Hitless Wonders – the 0 for 40 Club

Chris Davis earned some unwanted notoriety this month with the longest oh-fer in majors history, racking up 54 consecutive hitless AB before finally snapping the streak with a 3 for 5 game on April 13, leading the Orioles to a 9-5 win over the defending champion Red Sox. The other members of the 0 for 40 club are after the jump.

Davis’s record streak began at the tail end of his 2018 season in which he posted a .168 BA, the lowest qualified average in majors history. The Orioles are probably stuck with the 33 year-old, signed through 2022, unless he can regain the power stroke that saw him mash a majors-leading 164 homers from 2013 to 2016.

The table below shows the players, excluding pitchers, with 40 consecutive hitless AB, as recorded in the game logs available on baseball-reference.com.

Hitless AB Players
54 Chris Davis (2018-19)
46 Eugenio Velez (2010-11)
45 Dave Campbell (1973), Craig Counsell (2011)
44 Gus Gil (1967), Joe Keough (1969)
43 Dan Howitt (1992)
42 Hal Finney (1933-36), Tommy Dean (1970-71), Justin Ruggiano (2013)
41 Robin Ventura (1990)
40 Ray Oyler (1968-69), Andy Fox (2004)

Eugenio Velez‘s streak, the longest by a switch hitter, ended his career and included an 0 for 37 season in 2011. He was subsequently signed as a free agent by four teams, without ever returning to the majors.

Dave Campbell, his broadcasting days still ahead of him, managed to be traded twice during his streak, which ended with a pair of 2 for 4 games for the Astros in a double-header against the Padres, the team Campbell was playing for when his streak began.

Craig Counsell, with Andy Fox the only players on our list with two World Series rings, recorded his streak in his final season, in which he batted only .178, but a respectable .275 after snapping the streak.

Gus Gil recorded his streak in his rookie season for Cleveland, earning a demotion to the minors, but snapping the streak in his first game back after a September call-up. He finished his career with the Pilots and Brewers.

Joe Keough, brother of Marty and uncle of Matt, recorded his streak in his second season. He rebounded to bat .322 in 57 games the next year, the high point of his short career.

Dan Howitt‘s streak in 1992 was sandwiched by a .316 start in 7 games for the A’s, and a .385 finish in 8 games for the Mariners. He somehow became a free agent in the middle of the season and his streak, signing with Seattle and then earning a September call-up.

Hal Finney, brother of Lou, was a Pirate catcher who, unusually, was also used frequently as a pinch-runner. Like Velez, Finney’s streak ended his career, including an 0 for 35 for his final season.

Tommy Dean, no relation to Dizzy and Daffy, compiled his streak while teaming with Dave Campbell on the 1970-71 Padres. Dean had made a promising start to his 1970 campaign, starting off 7 for 17 and batting .313 as late as June 5. But, from that point to the end of his career in 1971, he managed only .137 in 79 games.

Justin Ruggiano‘s streak in 2013 came on the heels of a promising 2012 season in which he batted .313 and slugged .535 in 91 games as a Marlins outfielder. With Miami having several promising outfield prospects, the 31 year-old Ruggiano was dealt to the Cubs where he enjoyed one decent season as a part-time player before bouncing around to close out his career.

Robin Ventura, the most notable of the players on our list, recorded his streak in his rookie season. The White Sox stuck with him and he closed out the year batting .268 in almost 500 PA after his skid. Ventura didn’t show a power stroke in that rookie year, managing just five HR, including the last hit before his streak and the hit that broke his oh-fer.

Ray Oyler, holder of the AL record for lowest career BA (min. 500 games) among non-pitchers, recorded his streak during the Tigers’ WS championship season (Oyler made four WS appearances but didn’t record an AB, so his streak continued to the following season). Oyler’s 0 for 37 slide is tied with Velez for the longest to close out a season though, unlike Velez, Oyler’s skid didn’t end his career.

Andy Fox snapped his slide with a hit in the last game of the 2004 season and, as it turned out, his career. Fox has the distinction of being the only player to bat under .200 in a 100 game rookie season, while playing for that season’s WS championship team (he also played in each round of post-season play for the 1996 Yankees).

Other notable hitless streaks:

  • Lou Camilli‘s 0 for 34 for the 1968-70 Indians is the longest streak to begin a career.
  • Mel Ott‘s 0 for 36 in 1946 is the longest by a HOFer, and by a player-manager.
  • Tommy Byrne showed up in my searches, even though I had excluded pitchers. As it turns out, Byrne posted an 0 for 41 from 1953 to 1957 when he was not pitching, with all of those non-pitching appearances coming as a pinch-hitter. But, the longest hitless streak as a pinch-hitter is 0 for 50 in 57 PH appearances for the Cubs and Phillies by Charlie Gilbert from 1942 to 1946, breaking the skid with 3 hits in 11 PH apperances in his final season in 1947.

