A recent Sports Illustrated article chronicled the story of the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, arguably the worst major league team of all time. Of course, die-hard Mets fans will point to their first season in 1962, when Casey Stengel’s squad had 40 Wins and 120 Losses. In fact, they were a juggernaut compared to the A’s of Connie Mack, who posted a record of 36-117. Whitey Witt played Shortstop for the team and in 143 games, committed 78 errors. Of course, it was his rookie season. They had one Pitcher who had a record of 1-16 and another who was 1-20! I seem to remember drafting both of those hurlers on my 1916 Fantasy team.
Even though we can’t forget that just getting to the big leagues is a great accomplishment for a player, these kind of numbers can’t help make us wonder about the “worst of the worst”. With some help from SABR and baseballreference.com, let’s see who belongs on the wrong side of history since the end of the dead-ball era.
> Worst Batting Average (min. 1,000 AB’s)
1) Ray Oyler .175 – Played SS for the Tigers from 1965-70
2) Mike Ryan .193 – Catchers have always been looked at as defensive-minded players, so this backstop played for 11 seasons in the 60’s & 70’s.
3) Jim Mason .203 – Played nine years in the 70’s and hit 12 HR’s.
4) Jackie Hernandez .208 – Another player with nine campaigns on his resume, he was an infielder in the 60’s & 70’s.
5) Tom Prince .208 – Amazingly, this Catcher played parts of 17 seasons before retiring in 2003.
The really sad back-story to these stats is the case of Mario Mendoza. A major-league Shortstop from 1974-82, he has a rather dubious distinction. In those days, newspapers would publish big-league stats in the Sunday sports section and hitters were listed in order of their batting average. Other players ragged on each other if they were hitting below .200 on a given Sunday and would comment that they weren’t even at the “Mendoza Line”. That term is still part of the baseball lexicon today and it really isn’t fair to Mario because his lifetime BA of .215 is better than all five players on our list and above the lifetime marks of others like Dave Nicholson, Rusty Torres & Dick Tracewski. It’s probably too late to start a campaign for the “Oyler Line”.
> Worst Batting Average In A Season (min. 400 AB’s)
1T) Rob Deer .179, 1991 Tigers – Notorious for swings & misses, he led the AL with 175 K’s that year, but also hit 25 HR’s.
1T) Dan Uggla .179, 2013 Braves – What sets him apart is that he made $13 Million that season.
3) Eddie Joost .185, 1943 Braves – In a 17-year career, he didn’t hit much, but he sure could coax those base-on-balls, walking over 100 times in six consecutive seasons between 1947 & 1952. His lifetime BA was only .239 but his OPB (On-Base %) was .361.
4) Ed Brinkman .185, 1965 Senators – The classic smooth fielding SS who couldn’t hit, he played 15 years in the majors. in 1972, he won the Gold Glove while hitting .203.
Last year’s worst was Joc Pederson at .210…in 2014, it was Chris Davis with .196…Carlos Pena hit .197 in 2012 and .196 in 2010.
Even though “old-school” baseball fans point to Madison Bumgarner and a few other Pitchers to justify their position against the DH, the reality is that there’s nothing more boring than watching a Pitcher hit. As to all that intricate NL strategy employed by Managers, a fan’s heart just flutters when the 8th place hitter is walked intentionally. Let’s not forget the worst-hitting Pitchers ever, as in the ones who NEVER got a hit during a full season…
> Bob Buhl, 1970…0-for-70 (lifetime BA of .089)
> Bill Wight, 1950…0-for-61 (lifetime BA of .083)
> Ron Herbel, 1964…0-for-47 (lifetime BA of .029)
> Karl Drews, 1949…0-for-46 (lifetime BA of .083)
There are at least 15 others who went 0-for-30+ including familiar names such as Joey Hamilton, Darryl Kile, Steve Stone & Ed Lynch. Of course Bartolo Colon (and his .093 lifetime BA) hit his first Home Run this year at age 43, so it must have been was worth the wait. If only Buhl hadn’t retired in 1968 at age 38.