Tuesday, September 13, 2005

patterson: the historical analysis

much has been said in this space about the trials and travails of a certain klown, who has traded on his assumed "potential" far longer than any player deserves to -- perhaps in part because of the detrimentally optimistic nature of altogether too many cub fans who love pathetic losing so long as the sun shines, the beer flows and the tribune company agrees to take their money. it has been asserted here that patterson is not only the worst outfielder in one of the worst outfields in the national league, but that he is the worst everyday player in major league baseball.

but this space would now say yet more than that -- that patterson is in fact historically bad -- one of the least productive outfielders to ever be allowed to play the game to the extent he has been allowed to.

using the database so kindly supplied by the baseball archive, which enables a person with some knowledge of databases to query the entire record of player performance data going back to 1871, we have combed the record looking for patterson's equal in ineptitude -- and that, friends, is a difficult search indeed. since the founding of the national league, over 5700 outfielders have patrolled some portion of major league turf at some point or another.

we have long extolled the virtue of getting on base as a precursor to offensive success -- there is no single easily-measured component of a player's production that so consistently coincides with individual productivity and team success. in short, one has to get aboard in order to score. and the klown doesn't.

this is not new news, of course. what is new is the revelation of the context of his awfulness in this aspect.

there have been 1642 players who have logged at least 2000 at-bats since 1921. but only 148 -- just 9% -- have been allowed, for one reason or another, to amass as many as that while being unable to create an on-base percentage of more than a meager .300. (patterson, as of this writing, has a .294 obp in 2125 at-bats in the majors.)

but that isn't to say patterson is merely among the worst tenth in the last five decades, for the vast majority of those inept 148 are pitchers, catchers, middle infielders -- players whose special skills in other phases of the game were such as to merit playing time in spite of their offensive shortcomings.

so what number of these are primarily outfielders -- that is, who have played in the outfield in more than 60% of their major league games?

there were only thirteen that fit these lowly conditions. harry craft. tuck stainback. cito gaston. mickey stanley. bill robinson. tony scott. george wright. tony armas. marvell wynne. john shelby. henry cotto. cory snyder. darrin jackson. and now patterson has become the fourteenth.

some probably remember a few of these names. tony armas in particular gained a measure of fame as a member of the 1986 red sox, and snyder was a spectacular first-round draft bust for the up-and-coming indians of the late 1980s. snyder and robinson ostensibly clung to roster spots thanks to the ability to hit a home run every 20 or so at-bats. (that number for k-pat: 30.3.) others (particularly craft and wright) were -- unlike korey -- excellent defensive outfielders, with range factors of over 2.4. still others could -- unlike korey -- play almost any position, including stanley. armas could both field and hit for power, giving him the second-longest career of this lot (next to stanley). most (like stainback) took a considerable number of years on major-league benches to amass two thousand at-bats.

the point of the exercize is to drive home yet again to those deluded cub fans who still imagine patterson to be a player that exhibits a chimera of potential the fact that he is not just bad -- patterson is one of the worst failures of an outfielder to ever don a uniform for so many chances at redemption. for so long as cub fans complacently accept him and players of his dint as everyday fixtures in the hope of a realization of some panglossian assessment of his talents, the cubs will continue to be a bad baseball team -- as they have been these last decades, without improvement. in an absence of any real leadership within the team organization, the fans must demand a change toward higher quality for that change to occur. we must reject patterson, vocally and vehemently, in every way we can -- wallet, tv remote, internet.

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