As you've probably heard by now, