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Stat corner: Is Chris Davis the worst hitter ever?

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Chris Davis went hitless in an MLB record 54 straight at-bats, across last season and this one.
(Greg Fiume / Getty Images)

OPS+ is a stat that compares a player’s on-base plus slugging percentages and compares then to what an average player in the league hit that same season. It’s a stat that allows us to compare players from different eras. An OPS+ of 100 means the player was at the league average. An OPS+ of 110 means a player was 10% better than average, 120 means 20%, etc. Conversely, an OPS+ of 90 means a player was 10% worse, 80 means 20% worse, and so on. OPS+ also includes a home park factor, so a hitter who plays in a hitters’ park will get a slightly lower score than a hitter who plays in a pitchers park if their stats were identical.

Chris Davis of Baltimore has played in 13 of the Orioles’ 15 games this season and finally got his first hit of the season on Saturday, ending an 0 for 54 streak spread over two seasons. He went three for five, making him three for 38 (.079) this season. This comes on the heels of a 2018 season in which he hit .168, the lowest average in history for anyone who qualified for the batting title. But what did that mean in OPS+? Let’s take a look at the 10 worst OPS+ numbers for players who had at least 502 plate appearances since 1901 and the 10 worst since 1950.

Since 1901

1. Jim Levey, 1933 St. Louis Browns, 24 OPS+ (.195/.237/.240)

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2. Skeeter Newsome, 1936 Philadelphia A’s, 33 OPS+ (.225/.266/.265)

3. Art Scharein, 1933 St. Louis Browns, 34 OPS+ (.204/.269/.244)

4. Bill Hallman, 1901 Philadelphia Phillies, 36 OPS+ (.185/.238/.235)

5. Billy Hunter, 1953 St. Louis Browns, 37 OPS+ (.219/.253/.259)

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6. John Gochnaur, 1902 Cleveland Indians, 37 OPS+ (.185/.247/.237)

7. Hal Lanier, 1968 San Francisco Giants, 38 OPS+ (.206/.222/.239)

8. Leo Durocher, 1937 St. Louis Cardinals, 38 OPS+ (.203/.262/.245)

9. Boze Berger, 1938 Chicago White Sox, 40 OPS+ (.217/.284/.281)

10. Hal Lanier, 1967 San Francisco Giants, 42 OPS+ (.213/.239/.255)

Since 1950

1. Billy Hunter, 1953 St. Louis Browns, 37 OPS+ (.219/.253/.259)

2. Hal Lanier, 1968 San Francisco Giants, 38 OPS+ (.206/.222/.239)

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3. Hal Lanier, 1967 San Francisco Giants, 42 OPS+ (.213/.239/.255)

4. Sparky Anderson, 1959 Philadelphia Phillies. 43 OPS+ (.218/.282/.249)

5. Neifi Perez, 2002 Kansas City Royals, 44 OPS+ (.236/.260/.303)

6. Alfredo Griffin, 1990 Dodgers, 44 OPS+ (.210/.258/.254)

7. Tim Johnson, 1973 Milwaukee Brewers, 44 OPS+ (.213/.259/.243)

8. Tommy Helms, 1970 Cincinnati Reds, 44 OPS+ (.237/.262/.282)

9. Hal Lanier, 1969 San Francisco Giants, 46 OPS+ (.228/.263/.251)

10. Clint Barmes, 2006 Colorado Rockies, 47 OPS+ (.220/.264/.335)

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Davis’ 2018 OPS+ of 49 makes him the 16th-worst hitter since 1950 and the 33rd-worst since 1901. He’s got a ways to go before he can be considered worse than Hal Lanier, who had three of the worst offensive seasons in history, though he was also considered to be one of the finest fielders of all time.


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