Swing and a miss. Three strikes, you’re out. Pop-up to center field. These are just a few of the baseball clichés that the following 15 athletes have probably heard more than they’d like to admit. Not everyone can get a hit every time they step up to the plate, but these guys have displayed some terrible at-bats throughout their major league careers. Some batters that strikeout a lot are often decent hitters or at least make up for their strikeouts in home runs. We’re not just talking about strikeouts though, we’re talking overall terrible hitters in general. Fourteen out of the fifteen players featured on this list have all accomplished a below average OPS+ throughout their career in MLB.
Overall, none of these players broke a lifetime .300 batting average but they range from .197-.274. Players with higher averages may have been included for a particularly abysmal season that just could not be overlooked. What terrible hitters lack at the plate, one can only hope they make up for on the field, and most of these guys are quite good defensively. Some of the players included are still active in MLB so maybe there is hope for them, but maybe not. Here are the top 15 worst MLB hitters of the 21st century.
15. Carlos Pena (2001-2014)
Carlos Pena is one of those exceptions when you think about a power hitter. From 2007-2009, he played the best baseball of his career. In 2007, he became a member of the 40 home run club. In 2009, he was an All-Star, but the time before and the time after this exceptional period were all mediocre at best. Pena was the worst hitter in Major League Baseball, according to his batting average (.196,) at the end of the 2010 season. He bounced around nine organizations throughout his career, sometimes returning to organizations that previously released him. He never completed a season above a .282 batting average. His career ended with a .232 batting average, 817 walks and 1,577 strikeouts. He did, however, finish with an above-average OPS+ (117).
14. Willy Taveras (2004-2010)
For a guy that once led the league in singles and was voted (by the players) National League Rookie of the Year, you may question why he’s on this list. For starters, in 2005 and 2006, he had the lowest slugging percentage among all of the everyday outfielders in the major leagues. He struck out 390 times over his career and rarely walked. In fact, with 2,644 plate appearances, he walked a total of 136 times. The highest amount of times he ever walked in one season was 36. His career batting average is .274 and he has an OPS+ of 68. This year, Dexter Fowler dethroned Taveras (2007) as the most recent batter to start the World Series with a strikeout. Where is he now? In April, Taveras signed on to play in the Mexican Baseball League.
13. Aaron Hill (2005-present)
He may be an anomaly. When Aaron Hill is good, he is really good and when he is bad, he is really bad. The guy had a .302/.360/.522 season. He hit 36 home runs another season. He also had a season (2010) where he recorded the lowest BABIP of all time. Is it bad luck or is he just a terrible hitter? In five out of his 12 seasons in MLB, he hit less than ten home runs. One season he only hit two. He’s struck out 834 times and has a 97 OPS+. How can one define a guy that has defied expectations and also, not met them at all? The fact that he’s still playing could help him potentially remove himself from this list one day, but overall his valleys have outshone his peaks.
12. Alcides Escobar (2008-present)
If you are judging the hitter by OPS, then Alcides Escobar was the worst hitter of the 2016 season with a .642 OPS. He was also responsible for the most outs last year with 506 of them. In 2013, he had what was currently the worst season of his career. He posted a .559 OPS (even worse than what he put up in 2016), had a .243 batting average, struck out 84 times and walked only 19 times. The 2010 season wasn’t something worth remembering either. Despite some terrible at-bats, he started every game of the 2014 and 2016 seasons and was an All-Star in 2015. Throughout his nine years in MLB, he has a batting average of .262, 600 strikeouts and a 75 OPS+.
11. Nick Punto (2001-2014)
Defensively, he was versatile and efficient. Offensively, not so much. Let’s take a look at his 2007 season for example. He had a .210 batting average, .562 OPS and 90 strikeouts. Over his entire career, he never hit more than four home runs in a single season or batted over .300. He didn’t even play every day most years. During his awful 2007 season, he played in 150 games, made 536 plate appearances and only hit one homer. After he retired in 2014, he finished with a .245 batting average, 651 strikeouts and an OPS+ of 76. No one ever said the guy could hit or that he had any power, but his defense made up for what he lacked at the plate and he was a likable player.
10. Clint Barmes (2003-2015)
There were a few times Clint Barmes’ name was thrown around in the “worst hitter in baseball” category. Try the 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2013 seasons. He made his major league debut in 2003 and showed a lot of promise. Barmes was up for Rookie of the Year in 2005, but after a freak accident that caused him to break his left collarbone, he wound up finishing in 8th place. After 2006, he spent most of the season in Triple-A. He can blame his .598 OPS and .220 batting average for that, especially since his batting average was the lowest of any starter that year. In 2009, his hitting experienced a bit of whiplash but he did hit a career high 23 home runs that season. Over his 13 years in the league, he finished with an overall .245 batting average, 734 strikeouts and a .673 OPS.
9. Brad Ausmus (1993-2010)
As far as catchers go, Brad Ausmus has been called one of the smartest. According to him, the people who say that are just using that phrase to say he can’t hit much. His time playing professionally spanned 18 years and he ended his career with a .251 batting average and an OPS+ of 75. Since he played in two different centuries, we’ll just focus on the 21st. The 2003, 2006, 2008 and 2010 seasons were particularly his worse. We’ll let him slide for 2010 though, since he only played in 21 games and decided to retire that year, but there are no excuses for ’03, ’06 and ’08. In 2006, he had an OPS of .593 and a .230 batting average. He subsequently spent the next three seasons bouncing back and forth between the minors and majors. Now, you can find him managing the Detroit Tigers.
