Friday, September 01, 2006

Worst. Hitter. Ever.

I've always been fascinated by Bill Bergen, a turn-of-the-century National League catcher. In 1903, Bergen hit .227/.252/.266 in 58 games. He managed 0 home runs, just 6 extra base hits and 7 walks. Remember how bad Tony Womack was as a Yankee? It still beats this monstrosity from Bergen.

Why do I mention this? Because 1903 was Bergen's best season.

Bergen played eleven seasons, and only once did he garner less than 200 AB. In fact, he racked up 3028 AB in the majors, about as many as Vernon Wells. His career batting average of .170 is a full 40 points lower than anyone else's. Who is second? Cy Young. Yes, that Cy Young.

Bergen holds the same 40 point edge on Cy Young in OBP, and his .201 slugging percentage is 58 points lower than Dal Maxvill's, a shortstop for the Cardinals in the '60s & '70s. His OPS is 395 (seriously) which is 121 points lower than Young's and 134 points lower than Hal Lanier's. There are 77 players in history with a higher OBP than his OPS.

There's really no area of hitting that Bergen isn't the worst in. He has the lowest isolated power ever, the lowest secondary average, the fewest walks of any player with at least 3000 AB.

His offensive winning percentage is .098, handily besting Hal Lanier's second-place OWP of .200. That means that if you had a team with average pitching, average defense, and a lineup of nine Bill Bergens, they would have an .098 winning %, which works out to 16-146. Consider that the infamous 1899 Clevaland Spiders were 20-134 (.130) and they didn't have the advantage of an average pitching staff and defense.

1903 was Bergen's only year above the Mendoza Line. Amazingly, Brooklyn actually bought him from Cincinnati that offseason. It's not like they were fooled by that career year and quickly regretted it--Bergen would be their starting catcher for the next eight years.

In 1909, Bergen put up an OPS of 319, the same year that Honus Wagner paced the league with a .339 batting average. His final season, 1911, featured a line of .132/.182/154. His OPS+ (which is a ratio of his OPS v. the league's) was -4. Negative four. That's not a typo--that's statistical comedy.

Checking out Bergen's B-R page has always been great fun, until the other day when I noticed the phrase "Brother of Marty Bergen."

A brother who also played baseball? This seemed like a promising development. And at first glance, it was. Marty was also a catcher without much of a bat, though by no means as futile as Bill. More intriguing is the fact that nobody knows if he batted lefty or righty. But what really catches one's attention is this:

Final Game: October 15, 1899
Died: January 11, 1900.

What ended Marty's life at 28? The answer lies here:
Marty Bergen died in 1900 after slitting his throat with a razor. Before his suicide, he murdered his wife and two children with an ax.
Oh. Amazingly, this sort of thing wasn't all that uncommon in those days. In the New Bill James Historical Abstract (p. 87-88), James includes a partial list of baseball suicides from 1900-1925. There were 27 of them, including Marty Bergen, many of them also of the murder/suicide variety. At least Detroit pitcher Win Mercer "left a suicide note warning of the evils of women and gambling."

43 comments:

Jeteupthemiddle said...

Yeah, you are a baseball encyclopedia. No question about it. I am convinced. There is not one random fact you do not know at least something about.

Steve1Aberdeen said...

I found this site looking for a list, or at least possibly the worst hitter of all-time. Well I have found my answer. Period. Bill Bergen ended the discussion once and for all. thanks for the info.

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