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Fewest singles in a career

Posted by Andy on February 9, 2011

Here are the 20 players since 1901 who hit the fewest singles per plate appearance (minimum 3000 PAs) over their careers:

Rk Player H 1B PA From To G AB R 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
1 Barry Bonds 2935 1495 12606 1986 2007 2986 9847 2227 601 77 762 1996 2558 1539 .298 .444 .607 1.051 *78/D9 PIT-SFG
2 Mike Schmidt 2234 1219 10062 1972 1989 2404 8352 1506 408 59 548 1595 1507 1883 .267 .380 .527 .908 *53/64 PHI
3 Harmon Killebrew 2086 1199 9831 1954 1975 2435 8147 1283 290 24 573 1584 1559 1699 .256 .376 .509 .884 357D/49 WSH-MIN-KCR
4 Mark McGwire 1626 785 7660 1986 2001 1874 6187 1167 252 6 583 1414 1317 1596 .263 .394 .588 .982 *3/D54967 OAK-TOT-STL
5 Dave Kingman 1575 868 7429 1971 1986 1941 6677 901 240 25 442 1210 608 1816 .236 .302 .478 .780 37D59/1 SFG-NYM-TOT-CHC-OAK
6 Greg Vaughn 1475 813 7070 1989 2003 1731 6103 1017 284 23 355 1072 865 1513 .242 .337 .470 .807 *7D/89 MIL-TOT-SDP-CIN-TBD-COL
7 Jeromy Burnitz 1447 805 6579 1993 2006 1694 5710 917 298 29 315 981 739 1376 .253 .345 .481 .826 *987/D NYM-CLE-TOT-MIL-COL-CHC-PIT
8 Darryl Strawberry 1401 772 6326 1983 1999 1583 5418 898 256 38 335 1000 816 1352 .259 .357 .505 .862 *9D/78 NYM-LAD-SFG-NYY
9 Jose Valentin 1348 756 6317 1992 2007 1678 5539 872 302 41 249 816 630 1294 .243 .321 .448 .769 *654/78D93 MIL-CHW-LAD-NYM
10 Jay Buhner 1273 711 5927 1987 2001 1472 5013 798 233 19 310 965 792 1406 .254 .359 .494 .852 *9/D873 NYY-TOT-SEA
11 Jose Cruz 1167 675 5448 1997 2008 1388 4724 713 252 36 204 624 658 1147 .247 .337 .445 .783 897/D TOT-TOR-SFG-TBD-LAD-SDP-HOU
12 Mickey Tettleton 1132 661 5745 1984 1997 1485 4698 711 210 16 245 732 949 1307 .241 .369 .449 .818 *2D39/7 OAK-BAL-DET-TEX
13 Gene Tenace 1060 660 5525 1969 1983 1555 4390 653 179 20 201 674 984 998 .241 .388 .429 .817 *23/594D7 OAK-SDP-STL-PIT
14 Gorman Thomas 1051 558 5486 1973 1986 1435 4677 681 212 13 268 782 697 1339 .225 .324 .448 .772 *8D9/735 MIL-TOT-SEA
15 Darren Daulton 891 532 4336 1983 1997 1161 3630 511 197 25 137 588 629 726 .245 .357 .427 .784 *2/93D7 PHI-TOT
16 Todd Hundley 883 507 4305 1990 2003 1225 3769 495 167 7 202 599 453 988 .234 .320 .443 .763 *2/7D NYM-LAD-CHC
17 Rob Deer 853 462 4512 1984 1996 1155 3881 578 148 13 230 600 575 1409 .220 .324 .442 .766 *97/3D8 SFG-MIL-DET-TOT-SDP
18 Brad Wilkerson 788 445 3753 2001 2008 972 3187 500 193 28 122 399 492 947 .247 .350 .440 .790 7389/D MON-WSN-TEX-TOT
19 Steve Balboni 714 395 3440 1981 1993 960 3120 351 127 11 181 495 273 856 .229 .293 .451 .743 *3D NYY-KCR-TOT-TEX
20 Ron Kittle 648 369 3013 1982 1991 843 2708 356 100 3 176 460 236 744 .239 .306 .473 .779 7D/398 CHW-TOT-NYY-CLE
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/9/2011.

