When Gus Zernial of the Chicago White Sox and Roy Smalley of the Chicago Cubs won the inaugural Dave Kingman Award way back in 1950, the level of analysis that went into the award was pretty primitive.
Did they guy hit a lot of home runs? If so, did he have a really low batting average and also a strangely low RBI total?
Okay, good. Here’s your Dave Kingman Award.
As baseball enjoyed its statistical revolution of the last 30 years, the Kingman analysis became greatly enhanced. To home runs and on-base percentage we were able to add runs created, OPS, OPS+, adjusted batting runs, WAR, and a host of other offensive statistics, to say nothing of the tacitly present defensive factor, measured by fielding runs, plus/minus, ultimate zone rating, and defensive WAR.
Indeed, the statistical revolution has brought us into a new era of Dave Kingman analysis, which is really great, because there have certainly been season in which the Kingman candidates have abounded, and simple reference to home runs and on-base percentage haven’t given us the necessary information we’ve needed to parse the Pedro Felizes and the Chris Youngs.
Where we’ve needed more, we’ve gotten it.
And so it is, then, that we turn our attention to the 2010 Dave Kingman Award, with an eye towards determining, once again, who in Major League Baseball more than any other player was truly doing the least with the most.
Let’s have a look:
Mark Reynolds, Arizona Diamondbacks
Reynolds will perpetually be a Kingman candidate because of his traditionally high home run and strikeout rates, combined with his traditionally low batting average. This season was no different for the Diamondbacks third baseman, as he hit 32 home runs, but managed only a .198 batting average with 211 strikeouts.
After becoming the first player ever to strike out 200 times in 2008, he became the first player ever to do it twice in 2009, and in 2010 became the first player ever to do it three times.
Reynolds was particularly bad in 2010, however. After driving in 102 RBI and scoring 98 runs in 2009, those numbers dropped to 85 and 79. He also had a 150 hits in 2009, and that number dropped to a shocking 99 hits in 596 plate appearances in 2010. The adage regarding strikeouts being just as detrimental to a player as any other out does not apply, it would seem, to Mark Reynolds.
Brother needs to put some bat on some balls.
Nevertheless, Reynolds remains just outside of being considered a Kingman clone for a simple reason: in 145 games, Reynolds took 83 walks in 2010, which raised his OBP a surprising 122 points above his batting average.
There is value there, and while it is not great, it is enough to keep him out of the inner Kingman circle.
Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays
Everything we just said about Mark Reynolds pretty much goes for Carlos Pena. He had the same curious combination of below .200 average and above .300 OBP, he hit a shocking number of home runs for a guy who doesn’t seem to make contact with the ball all that often, and he finished with fewer than 100 hits in 144 games.
Pena is also a pretty bad defensive player, though this is not his reputation. Nevertheless, in this season, he is too good to win the Kingman.
Adam Lind, Toronto Blue Jays
It is simply unbelievable that Adam Lind could have consecutive seasons as disparate as the ones he had in 2009 and 2010. Lind went from 35 home runs, 114 RBI, and a .305/.370/.562 to 23 home runs, 72 RBI, and a .237/.287/.425 without even seeing a significant decrease in playing time. He scored almost 40 fewer runs in 2010 (93 vs. 57) and had 44 fewer base hits.
I mean, what in the name of Jonny Gomes 2006 is going on here?
In any other season, Lind would likely have walked away with the Dave Kingman Award handily with 23 home runs and a .287 on-base percentage. Throw in his -8.65 adjusted batting runs (second worst for any major leaguer with over 20 home runs) and his 0.1 WAR (wow), and he’d be a shoo-in.
As it is, he isn’t even the best Kingman candidate in the American League, nor is he the best candidate (spoiler alert) on his own team...
Ty Wigginton, Baltimore Orioles
There are certain things that baseball fans never understand, certain pieces of conventional wisdom that all baseball insiders follow but baseball outsiders can’t comprehend.
For me, this is that thing: why is it that from time to time a team with no hope of making the playoffs will have a veteran player drastically over-achieve their career performance during the first half of the season and not immediately sell high on that player.
This year we saw that with two players: when Carlos Silva came out of the gate lights out for the Chicago Cubs, winning his first eight games, the Cubs sat idly by patting themselves on the back for having found such a diamond in the rough.
Even when it became clear that the Cubs season was going to be a train-wreck (I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say mid-May even though, for me, it was mid-March) and they were going to be dealing some players, they held on to Carlos Silva like he was found money.
