J.P. Arencibia finished the 2013 season with a .227 on-base percentage, which is not the worst OBP by a qualified hitter since 1900. It’s not the second-worst. It’s not the third-worst. It’s not the fourth-, fifth-, sixth-, seventh-, or eighth-worst on-base by a qualified hitter since 1900.
It’s not an on-base percentage of a qualified hitter at all.
Yes, Arencibia, at the end of the season, dropped just below the threshold needed in order to qualify for the batting title. To do so a player needs to have 3.1 plate appearances for every originally scheduled game that his team played, which means that, playing a 162 game schedule, a player needs 502 PA. Arencibia finished the year with 497.
He was five plate appearances shy of posting the second-worst qualified OBP since 1900, and the worst since Hal Lanier in 1968.
The fact that he wasn’t qualified doesn’t change how bad he was, and so this conspiracy theory is maybe a bit silly, but something interesting did happen on the final weekend of season that could have impacted his qualifed status: Josh Thole caught a day game after a night game in order to give Arencibia the day off.
Thole caught as R.A. Dickey pitched– with the dome closed, you may remember– on September 28th, and then was back out there the next afternoon, catching J.A. Happ.
Say what you will about how staggeringly terrible Arencibia’s production has been all season, doesn’t it seem a little odd, maybe, that one of the club’s ostensible regulars– while the Jays are playing a team fighting for a playoff spot, and paying lip service to the integrity of the game– would be held out in favour of Josh Thole catching a day game after a night game, in a lineup that already featured Moises Sierra hitting cleanup, and Gose, Goins, Langerhans, and Pillar as well?
Yeah, OK, Arencibia has long been dealing with a knee issue, and the only players to have played in more games behind the plate this year were Salvador Perez and Matt Wieters. And sure, it seems like a hell of a leap to think that the Jays may have held him out for dubious reasons, just so we all can no longer technically say “second-worst qualified on-base since 1900.” But… I dunno, maybe?
Or maybe I’m just looking to rage out at someone because of how annoying it’s now going to be to have to always write that he had “the second-worst on-base since 1900 of anyone with at least 450 plate appearances.” Or “the fifth-worst on-base since 1900 of anyone with at least 400 plate appearances.” Or “the eighth-worst on-base since 1900 of anyone with at least 350 plate appearances.” Or “the twentieth-worst on-base since 1900 of anyone with at least 300 plate appearances.” Or… well… you get the idea.
That last one may even be the most impressive of all, actually. If the number of entries shown on the database at FanGraphs can be trusted (and having worked with these giant leaderboards a bunch, I’m not entirely confident in saying they can– they seemed to move around a little) there have been 20,574 seasons since 1900 in which a player has amassed over 300 plate appearances. Twenty thousand! And all but nineteen of those were better, in terms of on-base, than Arencibia’s 2013!
In other words, we witnessed something truly more magical and rare than any other fan base in the Majors this year, you guys.
I mean… by the end there I had been trying to qualify Arencibia’s atrociousness by pointing out that so much of what made his season truly abysmal was the fact that he was run out there so many times– that it was made to look a little more remarkable than it was because of the high cutoff in terms of plate appearances. Surely more guys have had seasons as bad, their teams have just had the good sense not to play them so often, I assumed.
And… it’s true. Technically. If you drop the cut-off to 250 plate appearances– essentially half the number that Arencibia had this year– and he tumbles down the worst-ever-OBP list… all the way into a tie for 37th place.
That’s right, a mere twenty-three thousand eighty-eight seasons of 250 plate appearances or more have produced a better on-base than Arencibia did in 2013. How fucking precious were we when we thought last year’s .275 mark was unacceptably low! Hey, but at least he plays good defence, right?
Seriously, though, I’m probably being a little dramatic in my worrying about how to properly write this stuff out in the future. I mean, how much longer are we going to actually be talking about J.P. Arencibia, honestly?