The cutoff to make this list is exactly 1 single in 8 plate appearances, meaning that the singles totals for each guy was less than 12.5% of his plate appearance total.

Most of the names here aren't too surprising. It includes some power hitters who also walked a lot, pushing their single per PA number down. This includes guys like Bonds, Schmidt, Killebrew, and McGwire. Then there are guys who just didn't hit all that well but stuck around long enough to get 3000 PAs thanks to hitting some homers. This includes guys like Kittle, Deer, Balboni, and Thomas.

The more surprising inclusions to me are the guys who didn't hit particularly poorly--say in the .250s. This includes Burnitz, Strawberry, and Buhner. These were guys with a good amount of power who also walked a fair amount.

Here's the table above actually sorted by 1B/PA, which I did manually in Excel:

Rk	Player	         1B	PA	%
1	Gorman Thomas	558	5486	10.2%
2	Rob Deer	462	4512	10.2%
3	Mark McGwire	785	7660	10.2%
4	Steve Balboni	395	3440	11.5%
5	Greg Vaughn	813	7070	11.5%
6	M Tettleton	661	5745	11.5%
7	Dave Kingman	868	7429	11.7%
8	Todd Hundley	507	4305	11.8%
9	Brad Wilkerson	445	3753	11.9%
10	Barry Bonds	1495	12606	11.9%
11	Gene Tenace	660	5525	11.9%
12	Jose Valentin	756	6317	12.0%
13	Jay Buhner	711	5927	12.0%
14	Mike Schmidt	1219	10062	12.1%
15	H Killebrew	1199	9831	12.2%
16	D Strawberry	772	6326	12.2%
17	Jeromy Burnitz	805	6579	12.2%
18	Ron Kittle	369	3013	12.2%
19	Darren Daulton	532	4336	12.3%
20	Jose Cruz	675	5448	12.4%

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 9th, 2011 at 6:29 am and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

43 Responses to “Fewest singles in a career”

  1. A lot of very slow runners in this entry.

  2. Chris Castonguay Says:

    Amazing that nearly every player on the list played in the 80's.
    Just curious, why did you not do 1B/AB? That would have eliminated the Bonds/Schmidt type players.

  3. the mysterious Ron Kittle appears again.

  4. Brad Wilkerson.. if he had managed to stay healthy... would have been quite an interesting player. And he ran well.

  5. First, I actually saw McGwire hit a single in 1998. He got doubled off of first, however.

    Second, I was a bit surprised that Kingman appeared as a pitcher, but when I see it was only for two games, that's not so surprising.

  6. What about Russell Branyan?

  7. @6 - maybe it's retired players? Once you mentioned Branyan (9.9%) the names Adam Dunn (10.2%) and Jim Thome (12.0%). popped into my head.

    @5 - in this book I read as a kid, something about "Baseball All-Stars of 1987", in the entry for McGwire it mentioned that he was similar to Kingman in that both of them were pitchers (or at least started out that way) at USC but that dreams get derailed when you can hit baseballs over mountains or something like that.

  8. This is littered with Brewers: Burnitz, Vaughn, Valentin, Thomas and Deer

  9. My bad, I forgot to mention that this list is for retired players. Here's why.
    Here are the active players who qualify:

