Saturday, October 24, 2009

.300 Hitters Who Didn't Stick

One of baseball's "big" numbers is .300. If you hit .300 or better, you're a good hitter. As the following players can attest, however, hitting .300 isn't always enough to stick in the major leagues.

Since 1954, thirteen players have hit .300 in more than 50 but fewer than 500 career plate appearances. Players who appeared in the majors during 2009 were not included. I chose fifty PA as the minimum because it takes at least ten starts to rack up that many times at the plate. Impressive as John Paciorek's career was, it doesn't fit the spirit of this post. By the end of this post, you'll see why I used 500 as the maximum.

Kevin Rhomberg1982-198426-28
Randy Asadoor198623
Rudy Pemberton1995-199725-27
Joe Hall1994-1995
Norris Hopper2006-200827-29
Victor Mata1984-198523-24
Bob Hazle1955
D.T. Cromer2000-200129-30
Eddy Garabito200528
Bob Henley199825
Andy Barkett200126
Jose Ortiz1969-197122-24
Gerry Davis1983

The position listed is where the player spent the most time. Almost every player on the list played two or more positions.

Bob Hazle is probably the most famous name on this list. He hit .403 down the stretch in 1957 to help the Braves win the NL pennant. A slow start in 1958 doomed his career. Norris Hooper may still appear again in the majors. He played in AAA for the Reds, White Sox, and Nationals in 2009.

It's worth noting that two pitchers also qualified under the 50-500 PA criteria. Terry Forster, who pitched for five teams from 1971 to 1984, hit .397/.413/.474 over 86 plate appearances during his career. He was one for four as a pinch hitter. Renie Martin, who pitched for three teams from 1979 to 1984, hit .301 over 90 plate appearances. He was 0 for 1 as a pinch hitter.

Obviously, small sample size applies to all of these players. Who knows if they would have been able to hit .300 over a longer career. The fact remains, however, that they hit well in the few opportunities they were given.

I thought it would be interesting to post the following list as well. If you take out active players, here are the .300 hitters who debuted in 1954 or later with the fewest career plate appearances (min. 400):
  1. Norris Hopper, 440 (.316)
  2. Lyman Bostock, 2214 (.311)
  3. Reggie Jefferson, 2300 (.300)
  4. Manny Mota, 4227 (.304)
  5. Rusty Greer, 4420 (.305)
  6. Hal Morris, 4443 (.304)
  7. John Kruk, 4603 (.300)
  8. Mike Greenwell, 5166 (.303)
  9. Ralph Garr, 5456 (.306)
  10. Pedro Guerrero, 6115 (.300)
It looks like Norris Hopper has found a uncomfortable niche between flash in the pan and solid regular.


Gerry said...

Not sure why you restricted to since 1954.

Harry Moore hit .336 in 480 PA in his one-year career, 1884 - that was in the Union Association, the least major of all major leagues.

Buzz Arlett hit .313 in 469 PA in 1931, his only year in the bigs.

Harlin Pool hit .303 in 457 PA over two seasons, 1934-35.

Maurice Archdeacon hit .333 in 449 PA, 1923-25.

Chicken Hawks hit .316 in 445 PA between 1921 and 1925.

All of these players had more PA than Norris Hopper while staying under the 500 PA barrier.

The region between 500 and 2000 isn't actually empty. Smead Jolley is there, .305 in 1813 PA. Ray Grimes, .329 in 1788. Cliff Lee, .300, 1718. Al Wingo, .308, 1575. Probably lots of others.

Theron Schultz said...

I could've gone back further, but I wanted to limit it to more recent players. Also, the 1920's and 1930's were marked by very good offenses leaguewide. I didn't think guys who hit .300 in a time when the league average was .280-.290 was particularly impressive. But yeah, if you go back further the list grows.

Gerry said...

Fair enough. I give you Augie Bergamo, .304 in 589 PA, 1944 and 1945, when league batting averages were in the 260s. Yes, I know, hitting .304 against all the 4Fs isn't that impressive either....