When following a team as dismal as the 2018 Orioles, sometimes it’s easier to go with the flow and allow the negativity to take over. In that spirit, in the final week of the season, instead of debating the team’s MVP candidates, let’s focus on the Orioles LVP – Least Valuable Players of 2018.
When deciding on league MVPs, we often debate the meaning of “value” as it relates to how the player’s performance impacted his team making the post-season. Team MVPs don’t face that same consternation, but using wins above replacement (WAR) seems like the best way to determine the most valuable – or in the Orioles’ case – the least valuable player.
No drum roll necessary
Using Baseball Reference’s WAR, it’s no surprise that Chris Davis earns the dishonor of being the 2018 Orioles LVP. His -2.8 WAR is by far the worst on the team and ranks him dead last among all major league hitters with at least 250 at-bats. He blows away those closest to him, Austin Jackson and Hunter Dozier, who have WARs of -1.5. – almost two times better than Davis’.
So much has been written about how bad of a baseball player Chris Davis has become. His 2018 slash line of .168/.243.296 is an embarrassment, as is his 192 strikeouts and 49 RBI total.
And, of course, the fact that he is just three years into his seven-year, $161 million contract makes him an albatross that will likely have a major impact on the Orioles’ ability to be competitive again anytime soon.
Davis is the obvious LVP choice, but who else on this inept squad should be considered? Believe it or not, Chris Tillman owns the team’s next worst WAR rating. It’s hard to believe that he could have done so much damage in just seven starts, but his -1.1 WAR is reflective of his 10.46 ERA and 2.213 WHIP in 26.2 innings pitched. At just 30 years old, Tillman looked like a shell of his former self striking out just 13 batters and walking 17.
But as bad as those numbers are, it’s tough to place Tillman second on the LVP list when he didn’t even throw 27 innings. That distinction could go to the Orioles pitcher with the worst WAR over a minimum of 75 IP. Mike Wright Jr. earned that honor with a -0.1 WAR over 81.1 innings. His 5.53 ERA and 1.623 WHIP in 47 games makes him a fine LVP-runner up.
Other LVP considerations with negative WARs and at least 100 ABs are Anthony Santander (-0.5 WAR; 101 ABs), Danny Valencia (-0.2; 255), Chance Sisco (-0.2; 160), and Pedro Alvarez (-0.1; 111). But none of these players seemed to have as large of a negative impact as Wright and Tillman.
Caleb Joseph’s weak .254 OBP in 269 plate appearances should put him in the conversation as well, but his 0.8 defensive WAR (dWAR) keeps him from having a negative all-around WAR.
When determining the LVP, it’s tempting to look at players who were the biggest disappointments based upon pre-season expectations. While it’s difficult to name any of them finalists for LVP, Trey Mancini deserves a dishonorable mention.
Mancini has failed to live up to his rookie-year performance, with a WAR of -0.3, which is second-worst, behind Davis, among Orioles hitters with at least 250 at-bats. Mancini has struggled for most of the year, slashing just .242/.300/.415 in 607 plate appearances through Sunday’s games.
However, he may end up leading the club in home runs – his 23 dingers put him just one behind Manny Machado – and he’s first in runs scored and third in RBIs. So, it’s strange to talk about him as an LVP-candidate when he could also be in the discussion for MVP. That shows just how bad the 2018 Orioles are.