The 2002 Detroit Tigers were a horrible team, losing 106 games and finishing last in the American League in runs scored, home runs, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Brandon Inge hit .202, Damion Easley hit .224, Chris Truby hit .199, Shane Halter hit .239, Craig Paquette hit .194. In a league in which the average team scored 4.81 runs per game, the Tigers scored just 3.57 runs per game.
It was, collectively, one of the worst lineups ever.
It is not, however, the worst lineup of all-time.
That's because I've culled the worst hitters since 1950 and come up with the real worst lineup of all-time, a collection of hitters who need more than one flare a week, more than a gork or a ground ball with eyes or a few dying quails to make them good major-league hitters.
To make this a little more fun, in order to qualify for this team the player must have had 2,000 career plate appearances in the majors, eliminating hitless wonders like Rob Picciolo or the immortal Mario Mendoza, who weren't good enough to become big-league regulars for an extended period of time.
Here we go. The lineup:
1. CF Tom Goodwin, 1991-2004
Career numbers: 3,846 AB, 24 HR, .268 AVG, .332 OBP, .339 SLG, adjusted OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 73 (meaning Goodwin was about 27 percent worse than the league-average hitter during his career)
Goodwin's numbers pale in comparison to outfielders of his era, yet he managed to rack up six seasons of at least 400 at-bats. He drove in more than 39 runs just once and was below the league average on-base percentage every season except one (not exactly what you want from your leadoff hitter!). But at least he could run, so we'll start the lineup with him.
2. 2B Hal Lanier, 1964-73
3,703 AB, 8 HR, .228 AVG, .255 OBP, .275 SLG, adjusted OPS of 50
The Giants of the 1960s had five future Hall of Famers (Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Juan Marichal and Gaylord Perry) and yet won just one pennant, in large part because Lanier was a regular infielder for the team from 1964 through 1970. His numbers are so staggeringly awful it's impossible to understand how he kept his job. His career high in on-base percentage was .283, and that was in a part-time year. He had no power (he once played 150 games and finished with 10 extra-base hits), no speed (11 career stolen bases), no plate discipline (career-high 25 walks in one season) and topped that off by grounding into 20 double plays a year.
3. 1B Todd Benzinger, 1987-95
2,856 AB, 66 HR, .257 AVG, .301 OBP, .386 SLG, adjusted OPS of 88
Benzinger showed promise as a rookie with the Red Sox, hitting .278 with eight home runs in half a season. The Red Sox wised up and traded him after he fell off in 1988, but Benzinger still managed to get semi-regular duty with the Reds, Royals, Dodgers and Giants (notice that every team soon wanted to get rid of him). "Mercedes" Benzinger might have had a great nickname, but his inept numbers for a first baseman suggest a Yugo should have been his car of choice.
4. 3B Aurelio Rodriguez, 1967-85
6,611 AB, 124 HR, .237 AVG, .275 OBP, .351 SLG, adjusted OPS of 76
The original A-Rod was known for his glove (of course). Unfortunately, that came with years like 1974, when he hit .222 with five home runs and just 26 walks in 159 games. He did have five seasons of double-digit homers, so he can hit cleanup on our team.
5. LF Jim Wohlford, 1972-86
3,049 AB, 21 HR, .260 AVG, .313 OBP, .343 SLG, adjusted OPS of 84
How does a corner outfielder stick around for 15 seasons and never hit more than two home runs in a season until his 13th big-league year (when he had five)? He must have been a heck of a guy in the clubhouse, so Wohlford is also our team captain.
6. RF Mike Hershberger, 1961-71
3,572 AB, 26 HR, .252 AVG, .316 OBP, .328 SLG, adjusted OPS of 85
Ah, yes, right field is supposed to be a power position. Well, Hershberger did hit five bombs in a season twice. By the way, according to Baseball-reference.com, the most similar player to Mike Hershberger is Jim Wohlford!
7. SS Bobby Wine, 1960-72
3,172 AB, 30 HR, .215 AVG, .264 OBP, .286 SLG, adjusted OPS of 55
No wonder pitchers like Drysdale, Koufax, Seaver, Carlton and Gibson were able to put up such great numbers in the '60s and '70s -- every team had a guy like Bobby Wine, Hal Lanier, Gene Michael, Dal Maxvill, Don Kessinger or Sandy Alomar who couldn't hit a lick guys with low average, no power and no ability to draw walks. It was like a league full of Willie Bloomquists.
8. C Mike Ryan, 1964-74
1,920 AB, 28 HR, .193 AVG, .252 OBP, .280 SLG, adjusted OPS of 51
Sort of the Mike Matheny of his day, apparently.
9. P Dean Chance, 1961-71
662 AB, 0 HR, .066 AVG, .113 OBP, .069 SLG, adjusted OPS of -46
Chance could pitch -- he won the 1964 AL Cy Young Award -- but he sure couldn't hit. Pitcher Bob Buhl is famous for his 0-for-70 season in 1962, but Chance gets the nod for career ineptitude. He had just two extra-base hits (both doubles) and went 5-for-168 over a two-year stretch. Most impressively, however, he struck out an amazing 420 times in his 662 at-bats.
Don't like this lineup? Don't worry, we have stalwarts like Rafael Belliard, Doug Flynn and Darren Lewis we can bring off the bench.