Over the past couple weeks, we here at Pinstripe Alley have been running down the top five Yankees players by WAR at every position. It’s been a nice look back at the best and most beloved players in Yankees history.
However, now it’s time to look at the flipside. Using Baseball Reference, I have made an all-time team of the worst players in Yankees’ history by WAR. Most of them played only a handful of years in pinstripes, because you don’t tend to let someone putting up negative WAR stick around for very long.
Without further ado, here are the the worst Yankees in history according to Baseball Reference WAR.
Catcher: Walter Blair (1907-11, -1.6 WAR)
Blair was a catcher for some early Highlanders teams. His best season was 1909 when he was worth 0.1 WAR, during which he put up a 68 OPS+ in 120 plate appearances. He played in 85 games in his final season in New York, after which he didn’t play in the majors again, apart from a two-year stint in the Federal League.
Shoutout to Bob Williams, who ran Blair close at -1.2 WAR, but did so in 150 fewer games and over 500 fewer plate appearances. Impressive.
First Base: Johnny Sturm (1941, -1.9 WAR)
Despite being the most-used first baseman on a World Series-winning team, the 1941 Yankees, that season was the only one in which Sturm played in the major leagues. In part that was because he enlisted in the army and then also seriously injured his hand in a farming incident the next year, but it also in part because he didn’t light the world on fire. A 58 OPS+ from your first baseman is less than ideal.
The Yankees did give him a chance to win his job back after his recovery and military service in 1946, but he did not make the team and spent the rest of his career in the minors.
Second Base: Enrique Wilson (2001-04, -3.1 WAR)
Wilson played all over the infield, but he gets the start at second as that’s where he played the most for the Yankees. Despite his reputation as the “Pedro Martinez Killer,” his numbers against Martinez weren’t enough to keep him off this team. Wilson actually has the lowest Baseball Reference WAR of any Yankees position player.
Shortstop: Pee-Wee Wanninger (1925, -1.9 WAR)
The most notable thing about Wanninger is the role he played in the MLB consecutive games played record. Lou Gehrig pinch hit for Wanninger in the game that started his 2,130-game streak. Not even a month prior to that, Wanninger got the start at short ahead of Everett Scott, snapping Scott’s consecutive games at 1,307. At the time, Scott held the all-time record, which Gehrig would of course break.
As for Wanninger himself, he was worth nearly -2 WAR in just one season, so...
Third Base: Tom Brookens (1989, -1.2 WAR)
Brookens was tied with fellow ‘89 Yankee Mike Blowers at -1.2, but he gets the edge because he did so in just one season while Blowers played three years in pinstripes.
Left Field: Hensley Meulens (1989-93, -1.5 WAR)
Before being a finalist for the Yankees manager job prior to Aaron Boone getting it, Meulens played parts of five seasons in the late 80s and early 90s. Most of his negative value came in 1991, where he put up a 65 OPS+ to go along with some poorly-rated defense.
Center Field: Skeeter Shelton (1915, -0.9 WAR)
If you average out WAR across plate appearances to make it a rate stat instead of a cumulative one, Shelton might go down as the worst Yankee of all time. He managed to accrue almost an entire win of negative value in just 10 games. He went 1-40 with two walks, giving him a triple slash line of .025/.071/.025. Even crazier is that while doing that, he never hit lower than fifth in the lineup.
Right Field: Curt Blefary (1970-71, -1.7 WAR)
Belfary won Rookie of the Year in 1965 and helped the Orioles to a World Series title the following season. However, four years after that, he ended up in New York, and things didn’t go great there. He put up a 84 OPS+ in pinstripes, though his defense, for which he got the nickname “Clank” during his time in Baltimore, really tanked his WAR.
Designated Hitter: Ruben Sierra (1995-96, 2003-05, -1.5 WAR)
Sierra posted a 88 OPS+ across two stints with the Yankees. That’s less than average but not a completely disastrous number if you can play some defense. Except, he played DH most of the time, so whoops.
Starting Pitcher: Jeff Johnson (1991-93, -2.5 WAR)
A sixth round pick by the Yankees in 1988, Johnson worked his way through the minors pretty quickly, making his debut on June 5, 1991. He made 23 starts for the Yankees that year, putting up a 5.95 ERA. Not ideal, but hey, he was a 24-year-old rookie going through some growing pains.
They did not turn out to be growing pains. His ERA grew over his next two seasons, culminating with a 30.38 mark in 1995, which he put up in two starts over which he lasted a total of 2.2 innings.
Relief Pitcher: Lou McEvoy (1930-31, -1.6 WAR)
In 1931, which would be the final season in which he played in the majors, McEvoy had a 2.514 WHIP. Think about what that means: he ostensibly put somewhere between two to three hitters on base in every inning he pitched.