While fans will often consider hitting to be the most important thing a position player can provide, there are also other tools that help teams win. Traditionally, players like catchers, middle infielders and centerfielders can be below average hitters because they provide good defense or excellent speed.
But sometimes the pendulum swings too far. There have been plenty of ballplayers whose defense and baserunning hasn’t quite made up for their hitting deficiencies. Here are the worst batting seasons in recent memory.
Chris Davis – 2018 – Baltimore Orioles
Chris Davis came up with the Texas Rangers and had some inconsistencies there. Eventually, he was dealt to the Baltimore Orioles and became a star-level player signed a $161 million deal after a 47 homerun season.
Davis has essentially fallen apart since signing that deal, never hitting above .221 in the 4 years since. The worst year for the first baseman came in 2018 when he only hit 16 dingers over 522 at bats and finished with a batting average of .168.
Omar Infante – 2015 – Kansas City Royals
Omar Infante was good enough to play 14 years in the majors. While his glove was his main tool, he could hit a bit too. In 2004 he had a 16 homer/13 steal season and in 2012 he hit 12 home runs and stole 17 bases.
The Royals penciled him in as a 2015 starter and it went incredibly poorly. Infante hit .220 and only managed to draw 9 walks over a total of 455 plate appearances. He was out of baseball after another poor 2016 season.
Billy Hamilton – 2015 – Cincinnati Reds
Billy Hamilton is a very fast runner. The shortstop turned centerfielder may, in fact, be one of the 5 or 10 fastest players in the history of the game. He is also a Gold Glove level defender regardless of where he plays.
One would hope Hamilton, who has almost no power, could at least use his speed to get on base at a decent clip. But too many of his years have looked like 2015 where he only hit .226 over 454 ABs with 4 homers and 28 RBIs.
Alcides Escobar – 2013 – Kansas City Royals
Alcides Escobar is a great defensive player. A game-changing shortstop who was awarded the American League’s Gold Glove Award in 2015. That defensive ability, along with speed on the basepaths, led to plenty of playing time.
The offensive side of the ball (with the exception of 2012 and 2014) has been problematic for Escobar. The 2013 season stands out as particularly bad. Over 642 plate appearances, he hit only .234 and drew a total of 19 walks.
Cesar Izturis – 2010 – Baltimore Orioles
Like many of the other hitters on this list, Cesar Izturis was a slick-fielding middle infielder. The Baltimore Oriole made the All-Star game in 2005 and also won a Gold Glove in 2004.
The bat for Izturis was never all that good, though he provided speed and smart base running when he could get on base. He didn’t do that much in 2010 when he only had a .277 OBP and Slugged .268. The two numbers combine for an astonishing .507 OPS.
Willy Taveras – 2008 – Colorado Rockies
Willy Taveras certainly wasn’t an everyday player because he hit for power. The outfielder only slugged 8 home runs over his career 2,644 plate appearances. He was in the lineup because of his strong defense and elite speed.
That elite speed, though, came at a cost. Taveras might have stolen 68 bases during the 2008 season, but his hitting was terrible that year. The outfielder only got only achieved a .296 slugging percentage that year and got on base at a .308 clip.
Nick Punto – 2007 – Minnesota Twins
Every team has a 25th guy. For some clubs, that guy is a 3rd catcher, but for others, it’s a jack of all trades kind of guy. Nick Punto, who could play nearly every position, was this guy for the 2007 Twins.
He was fine as a backup, but if he was pressed into full-time service, it didn’t really go well. After a solid 2006 season, Punto hit only .210 over 536 at-bats. He also provided no power launching only one longball.
Clint Barmes – 2006 – Colorado Rockies
There are few bigger advantages for a player than playing 81 of their games at the hitting paradise known as Coors Field. Clint Barmes had a really solid 2005 half-season for the Rockies batting .289 with 10 homers.
Colorado didn’t think twice about making him an everyday player in 2006. Maybe they should have. Barmes only batted .220 over his 535 at-bats. His power was also way down as he only hit 7 homers with 56 RBIs.
Ronny Cedeno – 2006 – Chicago Cubs
Signed as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela in 1999, Ronny Cedeno impressed many in the Cubs farm system. By the 2005 season, he had convinced that team that he was ready to be their everyday shortstop.
The immediate returns for Cedeno, though, were quite bad. The shortstop fielded his position well but was completely allergic to walks compiling only a .271 OBP. After his miserable 572 plate appearances, Cedeno spent most of 2007 back in the minor leagues.
Angel Berroa – 2006 – Kansas City Royals
The Royals really thought they had something with Angel Berroa in 2003. The American League Rookie of the Year was not only a fine defender at short, but he also hit 17 homers and stole 21 bases.
