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Man, if only they could hit

Posted by Andy on July 4, 2011

Since 1981, there have been 199 players with an OPS+ under 80 with at least 1200 plate appearances (not counting pitchers.)

Of those, here are the guys with at least 3 seasons of 10 or more Fielding Runs:

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Rey Sanchez 6 1993 2004 25-36 Ind. Seasons
2 Ozzie Guillen 5 1986 1990 22-26 Ind. Seasons
3 Bob Boone 5 1979 1987 31-39 Ind. Seasons
4 Bill Russell 5 1970 1982 21-33 Ind. Seasons
5 Cesar Izturis 4 2003 2009 23-29 Ind. Seasons
6 Jack Wilson 4 2002 2009 24-31 Ind. Seasons
7 Neifi Perez 4 2000 2005 27-32 Ind. Seasons
8 Mark Lemke 4 1993 1997 27-31 Ind. Seasons
9 Clint Barmes 3 2006 2010 27-31 Ind. Seasons
10 Adam Everett 3 2004 2006 27-29 Ind. Seasons
11 Endy Chavez 3 2004 2008 26-30 Ind. Seasons
12 Pokey Reese 3 1999 2004 26-31 Ind. Seasons
13 Brad Ausmus 3 1997 2001 28-32 Ind. Seasons
14 Rey Ordonez 3 1996 1999 25-28 Ind. Seasons
15 Alex Gonzalez 3 1996 2001 23-28 Ind. Seasons
16 Royce Clayton 3 1994 1997 24-27 Ind. Seasons
17 Kirt Manwaring 3 1992 1996 26-30 Ind. Seasons
18 Dick Schofield 3 1986 1992 23-29 Ind. Seasons
19 Larry Bowa 3 1971 1978 25-32 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 7/3/2011.

This list reads as a Who's Who of great-field, poor-hit players from recent times.

Incidentally, it was Pokey Reese who motivated this particular post. He was a great defender, accumulating 6.8 in dWAR over his 8 seasons. He was also a good base stealer with 144 steals at an excellent 85% success rate. He took the extra base 57% of the time, which was way above the league average. He also scored once on base more often (35%) than league average (about 32%).

However, Reese just couldn't get on base. His career .307 OBP is bad. He didn't walk often and struck out a lot for a guy with so little power. If only he could have hit (or walked) a little bit more, he could have had a great career.

This entry was posted on Monday, July 4th, 2011 at 7:54 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

37 Responses to “Man, if only they could hit”

  1. Wait, how did guys like Bowa and Russell make it if this list starts in 1981?

  2. The way I did the searches, it considers their hitting stats from 1981 onward but then any seasons in their careers for the defensive numbers.

  3. Your list is biased against players with a high % of their hits being singles. Bill Russell had 8 seasons with 502 PA and 7 times his BA was above the league average, so I would not classify him as a poor hitter.

  4. Skeeb Wilcox Says:

    Three and half Pirates out of 19. Thank goodness that era is over...

  5. The cut-off year of 1981 is unfair to Bob Boone as it removes Boone's 4 greatest seasons with the bat, 1976-1979. Overall Boone from 1972-1980 had an ops+ of 92 which is about the Median for catchers with at least 2000 plate appearances during that time period. Boone ranks 14 out of 26 qualifying catchers.

  6. Spartan Bill Says:

    Barnes actually had excellent hitting stats thru his 1st 86 games until the notorious injury when he stumbled carrying a deer carcass up a flight of stairs.

    His slash line was .318/.359/.489/.848

  7. @3: The list is not biased against anyone. OPS+ naturally doesn't have a lot of interest in people who do little more than hit league average with singles. That Russell rarely walked (career OBP .310) and had pretty much no power (career slugging .338) is hardly evidence that this list is flawed.

    I do find it fascinating that someone who so rarely walked managed to lead the league in intentional walks (25, in 1974). Certainly he batted in front of the pitcher, but even so -- pretty remarkable.

  8. 7 Rey Ordonez got lots of intentional walks too.He was still more dangerous than the pitchers.

  9. Before I made my comment I looked at a few of the players. Typically 80% of their hits were singles. That would give them a low Slugging %, one of the two factors in OPS, as you know. In addition, your observation that someone with a low % of walks could make the list, hardly evidence of a poor hitter. My comment stands as well as my comment that he was not a poor hitter.

  10. I didn't look his splits, but by memory, I think Ozzie Guillen used to get thrown out on the bases a lot! Ozzie Smith did not make this list because he made himself a better hitter over the course of his career! Smith was a great player and even though he was a first ballot HoF'er, he is underrated!