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33 Comments on "Hitless Wonders – the 0 for 40 Club"

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Gary Bateman
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Joe Keough had a walk-off RBI single in the Kansas City Royals’ first ever game, April 8, 1969, a 4-3 12-inning win over the Twins. The Royals also walked-off a 17-inning affair the next day.

Keough had a three hit game against his old team the (hated) Oakland A’s on April 12th. Joe Gordon had him batting third before the hitless streak kicked in.

Doug
Guest

Those two games for KC were the second searchable time that a team has started the season with consecutive extra-inning walk-off wins. It’s happened four times since then, most recently by the 2014 Pirates, but no team has started a season with three such games in a row.

Richard Chester
Guest

Tommy Byrne’s last hit as a PH prior to the start of his streak was a game-winning HR against the Yankees on 5/16/1953.

no statistician but
Guest
Ray Oyler’s ineptitude at the plate in the year of the pitcher was actually not much worse than that of the other two shortstops the team tried out. Ray Oyler (70 starts at SS): BA .135; OPS+ 20 Tommy Matchick (48 starts): BA .203; OPS+ 60 Dick Tracewski (36 starts): BA .156; OPS+ 43 The team won the pennant by 12 games despite this huge gap in production (minus, by the way, the tremendous counterbalance of fielding prowess you might expect), and Don Wert at third base fit right in with the players to his left, batting .200 with an… Read more »
Bob Eno (epm)
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Oyler’s streak was notable too because most of its futility occurred in the culmination of a march to a championship by an original AL team, while the end occurred in the dawn of a brand new team, the Seattle Pilots, whose awfulness terminated its existence after a single season. Yet somehow Oyler fit well in both contexts. In ’68, someone had to hit .130-something to summon the ghost of Bill Bergen to the twilight of the second Deadball Era, and my experience in the Detroit area at that time was that Oyler (like Wert) was viewed as an integral member… Read more »
Doug
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In a year (’69) when the mound and strike zone were adjusted to aid hitters, Oyler still struck out 80 times, or 27.5% of his PA, almost twice the AL average. Together with Gus Gil on the left side of Seattle’s infield, the two “combined” for .799 OPS for Jul, Aug and Sep; that is, .430 for Gil plus .369 for Oyler.

Among the 24 pitchers Oyler faced at least 16 times in his career, he batted .300 against none of them, and .250 or better against only three.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
Really piling on poor Ray here, Doug! If you’d dropped the requirement just one PA in looking at pitchers, you’d have been reporting to astonished HHSers that the fearsome Oyler pounded Fritz Peterson at a .462 rate. And, somehow, Oyler managed to hit 7 HR for the Pilots, all in the season’s first half. His first, in the season’s fourth game, when he brought his BA up to .364 — powerful performance, but by season’s end he was .199 lower. But, serious for a moment, let’s not forget that Oyler somehow managed to avoid negative WAR despite a career 48… Read more »
Brendan Bingham
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On Don Wert: he finished the season with a 67 OPS+ in 1968, but he made the All-Star team and got one of the AL’s three hits in the game.

Voomo Zanzibar
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Ventura’s slash looked like this at the end of the streak, on the 9th of May:
.117 / .293 / .217 / .510

He had 7 hits and 14 walks.

He was a 1st round draft pick, and the Blanco Calcetines were committed to him, having moved Carlos Martinez to 1st base.
Later in the year, Martinez would get bumped off the bag by another rookie: Frank Thomas.

Chicago jumped from 69 to 94 wins that year, and easily had the 2nd best record in the AL.
Unfortunately, this was in the 2-playoff team days, and they were 9 games back of the Athletics.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Velez played 4 seasons at AAA after his o-fer, hitting (and running) well all four years.

Mike L
Guest

The amazing thing about that Mel Ott streak is that it came after a 1945 season (albeit wartime) where he had a .308/.411/.499 slash line. In 1946, Ott had five hits and eight walks in 78 PA. If you took out the 0-36, he would have been 5-32–still under .200.

no statistician but
Guest

On a related topic, what is the longest batting drought in the post-season? Gil Hodges went 0-for-24, his last AB in the 1949 Series, his futility in 21 ABs in the 1952 affair, and his first 2 in 1953. Has anyone bested (or ‘worsted’, although that’s quite a yarn) this streak?

Doug
Guest

Dan Wilson of the Mariners went 0 for 42 in the post-season from Oct 8, 1995 to Oct 17, 2000.

Marv Owen has the longest World Series drought at 0 for 31 in 1934-35.