By the time 2006 came around, though, that season seemed like a lifetime ago. In that year, Berroa only managed to hit .234, amassing an OPS of .592. The former power and speed combination was no longer present as he socked 9 homers and only stole 3 bases.
Brad Ausmus – 2006 – Houston Astros
Brad Ausmus was Mr. Intangibles for a few teams, but most prominently the Houston Astros. And these intangibles made him a solid backstop and also a sought after leader who later managed the Detroit Tigers and Anaheim Angels.
And the glove was good and the bat was bad. Ausmus almost made this list twice, as his 2003 season was also awful. But in 2006 he only hit .230 for the Astros, with a .308 on-base percentage and a .285 slugging percentage.
Juan Uribe – 2002 – Colorado Rockies
Juan Uribe played for a long time in the major leagues. He was lauded as a very positive clubhouse leader who could play a number of different positions and also provide a fair amount of power.
Uribe who hit a grand total of 199 home runs in his career had a rough start. His worst year was his second, in 2002 with the Colorado Rockies. Over a total of 618 at-bats, the shortstop only hit 6 homers and had an OPS of .627.
Neifi Perez – 2002 – Kansas City Royals
Neifi Perez began his career as an infielder for the Colorado Rockies. He regularly put the bat on the ball providing decent power and an excellent glove. Perez had a huge year in 1999 when he hit .280 and scored 108 runs.
Leaving Colorado, though, was bad for Perez’s career. He totally bottomed out in 2002 when playing for the Kansas City Royals. That season, Neifi only hit 3 home runs, getting on base at a .260 clip and only slugging .303.
Michael Barrett – 2000 – Montreal Expos
More than any other position, catchers can provide a little less offense and still be considered important cogs in the lineup. The value they provide by calling a good game and throwing out baserunners can sometimes supersede offensive value.
Michael Barrett had some real struggles with the bat early in his career. He was awful in 2000 hitting with only .214 with 1 home run. 2001 might have been even worse with 6 home runs and a .289 on-base percentage. He did, however, become an above-average hitter later in his career.
Chris Gomez – 1997 – San Diego Padres
There’s something in baseball called a “good field no hit” shortstop. There have been many of these players who started off defensive stars and then developed into pretty good hitters. Think Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel.
Chris Gomez was neither a good hitter or a good fielder. Despite this, he still somehow lasted 15 years in the majors. The worst season at the bat for Gomez was 1997 which saw him put up an OPS of .634.
Rico Brogna – 1997 – Philadelphia Phillies –
Rico Brogna was a bit of a throwback first baseman. He could field his position reasonably well, had some power, and his smooth lefty swing allowed him to drive the ball from gap to gap.
He had some very nice years with the Mets before joining up with the Phillies. He had a terrible season in 1997. While the numbers didn’t look bad on the outset, .252 with 20 homers and 81 RBI’s, they fell far below the average during this time of the offensive explosion.
Alvin Davis – 1991 – Seattle Mariners
The designated hitter was introduced into baseball during the 1973 season, giving American League teams have a rare opportunity. The minor leagues are dotted with players who don’t have a place on the field but can really rip the ball.
In his first 7 seasons, Davis has performed like a star-level player providing a nice blend of tremendous plate discipline and above-average power. It all fell apart in ’91, though, as the DH only slugged 12 home runs over 528 plate appearances while only batting .221.
Dave Kingman – 1986 – Oakland A’s
Dave Kingman was long known as one of the more unlikeable players in baseball. That didn’t matter much, though, when he was putting up 40+ homerun seasons while also drawing fair amount of walks.
Kingman was headed towards the end of his career during the 1986 season. He always had a lot of swing and miss to his game and that showed up big as his bat speed began to decline. In 1986, the slugger still provided power with 35 homeruns, but only hit .210.
Ken Reitz – 1975 – St. Louis Cardinals
The corners of a baseball field, talking first base, third base, left field, right field, are where teams like to put players with power. If you’re playing 3rd and you don’t have a big bat, you probably have a very slick glove.
Ken Reitz, who played for the Cardinals during the 1970s had neither a good glove or a power bat. His worst season came in 1975 when he fell far below league average with a .298 OPB, 5 homers and only 63 RBI in 627 at-bats.
Lou Piniella – 1973 – New York Yankees
Most fans remember Lou Piniella as a standout manager for the Yankees, Reds, Mariners and Devil Rays. At one time, though, he was a pretty good outfielder for the Orioles, Royals, and Yankees.
While he didn’t have a lot of power, he usually hit for a high average. But when he didn’t hit for a high average the lack of power was magnified. His worst season game in 1973 when he only got on base at a .291 clip and hit only 9 home runs.