Joaquin Arias is worth a negative win according to Baseball-Reference.com's WAR. He has 134 at-bats. This seems really, really, really hard to do. Let's talk about it. Even better, let's search for the worst Giants bench players in history. How does Arias rate?
A list of the worst WARs from San Francisco Giants with fewer than 200 at-bats:
Hello, old friends. Again, this is based on WAR, which is making imperfect park, era, and league adjustments, adding in imperfect defensive and baserunning numbers, and spitting out a number that comes with a decimal place to give the illusion it's precise. It's still the best we have for a search like this, though, and it's not really close. And look at those names!
Take Marquis Grissom. Please. Ha ha. Sorry, but if you adjust the parameters to fewer than 150 at-bats, Grissom's was the worst in baseball history. Watching him that year, the eyeballs and the strawhattery match the number on the computer. He was a center fielder who couldn't play center field, and he hit like Kirk Rueter wearing a full suit of armor. Don't forget, though, that for two years, he was good to great -- think of a Dan Uggla who made good, while still collecting millions and millions from the Dodgers. It was worth the bad year for those two good ones, considering.
Dunston was the DH for a team that was in the World Series that year, and he would have been our Edgar Renteria if it weren't for the stupid bullpen. Stupid, exhausted bullpen.
Batiste is a startlingly good comp for Arias, a player who graded out as below-average to awful at every single aspect of the game and made you pine for a player who could be average at just one thing. Even Emmanuel Burriss had wheels, you know, though he also shows up as someone who had a bench season even worse than Arias. He also has a beautiful, shiny ring. Two of them. Because baseball is a manic pixie dream girl who makes no sense and solves our spiritual crises.
Von Joshua is a name that came from a video game that didn't pay for MLBPA licensing. You can probably skip to the next one, which is Johnny LeMaster, who was a treasure, and who would get years and years of 500 at-bat seasons to do even more damage. Oh, how he would have been my muse.
This brings us to Arias, who has been stunningly bad. The whole point of giving a utility player a two-year deal at just above the league minimum is to guarantee against sub-replacement-level players who set the world aflame. Except there's no real way to guarantee that; utility players are jerks, just like relievers are. You can't trust any of them. I didn't mind the two-year deal at the time, considering it wasn't much more than the Giants were going to pay whoever took the roster spot. But the only reason Arias is still on the roster is that contract, I reckon. And he's actively hurting the team.
He was so good in 2012, dang it. For a found-money, backup middle infielder, that is. He was worth a cool win, hitting five dingers (!) and five triples (!!) while filling in ably all over the infield. He is dreadful now, just a depressing spectacle of feck-free baseball with every at-bat.
Note that it's easy for fans to perseverate on one player as if he's the reason for everything that's bad about the team. I used to be so, so guilty of this for so, so many years. If the Giants could only get rid of (Russ Davis, Pedro Feliz, Jose Vizcaino, Shawon Dunston, Jose Vizcaino again, et cetera), then they would be getting somewhere! Except that's not how it works. If the Giants had Matt Duffy on the roster instead of Arias all year, they might or might not have an extra win because of it, and they would still be a couple games behind the Dodgers, who would still have the more talented 25-man roster.
Arias isn't the reason the Giants are in second place. But he's been bad. Historically bad. I wanted to find out just how bad. Considering how many fringey utility players have come and gone for the San Francisco Giants over the last 50 years, we have an answer: pretty bad. Pretty, pretty bad.