while with the California Angels. Fastballs were Ryan's forte; ground balls weren't.

Bobby Bonilla

15 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .955

    League Average all: .966

    Career dWAR: -12.1

    Career Rtot: -121

    As an outfielder, Bobby Bonilla was passable, and his offense generally took precedence for any deficiencies. In fact, in the early 1990s, many would argue that the Pittsburgh Pirates outfield of Barry Bonds, Andy Van Slyke and Bonilla was one of the best in baseball at the time.

    However, as a third baseman, Bonilla's deficiencies were in plain sight. He was good for one error every five games or so, had limited range and his arm was—well, let's just say that accuracy wasn't his strong suit either.

Frank Thomas

16 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .991

    League Average 1B: .993

    Career dWAR: -7.3

    Career Rtot: -64

    Frank Thomas was nicknamed Big Hurt for the way he punished baseballs, hitting 521 home runs during his career. However, some would say he was a big hurt defensively as well.

    Thomas was primarily a designated hitter during his career. However, during the opportunities when he did play first base, it became clear why Thomas was a DH.

Steve Sax

17 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .978

    League Average all: .981

    Career dWAR: -7.2

    Career Rtot: -61

    When second baseman Steve Sax won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1982 for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he was regarded as a player with a lively bat, great speed and decent enough defensively. That soon changed.

    The following year, Sax became completely unable to throw the ball accurately to first base, committing 30 errors on the season. The phenomena became known as the "Steve Sax Syndrome." Fans who sat behind the first base area at Dodger Stadium were known to wear helmets, not knowing where Sax's throws would land.

    It would be years before Sax finally figured out his mechanical issues, but the damage had already been done.

Pete Incaviglia

18 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .966

    League Average OF: .980

    Career dWAR: -1.7

    Career Rtot: -14

    During his 12-year career spent with six different teams, outfielder Pete Incaviglia was hit-or-miss as a hitter, leading the American League in strikeouts twice, and hitting over 20 home runs in a season six times.

    As an outfielder, Incaviglia's play could certainly be described as hit-or-miss as well. During his time with the Texas Rangers, Incaviglia's nickname was "Oops," primarily because of the way he patrolled the outfield.

Dave Kingman

19 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .974

    League Average all: .986

    Career dWAR: -6.2

    Career Rtot: -58

    In his 16 seasons in baseball, Dave Kingman was known for hitting some of the most prodigious home run shots in history, amazing fans and players alike with his sheer power.

    Unfortunately, the same could not be said of his defensive prowess.

    The power that Kingman generated with his body hindered him greatly in the field. Slow of foot, Kingman was simply awful in the outfield, posting a lifetime .957 fielding percentage and -32 Rtot. Kingman wasn't much better at first base, where his slow footwork often left him entangled on the bag in awkward positions and routine grounders were a complete adventure.

Mo Vaughn

20 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .988

    League Average all: .992

    Career dWAR: -4.6

    Career Rtot: -42

    By just about every measurement available, either through STATS Inc., Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs or Baseball Reference, there is no documentation anywhere that supports the fact that first baseman Mo Vaughn was anything close to a good fielder.

    Vaughn's range was so bad that the Anaheim Angels often had Vaughn playing behind the baserunner, so that he could get to a ball quicker. During late innings of many games, Vaughn would often be seen playing just two steps off the bag, and even then balls hit down the line would get by him.

    While Vaughn once uttered "it ain't about the money" during contract negotiations with the Boston Red Sox, for Vaughn, it wasn't about the defense, either.

Johnnie LeMaster

21 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .961

    League Average SS: .965

    Career dWAR: -8.0

    Career Rtot: -62

    Honestly, in looking at the career of shortstop Johnnie LeMaster, it's hard to believe that he actually enjoyed a 12-year career.

    LeMaster never got out of the "twos" with his main-line hitting statistics, with a slash line of .222/.277/.289 in his career. And if his unremarkable hitting wasn't enough, his defensive stats certainly don't suggest that LeMaster was being kept around for his defensive prowess, either.

Bill Madlock

22 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .948

    League Average 3B: .949

    Career dWAR: -11.4

    Career Rtot: -89

    Third baseman Bill Madlock was certainly a great hitter during his 15-year career, capturing four National League batting titles and ending with a .305 career average.

    However, Madlock's prowess at the plate did not transfer to the field very well at all.

    While Madlock's career fielding percentage may look comparable to other third basemen during his time, fielding percentage never tells the whole story. Madlock's zone rating and other defensive variables were far below that of the league average, and in a report that measures Total Zone ratings for players between the years 1956 and 1986, Madlock places dead last among all third basemen.

