At Pinstriped Bible, I recently took a look at a “worst case” projection for the 2013 Yankees’ lineup and compared it some of the more futile Bronx Bomber offenses of the past. However, I thought it might be fun to take the historical exercise one step further by building one of the weakest hypothetical lineups in Yankees history. Although some disgruntled Yankee fans might argue that Brian Cashman has already beaten me to the punch, below is a lineup of Bronx Bummers culled from the not-so illustrious annals of the franchise’s otherwise glorious history.
Bronx Bummers: Lineup of Worst Regular Seasons in Yankees History
Note: Includes qualified seasons for hitters who played at least 50% of their games at a defined position were used.
The lineup above was constructed by selecting the Yankee who had the lowest OPS+ at each position in a single season. In order to account for sample size and create a realistic roster, only qualified seasons for hitters who played at least 50% of their games at a defined position were used.
Only three players who “made the cut” played after the dead ball era, the most prominent of which was Clete Boyer. In 1964, Boyer had an absolutely brutal season with the bat. A glove man by trade, the Yankees’ third baseman was never a slugger, but his horrific OPS+ of 58 was one of the worst ever compiled by any Bronx Bomber in a qualified season. Ironically, after his nightmare in 1964, Boyer rebounded to have his three best seasons with the bat. However, that wasn’t enough to stave off the Yankees’ decline as a team.
With an OPS+ of 100, Kevin Maas is an unlikely candidate for a team of offensive misfits, but the Yankees haven’t had many full-time DHs, and, when one hitter has been entrusted with the role, he’s usually been very productive. As a result, Maas makes the cut for his 1991 season, despite slugging 23 homers and being looked upon as one of the few bright spots in a dark period of franchise history.
Johnny Sturm is perhaps the most tragic member of the team in a baseball sense. After struggling through his rookie season in 1941, the first baseman enlisted in the Army, where he remained for the duration of World War II. During his service, Sturm severed part of his finger in a tractor accident, leading to a partial amputation. He did attempt a comeback in 1946, but languised in the minors. However, Sturm would eventually make a major impact on Yankee history when, as manager of the team’s minor league affiliate in Joplin, Missouri, he helped mentor a young prospect named Mickey Mantle.
All of the other members of the all-time worst Yankees lineup played during the dead ball era, including two Hall of Famers. As a rookie backstop with the then Baltimore Orioles, Roger Bresnahan posted an OPS+ of 88, which, although respectable for a catcher, paled in comparison to his career rate of 126. Bresnahan’s best was yet to come, but unfortunately for the Yankees, they wouldn’t get to enjoy it. Along with several other players, the catcher was pilfered by the team’s former player-manager-owner, John McGraw, who abandoned the fledgling American League franchise to join forces with the rival New York Giants.
Hall of Shame: Lowest Single Season OPS+ by a Hall of Famer
Note: Includes qualified seasons.
Wee Willie Keeler made it to the Hall of Fame by “hitting ‘em where they ain’t”, but in 1907, he wasn’t so lucky. Over his 19-year major league career, the outfielder posted an above average OPS in all but one season, but when he finally dipped below par, he made up for lost time. Keeler’s OPS+ of 61 represented a dramatic decline for the prolific hitter and ranks as the ninth worst qualified mark ever posted by a Hall of Famer.
Rounding out the team of not-so Yankee greats are four relatively anonymous figures. Jim Jackson was another member of the 1901 Baltimore Orioles, who was the weak link in what otherwise ranked as the league’s best offense. Fritz Maisel, who held the franchise stolen base record before it was eclipsed by Rickey Henderson, had a promising start to his baseball career, but a broken collarbone in 1916 was the precursor to his landing on this list with an OPS+ of 50 the following year. While with the Red Sox, Duffy Lewis was part of a legendary outfield that included Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper. However, after a stint in the army during World War I, Lewis returned with diminished skills, which he brought to the Yankees in 1919. The balance of trade would eventually even out the following year when Boston sent another wannabe outfielder to New York; he went by the name of Babe. Finally, Pee-Wee Wanninger may have an all-time name, but his batting skills were not as impressive. In his only season with the Yankees, the shortstop posted an OPS+ of 43, the lowest rate for any Bronx Bomber in a qualified season (or any season with more than 300 at bats). Clearly, we saved the worst for last. However, there is one sidebar about Wanninger that warrants the build up.
On May 6, 1925, the rookie shortstop made his first major league start in place of Everett Scott, who up until that day had played in a record 1,307 straight games. From that point forward, Wanninger became a regular in the lineup, but on June 1, he was lifted for a pinch hitter named Lou Gehrig. Like Wanninger, the young first baseman was replacing an established veteran, but unlike the shortstop, Gehrig’s ascension to the starting lineup was more permanent. The Iron Horse would eventually break Scott’s record for most consecutive games played on August 17, 1933, and then keep going for almost 1,000 more, making Wanninger a missing link between two of the longest playing streaks in baseball history.