Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Weakest Bats in History (Part I--Inactive Players)

In baseball, every player has his role. While some are built to swing for the fences, others are severely lacking in the power department. Just for fun, I decided to compile a list of the least powerful hitters who are no longer active. I excluded pitchers and Deadball Era players for obvious reasons. I limited my search to players with lifetime batting averages significantly above the Mendoza Line. Here's what I came up with:   

Tommy Thevenow
Primarily a shortstop, Thevenow spent significant portions of time at second and third base. He played his entire career during baseball's offensive Renaissance of the 1920s and '30s. While many of his peers were breaking down fences at an impressive rate, Thevenow gathered just 2 homers in more than 4,000 at-bats. This included a drought that spanned twelve consecutive seasons.

Frank Taveras
A speedy shortstop, Taveras stole 40 or more bases for the Pirates every year from 1976-'79. He led the league in that category during the '77 slate. With guys like Willie Stargell and Dave Parker behind him in the lineup, Taveras didn't need to swing for the seats. He ended up going deep just twice in his career though he came to the plate more than 4,300 times. His first career homer--a grand slam off of Doug Capilla of the Reds in '77--came after he had logged 1,594 at-bats. No player with at least 1 career homer has ever waited so long.   

Tom Oliver
Oliver was an excellent defensive center fielder who spent four years in the majors (all with the Red Sox) from 1930-1933. Described as an opposite field slap-hitter, he stood directly facing the pitcher with one foot behind the other--a rather unusual way to hit. When he failed to generate a homer in 1,931 at-bats, he was banished to the minors for good.  His minor league career spanned more than twenty seasons. 

Mike Tresh
A righty-swinging catcher, Tresh spent most of his career with the White Sox during the 1930s/'40s. He was the club's most often used catcher for nine straight seasons. Behind the plate, he had a strong arm, finishing among the top five in assists and caught stealing percentage multiple times. Though he fashioned a serviceable .249 lifetime batting average, he had virtually no power--generating just 89 extra-base hits in over 3,500 plate appearances. Only two of those extra-base hits were homers, giving him an average of 1 per every 1,584 at-bats.

Emil Verban
 Nicknamed "Dutch," Verban played second base for the Cardinals, Phillies and Cubs from 1944 through 1950. He was named to three All-Star teams. A lifetime .272 hitter, he ended up with just 1 homer in 2,911 at-bats. Despite his glaring lack of power, he inspired a group of loyal Cubs fans to form the "Emil Verban Memorial Society" in 1975. Notable members included former President Ronald Reagan and two Supreme Court justices.

Duane Kuiper
Kuiper was a decent second baseman for the Indians and Giants from 1974-1985. He fashioned a .271 batting average over the course of his career. Typically appearing at the top of the order, he managed just 1 home run in 3,259 at-bats. The rare blast, which came off of Chicago's Steve Stone in August of 1977, ended a streak of 357 consecutive games without a long ball. He went homerless in 699 more games after that.

Jerry Remy
Not only was Remy pretty handy with a glove, but he could hit for average as well. While wearing a Red Sox uniform between 1978 and 1983, he topped the .300 mark twice and never fell below .275. Despite playing a majority of his home games at hitter-friendly Fenway Park, Remy logged 2,226 consecutive at-bats without a homer--among the longest power outages in history.

Larry Bowa
Bowa was nicknamed "Gnat" for his diminutive stature and bothersome nature. First baseman John Kruk, who played for Bowa when he managed the Padres in '87/'88, referred to him as an "asshole" and a "dickhead." Despite that denouncement, Bowa was among the premier defensive shortstops in the National League during the 1970s, capturing a pair of Gold Gloves while appearing on five All-Star rosters. He was also among the least powerful hitters in history. Including his minor league career, Bowa managed just 22 home runs in more than 11,000 plate appearances.    


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