Adam Dunn had pretty much the worst season I could have imagined. It was known coming in that he couldn't run, probably offered nothing defensively and struck out of a lot.
Instead, his attempts at contact were more hopeless than ever before, his country-strong power was absent, and did you see him play 1st base?!?
Still, it's hard to accept--being a very young man still--that I could have witnessed the very worst season ever carried out by a member of the franchise. I reject the notion, and will go into the depths of hell (or baseballreference.com) to find a worse White Sox season.
Using Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement measure, Dunn measured out as -2.7 for the season. To my delight/horror, I was able to find a worse season, and didn't even have to venture outside my own lifetime to do so.
In the search, I managed to cobble together a top 10 list out of the wreckage. If there's a benefit to using Baseball Reference's WAR, it's that pitchers who just bled runs like hemophiliacs have their disastrous seasons rank near the top regardless of their peripherals. It accurately reflects the horror, even if it should have been better.
Notables - These existed outside the worst seasons I found, but are worth noting
-Mike Myers racked up a -1 WAR in only 13.2 IP. 13.2 innings of a replacement player--of Scott Linebrink!--would have been worth a whole win.
-Roberto Alomar had a -0.7 WAR in 2004....in 65 plate appearances! How is that done? By hitting .180/.203/.246. He retired after this.
-Rick White, -1 WAR in 2003. I remember being excited about Rick at the time. I was 16...leave me alone.
-Harold Baines, -1.2 WAR in 2001 in 94 plate appearances. Poor Harold.
10. Jaime Navarro, SP: -1.7 in 1997
209.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 267 HITS!! - MISS SOME BATS, JAIME!
I always knew Navarro was a bust, but it wasn't until now I realized how mind-bendingly terrible he was. If you take one thing away from this list, it should be that Jaime Navarro was absolutely terrible.
9. Jason Bere, SP: -1.7 in 1998
83.2 IP, 6.45 ERA, 58 BB, 53 K
No one likes the big-money free agent bust, but the young phenom who has a terrible arm injury and is never the same just makes you sad.
8. Ozzie Guillen, SS: -1.8 in 1996
OH HOW FITTING, that one of the prime examples of a massively under-performing veteran left in to play a whole season would be Guillen himself. His always-paltry offense didn't collapse anymore in '96, he was just a 32 year-old playing shortstop who lost his range all at once.
7. Ozzie Guillen, SS: -1.9 in 1997
EVEN MORE FITTING, that he's on here twice.
6. Jaime Navarro, SP: -2.1 in 1998
172.2 IP, 6.36 ERA
Jaime Navarro signed a 3-year/$15 million deal, was sub-replacement in every season, and had a -4.9 WAR total over the life of the deal.
5. Mike Caruso, SS: -2.1 in 1999
I'm unreasonably fascinated by Mike Caruso, I might have made this entire list just to get a chance to talk about Mike Caruso.
He came over in the White Flag Trade of 1997 as a 20 year-old left-handed shortstop with gap power.
He was highly regarded, but was also 20 year-old, and hit .227/.264/.286 in High-A ball after coming over. The next year, he was the White Sox Opening Day shortstop. So, it's not so much weird that Caruso has a -2.1 WAR year, it's that he hit .306/.331/.390 for a year in between that.
After a downright miraculous rookie year, Caruso's game collapsed. He didn't just get unlucky on balls in play (a problem for impatient slap-hitters with no power), his defense and basestealing somehow slumped with it, and never even held down a utility role ever again. If you think Beckham was rushed....
4. Todd Ritchie, SP: -2.2 in 2002
Nothing says 'Kenny Williams's GM approach taken to its most hellish conclusion' like trading three young pitchers for a 30 year-old pitch-to-contact, innings-eater two years removed from his only half-decent season.
Kenny gets raked over the coals for a few deals that blew up in ways he couldn't have foreseen, but this one was particularly removed of upside. Bold failures are one things, pointlessly stubborn failures are another.
3. George Bell, DH: -2.4 in 1993
.217/.243/.363 in 436 PA
Dunn's absolved! The 1993 White Sox plopped down a God-awful DH in the middle of their lineup, and like the good teammates they were, won 96 games in spite of him.
Screw you Konerko! Screw you Buehrle! That's what teammates do for their abysmal aging mashers!
2. Adam Dunn, DH: -2.7 in 2011
1. Jason Bere, SP: -2.8 in 1995
I remember Jason Bere being an exciting and fun pitcher to watch, even if looking at his numbers makes it hard to understand. He had an above-average strikeout rate, but Good LORD! The walks!
Still,back-to-back years of under 4.00 ERA in the mid-90's is nothing to sneeze at. Bere was successful.
Watching him after significant arm injuries robbed him of further control, throwing 137.2 innings at over 7.19 ERA, must have been horrific and heartbreaking in a manner wholly different than Adam Dunn. This would be more equivalent to watching John Danks melt to pieces, Dayan Viciedo struggle and pile up weak groundouts, Gordon Beckham's career suddenly erode into nothing...........I'm aware the last two happened.
What's important is that the sort of horrendous failure that Adam Dunn experienced has been experienced before, and the White Sox recovered and made the playoffs just five years later!
Just five years! If ever there was a good time to fall into a coma...