8. Aaron Hicks (2013-present)
Like many other professionals on this list, Aaron Hicks is a good defensive player. It’s a shame his defense can’t help his offense. In Spring Training, he had people excited. Then, he made his major league debut and had a less than stellar rookie year (2013) finishing with a .192 batting average and .259 OBP. During the 2016 season, the Yankees’ Brian Cashman stated that Hicks wasn’t playing out to the level he expected but that he was optimistic. Despite being one of the worst hitters on the roster that year, Joe Girardi said he would play a lot- 123 games to be exact- and finished with a .217/.281/.336 batting line. Another trait he lacks is the ability to bring in runs. Out of 361 plate appearances last season, he only managed to draw in 32 runs. Only time and patience will allow everyone to see if Hicks has what it takes at the plate.
7. Ramon Santiago (2002-2014)
A utility player through and through, Ramon Santiago never found his swing. He made his major league debut in 2002 and played in 65 games that season. His second year in MLB is probably what cost him his shot at ever being more than just a backup. That year, he did lead the league in sacrifice hits but he played in 141 games and batted .225/.292/.284. It never got much better than that. The saving grace of his 13 year career in professional baseball was the fact that he could play multiple positions and was always ready to fill in for an injured teammate. His career ended with an overall batting average of .243, a 75 OPS+ and 420 strikeouts.
6. Ronny Cedeno (2005-2014)
Don’t ask Ronny Cedeno about 2006. He finally got a starting position with the Chicago Cubs and wound up with the lowest percentage of walks in the National League and held the major leagues worst walk/strikeout ratio. He also had a 54 OPS+ and finished the season .245/.271/.339. Throughout his career, he bounced around multiple organizations and found himself back and forth between the minors and majors. There was a glimmer of hope for him in 2009 when he played shortstop for the Pirates, but that was short lived. The Pirates benched him in 2010 for inconsistency and eventually released him in 2011. It was all downhill from there and Cedeno couldn’t find an organization that wanted to keep him long enough. His ten year career ended with an overall .245 batting average, 71 OPS+ and 567 strikeouts.
5. Logan Schafer (2011-present)
Logan Schafer has struck out two more times(136) than he has hit the ball(134) in his professional career thus far. In 2009, he was named the Milwaukee Brewers’ Minor League Player of the Year and that may end up being his biggest claim to fame. His career batting average is .214 and he has a .611 OPS. The only significant playing time he has seen came in 2013 when he played in 134 games and had a batting line of .211/.279/.322. Besides that, he has mostly warmed the bench. He started the 2016 season playing Independent ball with the Lancaster Barnstormers before signing a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins. In October, he was granted free agency and the Baltimore Orioles just recently offered him a minor league contract. This offer was based on adding depth to their outfield and not power to their lineup. We’ll see how that goes.
4. Cesar Izturis (2001-2013)
Cesar Izturis finished his 13 year career in the major leagues with an overall .254 batting average, 431 strikeouts and a 64 OPS+. When he became the everyday shortstop for the Dodgers in 2002, he proved himself defensively but had a .232 batting average and only brought in 43 runs in 468 plate appearances. One of the craziest things to happen in Izturis’ career is that he was a 2005 All-Star. Great for him, confusing to the rest of the world, seeing that he had a .275 batting average and one home run leading up to the game. In 2010, he had a 10.3 strikeout percentage and batted .230. He may not hold any batting titles, but he did win a Gold Glove in 2004, so at least he has that.
3. Brandon Inge (2001-2013)
Brandon Inge is a tease. He had two seasons with the Detroit Tigers where he hit 27 home runs and was selected as the fan favorite for the 2009 All-Star team and Home Run Derby. At a glance, you may think he was a decent hitter. Wrong. His overall career batting average is .233 and that Home Run Derby? He didn’t even hit one out of the park and was eliminated in the first round. In six of his 13 years in the majors, he posted batting averages of .205 or below. In 2013, he had an OPS as low as .442. Not to mention, he was also a bit of a baby when the Tigers signed Miguel Cabrera and he lost his starting position. When you’re putting up numbers like Inge you have to remember, there’s no crying in baseball.
2. Pedro Florimon (2011-present)
Pedro Florimon “often looks lost at the plate.” Scout.com said it, not me. In his debut season with the Baltimore Orioles he only played in four games. When he was picked up by the Twins in 2012, he became their starting shortstop. In the 210 games he played for the organization from 2012-2014, he had a .205 batting average, 51 walks, struck out 167 times and managed to only bring in 67 runs in 682 plate appearances. The 2014 season with the Twins lasted 33 games before he was demoted to Triple-A. In 2015 and 2016, he played in a combined 42 games for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There he batted .149 and had an OPS+ of 22. Right now, his overall batting average is at .200 and his OPS+ is 54. For now, he is a free agent.
1. Michael Martinez (2011-present)
He is not only the worst hitter that ever stepped up to the plate for the Philadelphia Phillies, but the single worst hitter of the MLB in the 21st century. Sure, he’s fast. He’s decent defensively, but when he walks into the batter box, it’s a like a sick joke. He made his major league debut with the Phillies in 2011 and over the three seasons he played there, he finished with a .187 batting average and 35 OPS+. Currently, his lifetime batting line is .197/.241/.266. In 267 games, he has managed to hit a measly six home runs and mustered up just 32 walks. He recently signed a minor league contract with Cleveland Indians that includes an invitation to Spring Training. If his swing doesn’t come around this year, it may be time for Martinez to say goodbye to the majors.
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