Not reaching first

I recently downloaded the latest version of the Lahman database, which is a giant collection of tables full of major league statistics from 1871 to 2014. If you’re like me and (a) like baseball and (b) are a nerd (or just somebody who likes to crunch numbers), this is for you!

Just for fun, I decided to find the players who were arguably the worst at hitting since the Second World War. I used the database to find all players with 400 or more at-bats and an on-base percentage of .250 or lower. Here’s the list:

First Name Last Name year OBP
Rob Picciolo 1977 0.218
Hal Lanier 1968 0.222
J. P. Arencibia 2013 0.227
Andres Thomas 1989 0.228
Bob Lillis 1963 0.229
Hal Lanier 1967 0.239
Bobby Wine 1963 0.241
Bob Boone 1984 0.242
George Bell 1993 0.243
Zoilo Versalles 1968 0.244
Jonathan Schoop 2014 0.244
Todd Cruz 1982 0.246
Joe DeMaestri 1958 0.247
Cookie Rojas 1968 0.248
Pedro Garcia 1974 0.248
Alfredo Griffin 1984 0.248
Vernon Wells 2011 0.248
John Bateman 1963 0.249
Zoilo Versalles 1967 0.249
Marquis Grissom 2001 0.250

Exactly 20 players make this list, which is convenient. Jays and Expos fans will recognize many of the names listed here. Some more details on some players in this list:

  • Rob Picciolo was a reserve infielder in the late 1970s and 1980s, mostly for Oakland. He was legendary for his inability to walk – in 1720 career plate appearances, he walked only 25 times. 1977 was his rookie year, and the only time he reached 400 at-bats; he achieved a similar level of futility in other years. In 1984, he went to the plate 128 times and did not walk once. I don’t recall watching him, but he must have been a heck of a good gloveman to hang around that long.
  • Hal Lanier appears on this list twice. He also must have been a good fielder – he was the starting second baseman or shortstop for the Giants for most of the 1960s, and wound up with 3940 plate appearances despite a career OBP of .255. He later went on to coach and manage in the majors. Wikipedia describes the end of his major league managerial career:  “In 1988, the Astros lost a home game to the San Francisco Giants. As the team prepared to eat the post-game meal, take showers, and go home, they received word they were wanted back on the field. Lanier brought out the batting cage and ordered the team to take batting practice again. Lanier was fired at the end of the season and never returned to Major League Baseball.”
  • You probably still remember J.P. Arencibia. He’s 29 now, and is batting .219 for Tampa Bay’s triple-A farm club.
  • Zoilo Versalles appears on the list twice too. He had won the MVP in 1965, leading the American League in total bases while winning a Gold Glove at shortstop. The Twins gave up on him after 1967, and the Dodgers gave up on him after 1968; he played in the Mexican League until 1974. Sadly, he died young.
  • Alfredo Griffin was the Jays’ starting shortstop in 1984. He had a job only because Tony Fernandez was injured that year; Fernandez took the job in 1985, and Griffin was traded to Oakland. He hung around with various teams until 1993, partly because his defense was good and partly because he was very well liked; he played shortstop for the 1988 Dodgers and was backup for the 1992 Jays, so he has a couple of World Series rings for his fingers.
  • Pedro Garcia was the starting second baseman for the Blue Jays in their very first game on April 7, 1977. He didn’t last the year with the team, and didn’t play in the majors after that.
  • George Bell had driven in 112 runs in 1992 for the White Sox, so they gave him every chance to succeed in 1993, which he didn’t. He didn’t play for the Sox in the ALCS against the Jays, and did not play in the majors after that year.
  • 2011 was Vernon Wells’s first year with the Los Angeles Angels. He was paid $26,187,500 for his efforts. It isn’t his fault he was being paid all that money. Would you turn down a raise if you were offered one, even if you were no longer as good at your job?

About davetill

I'm a writer and occasional web designer. I live in Toronto.
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