    Rk Player Year 1B PA From To Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO HBP SH SF GDP SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS Pos Tm
    1 Russell Branyan 2010 324 3252 1998 2010 22-34 991 2807 394 657 136 8 189 453 385 30 1077 30 4 26 29 14 4 .234 .330 .490 .820 537/D9 CLE-TOT-CIN-MIL-SEA
    2 Pat Burrell 2010 761 6301 2000 2010 23-33 1548 5320 750 1351 290 15 285 955 899 53 1497 29 0 53 117 7 3 .254 .362 .475 .837 *7D/39 PHI-TBR-TOT
    3 Mike Cameron 2010 951 7615 1995 2010 22-37 1877 6602 1037 1652 373 59 269 941 839 19 1842 87 29 58 108 296 83 .250 .340 .447 .787 *89/7D CHW-CIN-SEA-NYM-SDP-MIL-BOS
    4 Adam Dunn 2010 616 6065 2001 2010 21-30 1448 4975 865 1246 266 10 354 880 990 107 1632 71 2 27 75 59 21 .250 .381 .521 .902 *739/D CIN-TOT-WSN
    5 Troy Glaus 2010 752 6355 1998 2010 21-33 1537 5410 889 1375 293 10 320 950 854 40 1377 46 0 45 138 56 29 .254 .358 .489 .847 *53/D6 ANA-ARI-TOR-STL-ATL
    6 Jason LaRue 2010 377 3103 1999 2010 25-36 922 2719 307 628 148 7 96 348 237 39 760 107 22 18 74 14 11 .231 .315 .396 .712 *2/3579D CIN-KCR-STL
    7 David Ortiz 2010 818 6661 1997 2010 21-34 1596 5690 975 1598 416 15 349 1170 877 104 1252 31 2 61 129 10 6 .281 .376 .543 .920 *D3 MIN-BOS
    8 Carlos Pena 2010 450 4295 2001 2010 23-32 1073 3620 559 871 171 20 230 650 582 37 1131 54 4 35 49 23 14 .241 .351 .490 .841 *3/D7 TEX-TOT-DET-BOS-TBD-TBR
    9 Nick Swisher 2010 446 3754 2004 2010 23-29 911 3178 528 802 185 9 162 495 497 30 804 40 10 29 77 8 10 .252 .358 .469 .827 *9387/D1 OAK-CHW-NYY
    10 Jim Thome 2010 1173 9803 1991 2010 20-39 2392 7982 1534 2216 428 26 589 1624 1679 166 2395 68 1 73 153 19 20 .278 .404 .559 .963 3D5 CLE-PHI-CHW-TOT-MIN
    11 Carlos Delgado 2009 1064 8657 1993 2009 21-37 2035 7283 1241 2038 483 18 473 1512 1109 186 1745 172 0 93 152 14 8 .280 .383 .546 .929 *3D/72 TOR-FLA-NYM
    Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
    Generated 2/9/2011.

    Lots and lots. As players get to the end of their careers, they tend to walk less, plus more of their hits end up as singles instead of doubles or homers. So, it's tough to stay on this list. But one or more of these active guys could end up there too. Thome has the best shot, probably, being closest to the end.

  10. I guess Delago is the best bet since he is unlikely to have any more major-league plate appearances...And I think Jason LaRue retired didn't he?

  11. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I was particularly surprised by Strawberry. Somehow, I never figured he would make a list dominated by players whose home-to-first running speed has to be timed with a calendar.

  12. And McGwire is the only one on the list who finished with fewer singles (785) than extra-base hits (841). Dunn and Branyan are the only others in the club, though just barely.

  13. I figured that McGwire would be near the top of the list, if not first overall. Never felt McGwire was a Hall of Fame player, even without the steroids, due to his inability to do anything but hit home runs. He always seemed to be an overrated version of Dave Kingman or Darrell Evans, only with the 70 home run year.

  14. I knew Harmon Killebrew would be on the list when I saw the title.

  15. Baby Got Reulbach Says:

    Fewest singles in a career? I'd guess quite a few people have zero, no?

    In all seriousness, the first I noticed was the same thing Topper did with all the Brewers showing up on the list.

    I'd also imagine some of these guys have the highest 3TO percentages of all time as well.

  16. I don't think the first list is dominated by slow runners:
    -- Bonds, Schmidt, Strawberry and Cruz (Jr.) all had seasons of at least 29 SB.
    -- Jose Valentin, Burnitz and Vaughn has seasons of at least 15 SB. (Vaughn went 15-2 in SB at age 33.)
    -- Thomas and Wilkerson played CF.
    -- Dutch Daulton ran well for a catcher.

