Chris Davis and the Worst Single Seasons in MLB History

Chris Davis hit 53 home runs in 2013, and 47 home runs two seasons after. He was an American League Most Valuable Player finalist, an All-Star Game participant, and the Silver Slugger Award winner at first base. Before the 2016 campaign, the Baltimore Orioles signed the left-handed slugger to a massive contract that pays him $23 million per year until 2023.

He drew comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, and Josh Hamilton. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated, an edition that included a feature on how Davis transformed from Triple-A bench player with the Texas Rangers organization to Major League Baseball superstar. He was one of the game’s most transcendent hitters, and the face of an up-and-coming Orioles franchise set to wreak havoc on the AL.

Chris Davis is now the perhaps the worst every day player in the major leagues. Those comparisons to Griffey and to Bonds are now better off as one to late-career Adam Dunn. What has happened to the big swinging left-handed batter borders on incredible, and in 2018, Davis is on pace to complete one of the worst seasons in baseball history.

The date is June 15 and Chris Davis is hitting .150/.227/.227 with four home runs, 15 RBIs, 19 walks compared to 86 strikeouts, an OPS of .454, and an OPS+ of 28. Even for the Orioles, the worst team in the majors, Davis has been that bad, accumulating a -2.2 bWAR after over 57 games and over 200 plate appearances. Out of 162 qualified major-league hitters, Davis ranks dead last in batting average, slugging, OPS, and next to last in on-base percentage.

Baltimore @Orioles hitter Chris Davis is having one of the worst seasons ever. Here's which single-season disasters his 2018 ranks among.Click To Tweet

Though the demise of Davis is maybe the most surprising of anyone you’ll see in this article, he isn’t the only one to suffer through seasons as statistically horrid as his 2018. Let’s take a look back at some of the worst single season performances in the history of MLB.

1977: Jerry Royster, Atlanta Braves

Stats: 140 games played, 491 plate appearances, -4.0 bWAR, .216/.278/.288 slash line, 56 OPS+, 67 strikeouts to 38 walks, six home runs, 28 RBIs, 18 extra-base hits, 28 steals (caught stealing 10 times).

Jerry Royster actually had a pretty productive career. The late 1970s and early 1980s were the golden age of stolen bases, and at that time, Royster was one of the game’s fastest athletes. He totalled 189 steals in his 16 year career, with 136 of those swiped bags coming in a five-year span.

Royster’s 1977 season is what he’s remembered for, though. Royster hit .216, rarely got on base enough to do the one thing he did well (steal bases), and played a statistically horrendous defense (.960 fielding percentage at his primary positions, third base and shortstop, -2.0 defensive WAR). Imagine an Alcides Escobar type hitter who also was terrible at defense, and you have Royster’s 1977.

1909: Bill Bergen, Brooklyn Superbas

Stats: 112 games played, 373 plate appearances, -2.1 bWAR, .139/.163/.156 slash line, 1 OPS+, 50 strikeouts to 10 walks, one home run, 15 RBIs, three extra-base hits, four steals (caught stealing zero times).

Bill Bergen was a -13.5 bWAR player with a .170 batting average over his 11-year, 947-game career as a big-league catcher. If that’s awful to you, good, because it’s awful to everyone. Bergen was an above-average defensive catcher, though, and even in his worst season of 1909, he posted a 1.3 defense bWAR. His offense is too hilarious to not talk about, however.

I truly will never understand how anyone with over 350 plate appearances can post a 1 OPS+. That’s not a typo, and it is maybe the funniest baseball stat I’ve ever read. It’s unfathomable how terrible an offensive player Bergen was, and 1909 was maybe the worst season in baseball history.

2011: Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox

Stats: 122 games played, 496 plate appearances, -2.9 bWAR, .159/.292/.277 slash line, 54 OPS+, 177 strikeouts to 75 walks, 11 home runs, 42 RBIs, 27 extra-base hits, zero steals (caught stealing one time).

Adam Dunn is one of the most interesting players in baseball history. He was both laughably crappy and an actual quality player at the same time, somehow. A two-time All-Star and 37th on the all-time home run leaders list — with more long balls than Hall of Famers Jeff Bagwell and Vladimir Guerrero — Dunn had one of the worst seasons ever in 2011.

Of course, Dunn followed it up by knocking 41 home runs and leading the American League in walks with the White Sox the next year, because nobody — not even Adam Dunn — can predict what will happen next with Adam Dunn.

1939: Jim Levey, St. Louis Browns

Stats: 141 games played, 567 plate appearances, -3.9 bWAR, .195/.237/.240 slash line, 24 OPS+, 68 strikeouts to 26 walks, two home runs, 36 RBIs, 16 extra-base hits, four steals (caught stealing six times).

Jim Levey was a dreadful baseball player throughout his MLB career, though in 1932 he received MVP votes despite being, by OPS+ (75), a below average player. In 1933, his final season in the bigs, Levey showed himself out.

-3.9 bWAR and 39 runs produced behind replacement player level. I’m thinking the 1939 St. Louis Browns might have been better if literally anyone laced them and played Levey’s customary shortstop position.

1886: Jim Lillie, Kansas City Cowboys

Stats: 114 games played, 427 plate appearances, -3.9 bWAR, .175/.197/.197 slash line, 17 OPS+, 80 strikeouts to 11 walks, zero home runs, 22 RBIs, nine extra-base hits, 13 steals (caught stealing [N/A] times. It was 1886 and stats are impossible to find).

According to Baseball-Reference, 1886 was the only season in the Kansas City Cowboys’ existence. At least a 24-year-old Jim “Grasshopper” Lillie made it a season to remember for the defunct National League club with one of the worst campaigns in baseball’s long history.

It was the late 1800’s, and he was probably more worried about getting eaten by a bear than about wins above replacement and slugging percentage.

1985: George Wright, Texas Rangers

Stats: 109 games played, 395 plate appearances, -3.7 bWAR, .190/.241/.242 slash line, 33 OPS+, 49 strikeouts to 25 walks, two home runs, 18 RBIs, 15 extra-base hits, four steals (caught stealing seven times).

George Wright had a serviceable first few major-league seasons, hitting .264 with 38 home runs and 3.6 bWAR between 1982 and 1984. Then 1985 came and Wright wasn’t… right. His stats above this paragraph speak for themselves, and after a quick re-up with Texas in 1986, the Rangers sent him off to Montreal where his big league career finished after he promptly hit .188 in 56 games with the Expos.

Like the aforementioned Levey, he actually got MVP votes one year (1983, finished 24th). Wright finished as a below replacement level player with a career .288 on-base percentage.

This is in no way a comprehensive list of all the garbage seasons from MLB players. We haven’t even gotten to Jose Guillen‘s 1997, Ken Reitz in 1975, or Alex Rios in 2011. Nonetheless, Chris Davis — one of baseball’s premier hitters just a few years ago — is now this bad. That’s insane.

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