Had it been me, as soon as he got to 5-0 and I would have been on the horn with every general manager in baseball offering to give him up to any team willing to take his salary off my hands. When a guy like Silva (career WHIP: 1.397) comes out and looks like the next Derek Lowe for two months, you Sell Sell Sell!!!
The other player we saw that with in 2010 was Ty Wigginton. Hey look, what do I know? There is a chance that when the 30 year old Wigginton came out and hit .288 with a .934 OPS over the first two months of the season with 13 home runs, 32 RBI, and 23 runs scored on the worst offensive team in baseball, it meant that he had finally figured things out.
Had it been me, though, again I would have been on the horn with every team in baseball that needed a corner infielder for the fourth, fifth, or sixth spot in their lineup. If you think the Orioles couldn’t have gotten a tasty Double-A pitching prospect, or even a middle infield defensive specialist, in return for the hot hitting Wigginton from a desperate playoff-cusp team, you’re crazy.
And what, possibly, were the Orioles holding him for? Was the 2011 season going to be built around this guy?
As it was, the Orioles held on to Wigginton, and enjoyed the business end of a four month stretch from June 1st to the end of the season in which he hit .231 with a .640 OPS and nine home runs the rest of the way. Well play, Mr. Angelos, well played.
Not only did the Orioles not get anything in return for two months of Wigginton hotness, they also found themselves in possession of a Kingman candidate.
Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs
The 2010 National League Dave Kingman Award, and 2010 Major League Baseball Kingman Finalist, must be Aramis Ramirez of the Chicago Cubs.
Not only did this guy suck on both sides of the ball, but he also $16.75 million to do it.
As they say in melodramatic action movies when either an infectious disease or an object from space threatens to kill everyone on the planet:
That Aramis Ramirez didn’t suffer one of the worst full seasons of all time is a testament to his second half. We here at BaseballEvolution.com have an Alex Gonzalez of the Marlins Award for the player who tails off the most after a great first half; in 2010, Ramirez was the bizarro Alex Gonzalez.
On July 8 of this season, just days before the All Star Break, Ramirez had a .195 batting average with a .254 OBP and a .350 slugging percentage. To that point, through 59 games, A-Ram had nine home runs, 30 RBI, 18 walks and 52 strikeouts.
Aramis was downright respectable in the second half, though, hitting 16 home runs, 13 doubles, and a triple while batting .285 with an .880 OPS the rest of the way.
Imagine: despite that performance, he was still our Dave Kingman Award Finalist for the National League. The reason why is simple enough: on the season as a whole, Ramirez finished with the third fewest adjusted batting runs of any player with over 20 home runs in baseball, and fewest in the National League, with -7.93. He enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) a negative WAR at -0.7, and his .294 on-base percentage was still terrible.
Indeed, it was a year of which Dave Kingman would have been proud.
Aaron Hill, Toronto Blue Jays
Ah, Aaron Hill. I hate to dog an LSU Tiger like this, but Aaron Hill’s 2010 season was a historic one from a “doing the least with the most perspective.”
Hill’s conventional stats are bad enough on their own to justify giving him the 2010 Kingman Award. Combined with his 26 home runs, Hill had 70 runs, 68 RBI, 22 doubles, 108 hits, and 41 walks. His batting average was a ridiculous .205, and his on-base percentage followed suit at .271. His OPS was a terrible .665, good for a 79 OPS+.
His more advanced stats were also terrible: 0.8 WAR, -17.5 adjusted batting runs, and 56 runs created.
But when you go deeper, you realize how terrible these numbers truly are for two reasons.
First, in 2010 Hill became the sixth player ever to hit more than 25 home runs and have less than -15 batting runs (Hill went 26/-17.5). The other five were Tony Armas (1983), Vinny Castilla (1999), Tony Batista (2003 and 2004), and Jeff Francoeur (2006).
Important, Armas and Bastista (twice) both won the Kingman Award in their respective years, while Francoeur was the runner-up, to Pedro Feliz, in the controversial 2006 voting.
But wait... there’s more.
In 2010, Aaron Hill also became the second player in the history of baseball to hit more than 25 home runs and have an OPS+ under 80, joining only Batista in 2003 (who somehow managed to go 26/73 in 670 plate appearances).
And there it is: the essence of what it means to win the Dave Kingman Award. A rare combination of home run power and overall valuelessness. At least by this standard, Aaron Hill had the second best Kingman-clone season of all time.
And for this reason, Aaron Hill is the 2010 Major League Baseball Dave Kingman Award Winner.