    The reason most of these guys had low rates of singles is that they fanned a lot and hit a lot of HRs and fly balls.

  17. (@15, I'm jealous of your screen name.)

  18. Richard Chester Says:

    I couldn't help but notice that Kittle had one triple for every 1000 PA. McGwire's ratio was a little worse. They are both worse than Ernie Lombardi.

  19. dukeofflatbush Says:

    If you look at Bonds' counting #s, 2558 BBs, 1539 SOs, 106 HBP, 762 HRs - that is just shy of 5,000 PA (4965) where the fielders had zero impact on the play. I think if you throw in ground-rule doubles as PAs (and other freak plays) where there is no chance of fielding the play, Bonds goes well above 5,000 PAs where he eliminated the defense.
    40% of his plate appearances, without a glove touching a ball in play. That has to be a record!
    Last year, Mark Reynolds had over 50% of his PAs result in no fielding chances. Actually over 56% of his PAs. Most likely a record I am too lazy to research.

  20. Andy - while it's probably true that "As players get to the end of their careers, they tend to walk less, plus more of their hits end up as singles instead of doubles or homers." I'm not certain this will cause players to fall off of this list. Looking at the last 3-4 years for each of the following players:

    35-39 - 12.2% - Killebrew
    35-37 - 13.1% - Kingman
    35-37 - 9.5% - G. Vaughn
    35 - 6.4% - G. Thomas (it's 9.4% if you use his 34-35 age seasons)
    34-36 - 10.1% - Tettleton
    Rob Deer had 2 singles in 64 PAs at age 35
    32-36 - 10.9% - Balboni.
    33-36 - 11.0% - Buhner
    34-36 - 13.9% - Burnitz
    35-37 - 12.6% - Valentin
    35-37 - 8.4% - McGwire (includes a 65 HR season - using his last 2 partial years it's 8.0%)
    Strawberry is at 11.4% after age 30 (never realized he had less than 1200 PAs total after age 30 - ouch)
    32-34 - 9.5% - Hundley
    32-34 - 13.4% - Cruz
    34-36 - 9.6% - Tenace
    33-35 - 12.9% - Daulton
    37-39 - 13.7% - Schmidt

    I didn't check everyone in the list (I left off Kittle and Wilkerson because they don't really have an "old age" period and Bonds because ... well, he didn't have anything remotely resembling a normal "old age" period and he's probably not a good predictor for these active players) and it's probably not enough data to justify a strong conclusion but it doesn't appear that these types of players are hitting more singles as a percentage of their PAs as they age.

    Kingman, Cruz, Burnitz, Daulton, Schmidt, and Valentin have a higher single percentage as they got older. Only Swisher, Pena, Glaus, and Dunn are younger than the ages that I started at when looking at "late in career" single percentage.

    I would guess that while your statement is accurate that these types of players (ok, probably all players) have less hits as they get older so that offsets the possibility that more hits go for singles than doubles or homers and keeps their single percentage near what it was earlier in their careers.

    Basically, if you're starting from where Russell Branyan is starting at age 34 I think he is a good bet to make the list.

  21. Duke @19 -- Amazingly, Bonds isn't close to the leader in "non-fielder outcome percentage" -- he's not even among the top 5, probably not in the top 10.

    Picking some players off the top of my head, and measuring the 4 events you listed (HR, BB, SO, HBP) as a percentage of career PAs (making no attempt to account for ground-rule doubles, inside-the-park HRs, Ks that involved a tag or throw by the catcher, etc.):

    -- 48.3%, Jim Thome
    -- 44.1%, Mickey Tettleton
    -- 42.3%, Gorman Thomas
    -- 41.2%, Gene Tenace
    -- 40.6%, Reggie Jackson
    -- 40.3%, Mickey Mantle
    -- 39.9%, Mike Schmidt
    -- 39.4%, Barry Bonds
    -- 39.1%, Babe Ruth
    -- 39.0%, Manny Ramirez

  22. dukeofflatbush Says:

    @JA-21

    Wow, Kinda shocked there, but I figured if he was going to be passed it would be by a similarly high HR/BB guy, but who SO much more. Bonds only had his Rookie season go above 100K. Which is remarkable. In 15 years, Bonds' 1500Ks won't make the top 100. Jeter might even get to 2,000 Ks. And I think Biggio had over 1600.
    But good look. I wonder if Thome is the leader, or if there is another Thome-type we haven't thought of?

