The worst hitter in baseball history

It started innocently enough. I received an e-mail from a friend, who was obviously bored. It was very brief, not even a full sentence. But its message was powerful. “Rafael Belliard or Jose Lind…thoughts??” After a quick joke about comparing mustaches, I began glancing at some stats. It was not long before I threw out the possibility that “Belliard might actually be the worst hitter of all-time.” Mario Mendoza’s name was soon in the mix and I realized I had a mission to find the worst hitter in history.
I started by comparing Mendoza and Belliard. Raffy came out on top, with a career line of .221/.270/.259 and an OPS+ of 46. Amazingly, he spent 17 seasons and 1155 games in Major League Baseball despite never posting an OBP above .300 and slugging over .300 only once. Mendoza did not reach base as often as Belliard, hitting .215/.245/.262 for his career with an OPS+ of 41. The man was infamous for his ineptitude for a reason. Despite his struggles, he managed to come to the plate 1,456 times over nine seasons.
Has there been a hitter worse than Mendoza who played in the Major Leagues for a sustained period? Using Baseball Reference’s Play Index, I searched for non-pitchers with more than 1,000 plate appearances, sorted by lowest career OPS+. The first name on the list was Bill Bergen, a catcher with the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Dodgers from 1901-1911. He posted a line of .170/.194/.201 for an incredibly bad OPS+ of 21, and was rewarded with 3,228 plate appearances. He must have been a fantastic catcher. Bergen’s OPS+ was by far the lowest on the list, while the rest of the pack was pretty tight. For the record, Mendoza came in third while Belliard was tied for ninth. The bottom ten players with their respective OPS+ are as follows:
1. Bill Bergen – 21
2. Luis Gomez – 40
3. Mario Mendoza – 41
4. Mick Kelleher – 42
5. Jerry Zimmerman – 42
6. Ray Berres – 43
7. Clyde Manion – 44
8. Fritz Buelow – 45
9. Six tied with 46
Congratulations to Bill Bergen. You are the worst hitter in baseball history.

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4 Responses to “The worst hitter in baseball history”

  1. Eric J. Seidman Says:

    Haha, amazing work. B-R PI rules, doesn’t it?

  2. Pizza Cutter Says:

    IIRC, there is a Bill Bergen appreciation page out there somewhere specifically for this particular “award” that he can claim.

  3. Randy Linville Says:

    Everything I’ve read about Bergen talks about what a great fielder he was. He also played on some pretty wretched teams.
    I did a similar study to this in Part IV of the Downfall series (http://mvn.com/mlb-pirates/2007/02/02/downfall-of-the-fam-a-lee-part-4/) where I looked at post-WWII two players with 1500 or more hits and an OBP of less than .300.
    And yes, I couldn’t have done it (or live, in general) without BR PI.

  4. sludgeworm Says:

    Besmirching the Mendoza name should cease this instant, because anyone who has groupies is a “Baseball God!”
    While playing in the Mexican Leagues during the mid-1980s, Mario Mendoza was the league’s equivalent of Derek Jeter. As Mario Mendoza’s son recalled during an interview, his father was nicknamed “Elegante.” Women appeared in droves at games, as much for Mendoza’s good looks as his grace in the field. They compared him to a ballet dancer. He even had groupies.
    http://members.tripod.com/~alpepper/mendozaline.html


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