  11. Charles, I think you're missing the point. Saying someone is a "poor hitter" is usually shorthand for including all offensive contributions at the plate, including walks and power. If you have a league average BA, but garbage power and no batting eye, then yeah, you're a poor hitter.

  12. Charles, your comment doesn't stand.

    While we use the term 'hitters' to describe batters, batting average itself doesn't tell you much about how productive a batter is, how good a hitter they are. If a guy is about league-average in batting average, or a bit above, but below-average in drawing walks and knocking extra base hits he is a poor hitter.

    The list isn't biased against singles hitters. The realities of batter productivity are biased against guys that hit singles and do little else.

  13. Fireworks, happy 4th! This is YOUR DAY!!

    As for my poor hitter comment, I see Charles' point to a degree and would be comfortable saying Russell was not very productive, a better snap conclusion from a low OPS+.

  14. Dukeofflatbush Says:

    timmy P,
    agreed.
    Guillen made a ton of outs that weren't 'traditional'. He bunted in the AL more than average. He did have some horrendous CS%. And ended up, right at 60%. I think anything lower than 75%, is a negative. Plus he walked as much as Stephen Hawkins.

  15. John Autin Says:

    Let's see ...
    -- 15 middle infielders, mostly shortstops;
    -- 3 catchers;
    -- 1 outfielder.

    You can say that Endy Chavez was an awful hitter for an outfielder. But we who watched in grateful disbelief his game-saving, home-run-robbing, double-play-starting, inning-ending catch in the 2006 NLCS finale will always think of him first as an extraordinary defensive outfielder.

    And gosh darn if he didn't hit .306 for us that year, too!

  16. John Autin Says:

    I hope I never stop getting goose bumps when I see this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyOcp60nMFY

  17. @16 John A,

    I have mixed feelings about that catch. I such elation at the moment then about 1 1/2 hour later it was all gone.

    I was at that game and I was certain the Mets were going to the world series after he made that catch. Then when Valentin struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 6th with one out I started losing confidence then Chavez hit a fly out and the inning was over. I was still kind of confident that the Mets would find a way to win that game. I've always felt that if Valentin could have hit a sac fly in the 6th, then the Mets would have won that game.

    A few innings later Molina hit that HR and I"ve never been to a place that got so quiet so fast.

  18. Mark Belanger just misses out because not enough ABs after 1981 but he had a career 68 OPS+ and:
    - 9 seasons of 10+ Fielding Runs
    - 7 of 20+
    - 6 of 24+, and. . . .
    - 1 big 35 Rfield season in 1975 that is the 6th best fielding season ever. The guy had a 562 OPS (64 OPS+) that year that was barely above replacement level and still managed 3.5 WAR.

    Further proof that Earl Weaver was just wayyyyy ahead of his time.

  19. Thomas Court Says:

    @16

    I remember watching that game, and just knowing that the catch by Chavez would become immortal if the Mets won the game.

    The best catch I have ever seen was the Mike Devereaux catch.

    http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx226/tedleavengood/oriolesprogram.jpg

    When I saw that picture in Sports Illustrated I did a double take. Then I stared at it for a long time. His shadow cast beautifully against the wall. The fan with the hat turning aghast. The closest thing to the ground... are his knees.

  20. DoubleDiamond Says:

    Before the 1996 season, I read that the two early favorites for the league rookies of the year were shortstops for the two New York teams. Obviously, great things were expected for Rey Ordonez. And whoever that other guy was....

  21. Thomas Court Says:

    #21

    Mark Belanger is the best player to come from my baseball rich home town: Pittsfield, MA.

    A few years ago, the city built a beautiful park, complete with a baseball field and children's playground. Surrounding both is a track for running and walking, which also attracts a lot of people. They named the park after Mark Belanger - which is a fine tribute to our native son. Unfortunately, for some reason, they decided to top the metal fence that surrounds the entire park with barbed wire. Three strands of barbed wire at the top of the fence going all the way around the park. What in the world? Why would you make such a beautiful park look like an exercise yard at some minimum security jail? I don't get it.

  22. Luis Gomez Says:

    @19
    Wasn't that the catch when Devereaux slams his glove in the fan's face? I had competely forgotten about Mike Devereaux. That was truly a GREAT play!

  23. @15
    So where is the pendulum now in terms of slugging vs. weak-hitting middle infielders coming out of a high run-scoring era?

    There will be always be catchers who make this list becuase of their defensive contribution even if they can't hit, but have we seen the last of the likes of Cal Ripken, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano?

    As each individual run becomes more valuable will there be a return to the poor-hitting, defensive middle infielder of whom not much power is expected?