  23. Duke @22 -- I just now did 3 searches to gather all the players with HR>5% of PAs, BB>15% of PAs and SO>20% of PAs. That turned up 1 retired player with a higher pct. of (HR+SO+BB+HBP) than Thome -- the paragron of the "three true outcomes," Rob Deer, at 49.8%.

    Among active players with at least 3000 PAs, the leader is Russell Branyan (51.7%) followed by Adam Dunn (50.2%).

  24. Baby Got Reulbach Says:

    Not quite to 3000 PAs yet but Mark Reynolds is sitting at 51.2% so far for his career. Better watch out Branyan!

  25. dukeofflatbush Says:

    I'd imagine Jack Cust would be 50% as well.

  26. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Cust: 53.87%

  27. Some more on Thome. For his career he has walked or struck out 41.6% of the time. Still, it's pretty wild to find out that he's whiffed or walked in 91.2% of games that he's played from start to finish (1,777 of 1,949)!

  28. An interesting thing I just noticed about Thome is that last year his total slash line was better than his career line, at age 39.

    Career before 2010: .277/.404/.557
    At age 39 in 340 PA: .283/.412/.627

    This seems pretty impressive/rare for a 39 year old with 300+ PAs.

  29. @Mr. Dave - 13

    If by overrated you mean 141 more HRs, 709 more walks and a .394 OBP vs. .302 OBP in only 231 more PAs, then yes he is an overrated Dave Kingman.

  30. #13: "Never felt McGwire was a Hall of Fame player, even without the steroids, due to his inability to do anything but hit home runs. He always seemed to be an overrated version of Dave Kingman or Darrell Evans, only with the 70 home run year."

    During his '96-'99 peak, McGwire hit .290 and averaged 128 walks a year. That's doing a lot more than just hitting home runs, and it puts him in a different stratosphere from Dave Kingman. (And It's not fair to lump Evans in with Kingman either. Evans consistently drew a ton of walks to make up for his mediocre batting averages; Kingman drew far fewer walks while hitting for even poorer averages.)

  31. DoubleDiamond Says:

    Someone mentioned that most of the guys in the original list played in the 1980s. Another indicator that the guys on both the original list and the active players list in @9 are recent is that all but one appeared as a DH at least once in his career. The type of player who would hit home runs instead of singles is the type that teams have traditionally looked for to fill the DH spot. I remember when Rod Carew got cut by the Angels in spring training 1986, he tried to find another major league job at either 1B or DH, but he didn't find one because he hardly ever homered (even winning the batting crown in 1972 with zero homers), and teams tended to look for power hitters for those two spots.

    The one who never served as DH is Mike Schmidt, whose whole career, except for his 1972 September call-up, was in the DH era, but he played his whole career in the NL before interleague play started. I'd have to look up if the DH was used in the 1980 or 1983 World Series, but he was still a highly-regarded defensive player in 1980 and possibly also in 1983, so even if it was used in one or both Series, he was likely at third base while someone else DH'd. Maybe he had some plate appearances as the DH in spring training!

    Darren Daulton, another career-long NL'er, just made it into the interleague era, serving as the Phillies' first-ever DH wherever they played their first road game against the AL during his last season, 1997.

