Making Sense Of Brandon Wood

ANAHEIM CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Brandon Wood #3 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim reacts as he scores a run off of a Jeff Mathis #5 double in front of Matt Treanor #20 for a 2-1 lead during the fourth inning at Angel Stadium on September 20 2010 in Anaheim California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

A FanPost that caught my eye:

I have been a fan of the Angels for over 40 years, and I have to say I don't understand why Brandon Wood is on this team or that matter any team in baseball.  In my opinion, he is the worse hitter I have seen in my life. I would be surprised if any other hitter in the history of MLB is worse than Brandon Wood.  Yesterday, he played in his first game of the season.  He had 4 at bats and went 0-4. He struck out three times and left five runners on base, four in scoring position.  Some people argue that he hasn't had enough at bats.  Well, last year he was at bat 226 times, with a .146 batting average. He struck out 71 times, had an on base percentage of .174 and a SLG of .208.  So, what excuse does he have now? His lifetime batting average is only .167.  Am I off base, or am I right on?

I used to revel in these sorts of things. But then you meet a few players, or get a few e-mail messages from their wives and their fathers and their little sisters, and writing about players' failures ain't so much fun anymore.

Still, this is a question ripe for study, isn't it? It seems almost impossible that Wood could be the worst major league hitter in history, especially a) how well he's performed in the minors, and 2) Bill Bergen.

But since someone brought this up -- and also, since the Angels seem determined to keep giving Wood chances to prove his major-league numbers wrong -- I figure we might as well take a peek.

First, apples to apples ... Wood's got 483 plate appearances in the major leagues. It's elementary to ask Baseball-Reference.com's Play Index tool to rank -- in ascending order, of course -- all non-pitchers by OPS+, and considering only those non-pitchers with between 400 and 600 plate appearances. There must be many hundreds of players since 1901 (the backward limit of Play Index) who meet those criteria, and it seems highly unlikely that Brandon Wood will be atop the list.

Except he is.

There are only three players in the group with OPS+ lower than 36: Ed Connolly (25), an early-1930s catcher; Houston Jimenez (24), a 1980s shortstop; and Brandon Wood (21), a 21st century something special.

And the aforementioned Bill Bergen, widely considered the worst hitter in major-league history? Bergen must have been one hell of a defensive catcher, because he racked up more than 3,000 plate appearances despite a career OPS+ of ... 21. Same as Brandon Wood's.

Look, I'm not willing to stare you in the face and argue that Brandon Wood is the worst hitter in major-league history because OPS+ is a blunt tool and we haven't accounted for luck or competition or any of the other 17 things that might impact this question.

Damn, though, if he's not in the discussion.

Again, what's so odd about Wood is that he wasn't supposed to be in the discussion. I doubt if anyone expected Ed Connolly or Houston Jimenez to tear things up. But Brandon Wood was

Baseball America's No. 3 prospect in 2006,

Baseball America's No. 8 prospect in 2007, and

Baseball America's No. 16 prospect in 2008.

Granted, guys like Brandon Wood don't always become stars in the majors. But they rarely get compared to Bill Bergen and Ed Connolly. In fact, Brandon Wood might be the first hot prospect ever compared to Bill Bergen and Ed Connolly.

I still can't believe that Wood is really this awful. His Triple-A statistics tell an entirely different story, and I keep hoping the real Brandon Wood will show up on TV, one of these days.

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