Adam Dunn

23 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .979

    League Average all: .989

    Career dWAR: -5.9

    Career Rtot: -59

    Yes, folks, there is a reason that the Chicago White Sox signed Adam Dunn strictly as a designated hitter, and they had better hope he snaps out of his slump this coming season.

    During his time in the National League, Dunn played left field, right field and first base, and none of them with any degree of skill. In 2010, Dunn committed 13 errors at first base, second worst in the NL behind Ryan Howard. In 2006, Dunn led the NL in errors as well, that time as an outfielder.

    The DH is a wonderful thing, isn't it? Except, of course, when you're only hitting .159.

Brad Hawpe

24 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .978

    League Average OF: .985

    Career dWAR: -8.0

    Career Rtot: -83

    First baseman/outfielder Brad Hawpe went down last year in June and required Tommy John surgery. Now signed to a minor league deal with his hometown Texas Rangers, Hawpe is hoping to return to full form, although even with the surgery, it may not do much to help his porous defense.

    Hawpe was consistently ranked as one of the poorest outfielders in baseball in his prior eight seasons, according to just about every defensive metric available. While the surgery will no doubt help his swing, Hawpe had better hope that he can make the Rangers' 25-man roster with his bat.

Yuniesky Betancourt

25 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .970

    League Average SS: .971

    Career dWAR: -1.7

    Career Rtot: -19

    Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt certainly presents an interesting case this year.

    As part of the trade package in December 2010 that sent Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers, Betancourt was also included in the deal, with the two teams essentially swapping shortstops, the Royals receiving Alcides Escobar. By just about every defensive metric available, Escobar is a much better defensive option.

    Now, with the Brewers declining to sign the defensively challenged Betancourt, he finds himself back with the Royals after signing a one-year deal, and presumably will back up the very man he was traded for in the first place—Escobar.

    Kids, this is what happens when you don't work on your defense in practice.

Ed Taubensee

26 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .988

    League Average C: .990

    Career dWAR: -6.7

    Career Rtot: -12

    Many regard defense to be the most important attribute for the catcher position, and that certainly can't be argued. The ability to handle a pitching staff, call a game, throw out baserunners and be a good receiver certainly can never be underscored.

    While the general belief is that Mike Piazza is the worst defensive catcher, that would not be the case, at least according to FanGraphs. That honor belongs to Eddie Taubensee.

    In his 11-year career, seven with the Cincinnati Reds, Taubensee was literally brutal behind the plate. Throwing out only 23 percent of would-be basestealers during his career, Taubensee also was way below the curve in passed balls, wild pitches and many other defensive metrics used for the catching position.

    It certainly didn't help that he couldn't bash a ball like Piazza, either.

Ruben Sierra

27 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .970

    League Average OF: .982

    Career dWAR: -6.0

    Career Rtot: -66

    It's a darn good thing that outfielder Ruben Sierra could hit a little bit, because he certainly wasn't kept around for his defense.

    Early in his career with the Texas Rangers, Sierra quickly fell out of favor when he concentrated solely on hitting, completely ignoring any effort to even practice defensively.

    Sierra did eventually start putting more effort into it, but he never came close to being of Gold Glove caliber.

Dante Bichette

28 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .974

    League Average OF: .980

    Career dWAR: -9.3

    Career Rtot: -90

    For several years, outfielder Dante Bichette was one of the most popular and beloved players for the Colorado Rockies, and his offensive exploits in the Mile High City were certainly highly regarded.

    However, defensively, Bichette was easily one of the most challenged of players.

    Bichette was second in the National League in errors committed by an outfielder in 1998 and 1999, and oftentimes could be seen flailing in the corner as a ball caromed off a wall and between his legs.

    Despite a career filled with plenty of offense, Bichette's career WAR was 2.0, a telling sign of his defensive deficiencies.

Smead Jolley

29 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .944

    League Average OF: .967

    Career dWAR: -1.4

    Career Rtot: N/A

    Outfielder Smead Jolley was easily one of the great minor league players of all time, hitting 336 home runs with a lifetime .367 batting average during his 16-year career at the lower level.

    However, at the major league level, while Jolley could hit a bit, he was clearly one of the most challenged players in the history of the game.

    Jolley committed 44 errors in just four seasons, and was once credited with three errors on the same play, having the ball actually go through his legs twice on the same batted ball. The official scorer of the game took pity on Jolley, actually only giving him two errors.

Curt Blefary

30 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .983

    League Average all: .988

    Career dWAR: -2.8

    Career Rtot: -20

    During the eight-year career of utility-man Curt Blefary, he was given the nickname "Clank" by former teammate Frank Robinson, who claimed that the nickname represented the imaginary sound that the ball made when it banged against Blefary’s glove.

