One of the few positives of having a Major League Baseball landscape with such an extreme contrast between the good teams and the bad teams is that the bad teams often aren’t even trying to win, which is sometimes hilarious. What’s the best way to intentionally lose games and look terrible all season long? Sign and deploy the least valuable players in baseball.
For example, Matt Moore (1-5, 7.63 ERA) has made 12 starts for the American League West’s last-place Texas Rangers. Chicago White Sox starter James Shields (2-9, 4.59 ERA) is somehow still in the majors. Jose Reyes could be the worst all-around player in baseball, but the New York Mets insist on playing him during his 12th season in Queens.
A lot of teams have taken this strategy and executed it to perfection (or, the opposite of perfection). MLB is on pace for an all-time record of teams with sub-.400 winning percentages, and “tanking,” as it’s known, has its benefits. The last two World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros, were in these positions just a few years ago. They were the Rangers and White Sox of the first half of the 2010’s.
The Astros and Cubs employed guys like Logan Schafer, Carlos Corporan, Junior Lake, and Donnie Murphy. These guys (tell me you have heard of all of them in the last three years, go ahead) were everyday players or close to it during actual MLB seasons. My point being, teams nowadays will use the most awful players as everyday guys, and there’s a certain art to it.
When I stumble on a random baseball game on TV late at night and look around the field, I might find a player whose existence as a human being I had forgotten about completely. This has happened to me countless times this season; this dude, a useful, productive player at some point in his career, is someone I have not thought about or heard about in — in some cases — years.
Here are the top-five MLB players in 2018 who I forgot existed.
I remember Goins as a utility infielder for the Toronto Blue Jays. After checking his Baseball-Reference page, it turns out I was right, and Goins played all four infield spots, the corner outfield positions, and even pitched as a member of the Jays. But Goins was a hitter, not a pitcher, and was disastrously bad at batting.[email protected] forgot these five players even existed until recently, when they came up in research all of a sudden.Click To Tweet
The career .228 hitter was the starting third baseman for the Kansas City Royals a few days ago, which is the first I’ve heard of him in awhile.
Brad Ziegler has long been one of the most interesting dudes in baseball. A submarine style relief pitcher once considered for American League Rookie of the Year (2008, finished eighth with Oakland), he owns a career 2.76 ERA — which is tremendous — but has never stayed on the same team for long after his 28-year-old rookie season.
It’s mostly because he walks everyone (career 1.94 strikeouts per walk, which is awful). The reliever is now with the Miami Marlins, with whom he has an 0-5 record and 5.70 ERA this season. I had only heard of him because he’s surfaced in trade talks recently.
On Monday night, I watched Toronto Blue Jays reliever Seunghwan Oh get a save he really didn’t deserve against the Houston Astros after Randal Grichuk robbed George Springer of a game-tying three-run home run. As a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Oh got plenty of saves he actually earned, compiling 39 over two seasons. Oh went 6-3 with an impressive 1.92 ERA as a 33-year-old rookie in 2016, garnering a sixth-place National League Rookie of the Year Award finish.
Apparently, Oh had a miserable season in 2017, and the Cardinals — the club I think of first when I think of Oh — did not retain the right-hander. He went 1-6 with a 4.10 ERA in 56.1 innings, also posting an ugly WHIP of 1.399. I guess that’s why I forgot about him. Oh well.
Wade LeBlanc is a journeyman. He’s not even that old, just 33, but he has appeared on seven MLB teams over a 10-year career. He’s going through The Charlie Morton Experience in which a pitcher enjoys his best career season in his early 30s, nearly a decade after he first dug into a big-league mound.
He’s 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA on the miraculously good Seattle Mariners (the one team on which a Wade LeBlanc resurgence shouldn’t really surprise anyone), while being on pace for more innings pitched than ever before after 15 games and 10 starts. LeBlanc had a cup of coffee with my team, the Astros, but after he departed in 2013, I hadn’t heard of him since. This is a case of someone whose forgotten existence is actually somewhat heartwarming.
Oliver Perez has been in the majors since 2002, which seems a whole lot longer than I had initially thought. Since he was 20 years old, I’ve been forgetting all about him. Perez was actually a pretty decent reliever and at one point a serviceable starter, having been traded to contenders at the trade deadline twice; Perez is considered valuable enough to be a desired asset.
One of those two teams was Houston, a team for which he was downright terrible in the back half of 2015. Perez went 0-3 with an ERA over six in 22 appearances and 12 innings for the ‘Stros, and now is pitching for the Cleveland Indians — where he has promptly returned to dominance with just one earned run against in 8.1 innings, a fact I only know because the Tribe’s bullpen has been horrible and I was curious as to who had been their best relief arm in 2018.