Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
April 20, 2004
A reader writes to ask, "Omar Vizquel is about to get his 2000th hit. How many players who have achieved such a milestone have been worse offensively?" I think we have an answer, at least on the question of who was the worst.
Vizquel - who stands at 1998 hits entering tonight's action - has been, on balance, a pretty mediocre hitter, albeit a good one in his best seasons and more than productive enough to go with his slick glove at short. His career averages are .273 batting, .356 slugging and .340 OBP.
According to Aaron Haspel's invaluable search engine, thirty players have (like Vizquel) notched 2,000 hits without either a career OBP of .350 or a career slugging % of .400. Aaron's search engine hasn't been updated with stats beyond 2001, but the only other recent entrant to the 2,000 hit club who approaches this level of futility is Marquis Grissom, who last season became the 24th player to clear 2,000 hits with an OBP of .330 or less.
The leading contenders for worst of the bunch are the five players with career OBPs below .310 and career slugging percentages below .400 - Tommy Corcoran, Frank White, Larry Bowa, Bill Mazeroski, and Garry Templeton. Each has his own merits - Bowa has the lowest slugging percentage of the group at .320, White struck out twice as much as the others and had the lowest batting average (.255) plus playing in a DH league, and Mazeroski was the only one who didn't steal bases. But it's nearly impossible to argue with Corcoran; the former Dodgers and Reds shortstop had the lowest OBP of the group (.289) and a poor slugging percentage (.335), while being an everyday player through the 1890s, the highest-scoring offensive era in baseball history. In 1895, for example - not a particularly atypical year for Corcoran - he batted .265 with a .299 OBP while the National League as a whole batted .296 with a .354 OBP, and the average team scored 6.58 runs/game. After the offensive bonanza of the 1890s turned to the low-scoring 1900s, Corcoran was even worse relative to the league, a .240 hitter with no power who regularly drew less than 20 walks a year. Given that he played regularly for many years, mostly on winning teams, Corcoran must have been contributing something with his glove; he sure wasn't helping with the bat.