Jose Canseco

31 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .971

    League Average OF: .981

    Career dWAR: -3.2

    Career Rtot: -30

    To say that outfielder Jose Canseco was defensively challenged is a bit like saying that Babe Ruth was just a better than average slugger.

    Anyone who uses his noggin to aid in a home run definitely deserves a spot on this list.

Marv Throneberry

32 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .987

    League Average 1B: .990

    Career dWAR: -0.8

    Career Rtot: -7

    Just to give some kind of a clue at just how bad Marv Throneberry was as a fielder, former manager Casey Stengel, who Throneberry played for with the expansion New York Mets, said to Throneberry on his birthday, "We was going to get you a birthday cake, but we figured you'd drop it."

    Enough said.

Butch Hobson

33 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .927

    League Average 3B: .954

    Career dWAR: -5.9

    Career Rtot: -53

    There's no doubt that third base is a tough position to play, but former MLB player Butch Hobson made it look like the toughest job in all of professional sports.

    Hobson committed a whopping 43 errors at the hot corner in 1978, finishing the season with an .899 fielding percentage, one of the lowest at any position for a full-time player in the modern era.

Mike Piazza

34 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .989

    League Average C: .990

    Career dWAR: -8.3

    Career Rtot: -70

    As mentioned before, catcher Mike Piazza might not quite be regarded as the worst defensive catcher in history—but he's pretty darn close.

    Only Piazza's incredible offensive numbers make up for it—Piazza has the seventh-best WAR among catchers all-time, despite the fact he has the second-worst dWAR of all time.

Nate McLouth

35 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .991

    League Average OF: .985

    Career dWAR: -3.7

    Career Rtot: -36

    When it was announced at the end of the 2008 season that Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Nate McLouth had captured a Gold Glove Award, many fans wondered if he actually stole it, because there was no indication based on his play that he actually earned it.

    By most defensive metrics used, McLouth was regarded as one of the worst defensive center fielders that year, which proves our point once again that voters are completely out of touch as to the significance of a Gold Glove Award.

Manny Ramirez

36 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .978

    League Average OF: .985

    Career dWAR: -11.8

    Career Rtot: -109

    With 13 All-Star selections, 555 home runs and a .312 lifetime batting average, it's easy to see why outfielder Manny Ramirez clearly has numbers that should qualify him for Hall of Fame status. It's a good thing they don't look at defense.

    Manny's "amazing" catch of a Johnny Damon relay is absolutely priceless.

Greg Luzinski

37 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .972

    League Average OF: .979

    Career dWAR: -8.1

    Career Rtot: -93

    In doing a quick Google search concerning outfielder Greg Luzinski and his defense, here are just some of the phrases used:

    "Somewhat of a defensive liability."

    "Luzinski was a solid player, but contributed zero on defense."

    "And Phillies fans never forgave Ozark for failing to make a defensive substitution for Greg Luzinski..."

    That's just the first two pages of searches.

    Get the point?

Mark Reynolds

38 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .930

    League Average 3B: .954

    Career dWAR: -5.4

    Career Rtot: -41

    Last season, Mark Reynolds as a third baseman registered the fourth-worst season by Defensive Runs Saved in FanGraphs' entire database at -29. The last third baseman to put up equally putrid numbers was Ryan Braun in 2007 (-32 in comparable innings).

    Manager Buck Showalter told Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com that they had every intention of sticking with Reynolds at third.

    "You are going to see Mark start out at third base in the spring. That's where we would like for him to play," Showalter said. "We think Mark is a lot better than he's shown statistically. I think he's going to come in [to camp] lighter and little more nimble."

    Nimble is one thing; actually being able to field is another matter entirely.

Jose Offerman

39 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .943

    League Average SS: .967

    Career dWAR: -7.5

    Career Rtot: -69

    After seven seasons at shortstop for both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals, enough was enough, and the Royals finally moved Jose Offerman to second base.

    Offerman was statistically one of the worst shortstops in history. He was marginally better at second, and even a little better at first, but his original time at shortstop was certainly memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Dick Stuart

40 of 40

    Career Fielding Percentage: .982

    League Average 1B: .990

    Career dWAR: -6.1

    Career Rtot: -59

    No list regarding defense in baseball, especially bad defense, would be complete without the name of Dick Stuart, aka Dr. Strangeglove.

    Stuart did rack up 228 home runs during his career, leading the American League in RBI for the 1963 season, but the man who would also be called “Stonefingers” and “The Man with the Iron Glove" made his mark as the poorest defensive fielding first baseman in major league history.

     

    Doug Mead is a Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle. Follow Doug on Twitter, @Sports_A_Holic.