  24. Barmes was carrying a deer carcass up the stairs? I always heard it was "groceries." Interesting.

  25. @21 Thomas,

    Belanger was one of my favorite players as a kid and a kind of underrated player. I think he was a pretty heavy smoker from what I read and it finally killed him when he was 54. It's pretty mind-boggling in retrospect that a professional athlete who relied on his mobility and athleticism would harm his career & productivity by smoking.

    Belanger was done as a productive player by 1979 yet he continued his career until 1982. Belanger almost matched his age with his ops+ twice which is mind-boggling. He had a 36 ops+ at his age 35 year in '79 and he had a 39 ops+ in 1981 when he was 37 years old.

    The Orioles didn't really have a solid replacement for him until Cal Ripken in 1982. It's interesting in retrospect to think that the Orioles might have won the A.L. East in 1980 & 1981 if they had a decent replacement for Belanger other than Kiko Garcia and Lenny Sakata.

    Belanger played for the Dodgers in 1982 which I totally forgot. One of the strangest baseball cards I've ever seen were cards with Belanger in a Dodger uniform wearing Reggie Smith's old number #8

    http://www.blujay.com/item/1983-Topps-273-Mark-Belanger-RIP-Dodgers-25020105-3316574

    http://cgi.ebay.com/1982-Topps-Traded-5T-Mark-Belanger-Dodgers-NM-MINT-/350308303577#ht_500wt_951

    http://garveyceyrusselllopes.blogspot.com/2010/08/continuing-evolution-of-out-of-place.html

  26. @25, John - I put together a list one time for another board of famous players and their final uniform. You know, Dewey on the Orioles, Aaron/Brewers, Killebrew/ROyals, Billy Williams/A's, Marichal/Dodgers, etc. I'm pretty sure I didn't put Belanger on there but I should have. Belanger/Dodgers just doesn't compute.

  27. @25, John - I put together a list one time for another board of famous players and their final uniform. You know, Dewey on the Orioles, Aaron/Brewers, Killebrew/ROyals, Billy Williams/A's, Marichal/Dodgers, etc. I'm pretty sure I didn't put Belanger on there but I should have. Belanger/Dodgers just doesn't compute.

  28. Why are Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher missing from the Yanks' stat page?

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/NYY/2011.shtml

  29. #24: Yes, Wes, that is the rumor. From what I read, Helton killed a deer and asked the rook to help him carry the carcass up the stairs. Barmes hasn't been the same hitter since.

    Of course, that presumes he was that good a hitter to begin with. He didn't do all that well in the minors and those stats were already juiced by being in offensive oriented home parks (as seemingly all the Rockies affiliates seem to have).

    To wit, his first 86 games (in 2005, not for career, I would note; he was in high 700 OPS range in 2003 and 2004), his BABIP was .340 while he was hitting well, but his career numbers is .281. His BABIP has been up and down since then, reaching a peak .328 in one season where he played a good number of games/ABs, and that was his best season since, 2008 with a .790 OPS.

    He's never been much of a runner, so the only way he could maintain that high a BABIP is either luck or being a good hitter. While his K-rate in the minors was good, it was not great and that is what it was in 2005, great, where he wasn't striking out very much, much much better than in the minors. When his career numbers regressed to be over that of his minor's stats, he hasn't done that well since.

    It just seems like he caught lightening in the bottle that season and the BABIP gods gave to him then, then took away later. Unfortunately, Helton had to kill that deer and knock Barmes off that runaway train he was on, we'll never know if the confidence of hitting like that over a full season might have done for his future seasons.

    Then again, Coors seems to be conducive to high BABIP seasons, as CarGon was great last season, but had a very high.384 BABIP, but this season, which some might view as a down one, his BABIP of .340 is in range of where it was before. He's still good, high 800 is very good, but just not as great as he showed in 2010 when the BABIP gods gave to him. But at least it got him that great contract, good thing, Helton's contract should be ending soon.

  30. @26 Anon,

    That's an interesting idea.

    Topps had a air-brushed card of Aaron on the Brewers in 1975. They put out a 1976 card with him in a Brewers uniform.

    There's a Billy Williams air brushed card on the A's in 1975 and a regular photo of Williams on the A's in the 1976 set.

    There was never a Topps Dodger card with Marichal because I think he only played about 4 games and then retired. There's an airbrushed Marichal card of him on the Red Sox in the 1974 set. I'm not sure if Topps produced a 1975 card of Marichal on the Red Sox.

    Topps never put out a 1976 card with Killebrew card which would have featured him in a Royals uniform. I guy did a prototype of what a card like that would have looked like.

    http://bbcrecollections.blogspot.com/2009/08/topps-cards-that-never-were-1976-harmon.html

    There were two cards put out (1975-76) with Vada Pinson on the Royals.

    http://baseballisms.com/vada-pinson-1975-topps.html

    http://www.amazon.com/Pinson-Autographed-Signed-baseball-Kansas/dp/B004ODDY0W

    There's also a few cards from the early 70's with Pinson on the Indians and the Angels which is very strange.