Mike L
Guest

From NYT Obit for Marv Owen: “In 1934, he was involved in the first ejection of a player from a World Series game Owen accidentally stepped on Joe (Ducky) Medwick’s foot as Owen was fielding a throw. Medwick starting kicking at Owen and the two players got ready to exchange punches. No blows were thrown, but angry Detroit fans refused to let Medwick take the field. Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who was attending the game, ejected Medwick.”

no statistician but
Guest

Tommy Byrne, mentioned in your footnote, was actually pretty good with the bat—except when he was pinch-hitting. Hit .261 when in the lineup, .091 as a PH. OPS+ of 77 overall. Very similar to Bob Lemon, except that Lemon was a good pinch-hitter.

no statistician but
Guest
Some notes on the season thusfar: The World Champion Red Sox are 10-15, slumping incredibly without the excuse of the Yanks with their injury epidemic. Chris Sale—the question is, is he done? The injury suffered last August turned him into a different, lesser pitcher when he came back, and this season he has a 7.43 ERA in five starts. The real sign is this: 24 SOs in 28 IP vs, 237 in 158 in 2018. All that all-out flame-throwing for the previous seven years doesn’t seem likely in his future. The team’s bats have come awake in the last few… Read more »
Bob Eno (epm)
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Thanks for the summary, nsb. There’s interesting stuff in here I had not noted. When you mentioned Tampa Bay it occurred to me that we haven’t yet discussed the changes to bWAR on the B-R site this year, as it relates to Tampa’s pitching staff. All the changes are discussed on a B-R page called 2019 WAR Updates. In terms of Tampa, B-R now has reanalyzed its pitching stats to recognize Kevin Cash’s strategy. It no longer classifies pitchers like Stanek as “Starters,” they are called “Openers,” and are treated like relief pitchers in WAR calculations. The guy who actually… Read more »
Mike L
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Brian Cashman strained an oblique when reaching for his phone to find another reclamation project. The injury wasn’t thought to be serious, but he tightened up overnight and the Yankees will send him for an MRI. Right now, he’s expected to miss a few days….

no statistician but
Guest

Error alert: BoSox ERA+ is 86, not OPS+.

Richard Chester
Guest

As long as we’re in a lull right now I thought I’d post an off-topic comment of mine that I posted on Twitter and got a huge response.

The most common starting line-up by player position in the AL, NL and FL from 1901-2018 is the following: CF-2B-RF-LF-1B-3B-SS-C-P. It occurred 788 times.

no statistician but
Guest

I’m sure the tools exist to correlate this or some other lineup with other stats by position, notably OPS+, SB, HR, BA, BB.

Somehow, out of all the games played—how many? 400,000 or so? my math may be off—788 as the maximum for the lineup most used seems a low figure.

Richard Chester
Guest

I extracted my lineup data from retrosheet gamelogs which has the data from 1907 and on. There have been 384,578 team games. Without the DH there are 362,880 permutations and with the DH there are 3,628,800 permutations if I have done my math correctly. The number of actual realized permutations is 51,701.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
I’m like you, nsb. I’d have thought there would be thousands of examples of some single, most popular line-up, and I’d bet most fans would have the same reaction. But the more I think about it, the more the actual figure makes sense. What we should expect to see are actually very high incidences of logical combinations of the OPS+, SB, etc., calculations you refer to that go into line-up choices. (We all can state them pretty generically — speed or patience guy; bat control guy; higher average power hitter, lower average power hitter, etc., down to banjo hitter, pitcher),… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

If you look on baseball reference at any random team’s players’ season totals for R and RBI, you can almost predict the most common batting order position for each “regular/starter”. As far as Richard’s search for the most common batting order, I imagine the genius of LaRussa and Maddon batting the pitcher 8th might just ensure, for quite a while, that the 788 times for the most common lineup holds up for another generation?

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

Well,Richard’s order is now practically confined to the NL (AL only in half of inter-league games), but the pitcher placement issue is not a common one — the pitcher normally still bats ninth — so I’m sure there will continue to be instances of Richard’s order increasing that total. The major factor slowing it was surely the 1973 institution of the DH rule, but that would have slowed all traditional line-up order leaders equally, and it’s unlikely a DH-based order will ever catch up so long as the NL continues to play real baseball.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Brandon Workman is off to an historic start for the Bloody Sox

13.2 IP
2 H
12 BB

6x BB to H has never been sustained over a season of more than 10 IP.
So we’ll see.

The only pitcher to have 4x was Dave DeBusschere.
5 hits and 23 walks in an 18 IP rookie effort.

That was the beginning of a 4-year stint as a two-way player, his winter job being in the NBA.
Ended up having a fair amount of success with the big orange ball.
_____

Dishonorable mention to the once-great Rob Dibble, whose last year in the bigs looked like:
26 IP
16 H
46 BB

Doug
Guest

Voomo,

I admire your keen eye for the telling detail.

oneblankspace
Guest

Ventura had a 58-game hitting streak as a sophomore at Oklahoma State.

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