  32. I did a full PA>3000 scan of the lahman database and agree with Autin's fingings.

    RBranyan* - 51.7
    ADunn* - 50.2
    RDeer - 49.8
    JThome* - 48.2
    RHoward* - 47.4
    MMcGwire - 46.6
    CPena* - 46.5
    MTettleton - 44.0
    JBuhner - 43.3
    PBurrell* - 43.0
    GThomas - 42.3
    BWilkerson - 42.3
    JCanseco - 41.8
    DLock - 41.3
    DTartabull - 41.2
    GTenace - 41.1
    JBay* - 41.1
    TGlaus* - 40.9
    ReJackson - 40.6
    CDelgado - 40.4
    MVaughn - 40.4
    PIncaviglia - 40.4
    RSexson - 40.3
    MMantle - 40.3
    BHawpe* - 40.2
    DStrawberry - 40.2

    *-played in 2010

    ... sorry so long, the names kept being interesting. :-) I had never heard of Don Lock before today. He just squeezed over the 3000 PA bar.

  33. Here's a progressive list of all-time leaders "in the clubhouse"... that is among retired players only. Basically a double sort by ratio and "Final Year" just to see how things have progressed historically.

    FinalYear - Player - Ratio
    1996 - Rob Deer - 49.8
    1986 - Gorman Thomas - 42.3
    1969 - Don Lock - 41.3
    1968 - Mickey Mantle - 40.3
    1966 - Jim Gentile - 39.149
    1935 - Babe Ruth - 39.083
    1934 - Hack Wilson - 29.7
    1898 - Bill Joyce - 28.3
    1893 - Charlie Bennett - 25.6

    ... then it gets really obscure (Emmett Seery?) as with shorter seasons it gets harder to accumulate 3000 PA.

  34. Buhner was traded for Ken Phelps, who misses the list because he only had 2287 PA. But his 249 1B and 10.9% are certainly notable.

  35. Topper009 #28; Wasn't Thome pretty much a platoon player last year? it is always dangerous to assume that, "everything else is equal."

  36. re: McGwire.

    It's a shame about the PEDs (and the injuries). His rookie year I thought I was seeing someone who would be one of the best power hitters of all time, which he turned out to be - with the taint.

    re: Don Lock

    I had his 1967 baseball card, which I recall showed him as a Senator, although he played for "my" Phillies all year.

  37. Kds @35 -- Actually, Thome's RHP/LHP frequency last year was virtually the same as his career rate. In 2010, lefty pitchers accounted for 27.6% of his PAs; for his career, 28.4%.

    The "skeleton in the closet" of Thome's HOF-worthy career is that he really never has hit lefties well. His BA is 56 points lower vs. LHP (.238 - .294), and his HR rate is also much lower (4.6% of ABs vs. LHP, 8.6% vs. RHP). His career OPS split is .763 vs. LHP, 1.047 vs. RHP.

    Thome's BA and OPS vs. LHP and RHP last year were about the same as his career averages.

  38. Thome is the greatest "clean" slugger of this generation. And assuming (I know..) Howard, Dunn, & Pujols don't see the AB / HR increase over the rest of the career Thome is the 2nd best "slugger" of all time.

    Rank Player (age) AB per HR Bats
    1. Mark McGwire 10.61 R
    2. Babe Ruth+ 11.76 L
    3. Ryan Howard (30) 12.79 L
    4. Barry Bonds 12.92 L
    5. Jim Thome (39) 13.55 L
    6. Adam Dunn (30) 14.05 L
    Albert Pujols (30) 14.05 R
    8. Ralph Kiner+ 14.11 R
    9. Harmon Killebrew+ 14.22 R
    10. Alex Rodriguez (34) 14.40 R

  39. And for the Kittle love

    22. Ron Kittle 15.39 R

  40. @38, Why do you assume Thome was clean? Not saying he did anything, but just becasue a player hasn't failed a test doesn't mean he was clean.

  41. So does Killebrew hold the "record" for fewest singles from a HOF player (non-pitcher class, obviously)?

  42. Mike D., you mentioned "non-pitcher class", but, it still amazes me, to think that, for example, Nolan Ryan hit a whopping .110 over 957 plate appearances over a 27 year career (80 singles, equaling 12% of PA's) and yet 11 players on this list, managed to beat him......

  43. (not exactly what you were getting at, Mike, but I still had to smile:))