  31. @30, John Q

    There are a lot of interesting ones:
    Eddie Matthews
    TOm Seaver
    Reggie Jackson
    Babe Ruth
    Dave Winfield
    Eddie Murray
    Frank Robinson
    Joe Morgan
    Andre Dawson
    Robbie Alomar
    Frank thomas
    Sammy Sosa
    Greg Maddux
    Steve Carlton
    Don Sutton
    Phil Niekro

    I tried to avoid vagabonds like Gaylord Perry & RIckey Henderson but some of those can be interesting too (Perry finished with the ROyals in 1983 for example)

  32. @ Neil L

    I don't think that we've seen the end of the likes of the big, tall, strong middle-infielder whose primary value is through his offensive contribution, but I think that those guys are more likely to have their position switched. A lesser offensive era will make anemic offensive middle-infielders less harmful, relatively, and thus a more viable option. But teams are still going to want an A-Rod or Jeter instead of a Vizquel or Guillen starting at SS.

    But the biggest factor affecting the future of those kinds of players in the middle infield is whether or not positions outside of middle infielders begin to have more marginal contributors as starters--because if you have a Jeter and a Vizquel (with an average Vizquel bat for his career--not in his youth) in your minor league system and a Juan Pierre and a Guillen as your starting LF and SS, I think you begin to groom the Jeter to replace the Juan Pierre and the Vizquel to replace the Guillen.

    Ultimately, though, since statistical analysis is much better than prior to the last high offensive error, teams aren't going to as much look at a quick, agile man of average height with a butter-smooth glove and rifle arm and start excitedly talking amongst themselves that he "looks" like a great middle infielder. They're going to do the legwork and try to figure out his contribution and if the other gangly, not super-fundamental or good all-around middle infielder's bat projects him to be a better guy, then I think it's his job.

    Still, though, the keyest factor is if the Juan Pierres and Brett Gardners become the norm in the corner outfield it becomes more likely that the A-Rods and Jeters of the future get pushed to lesser defensive positions so that position has the right amount of 'offense'.

    P.S. I wrote this hours and hours ago and then forgot to finish editing and click 'submit'. Luckily if there's one thing modern browsers can do (other than hog memory), it's restore a session and put whatever you entered into an unsubmitted form back into it.

  33. 'offensive error' <3

  34. Anon,

    The tougher ones are the players from pre 1980 before all the different traded baseball card sets came out, before ESPN, 24 hr sports network etc.

    There's a surreal picture of Steve Carlton on the GIANTS getting his 4000 k at Candlestick Park.

    How about Reggie Jackson on the Orioles in 1976:
    http://fleersticker.blogspot.com/2009/05/reggie-jackson-baltimore-orioles.html

  35. People always forget about Reggie on the Orioles - led the league in slugging that year with a .502 SLG. .502!!!!! How bad was that era offensively? You have to go back to 1919 in the NL and 1916 in the AL to find a league leader with that low of a SLG.

    Was reminded by the 22+ HR in 81 games post just how much of a beast Reggie was in his early days with the A's. That 1969 was just unreal. Put him in a decent park in a better offensive era and he clears 600 HR easily. Put him in the 90's and he's pushing 700. . . . .

  36. @35 Anon,

    The 1976 Orioles are a very interesting team IMO. They were a transitional team from those early 70's O's with Reggie Jackson playing RF.

    Yeah Jackson came to the O's in a trade because Charlie Finley didn't want to pay him. Then Jackson held out for a month before he started with the Orioles. It definitely didn't help the Orioles chances against the Yankees that they didn't have Jackson for month.

    B. Robinson was done as player in 1975 and should have retired at the end of that year. Blair just fell off a cliff in 1975 and never rebounded and was done as a productive player.

    That Orioles team had a lot of very good/great seasons from players like Jackson, Grich, Palmer, Garland, Singleton and Belanger. Then you had solid support from guys like May and Bumbry.

    But on the other had they had awful years from a few veteran players.

    Paul Blair hit .197/.245/.264
    B. Robinson hit .211/.240/.307
    And at 32 & 39 years old, Blair & Robinson were at best average fielders.

    I've never understood why T. Muser got 356 plate appearances mostly at first. First Base is hitter's position and Muser had a .227/.270/.264 line.

    Mike Cueller was awful in '76 with a 4.96 ERA and a 66 ERA+.

    As far as Slugging percentage goes, the AL was a very low run scoring environment in '76 with only 3.52 Runs per game. I don't really know why exactly.

  37. @36,

    It should be 4.01 runs per game not 3.52.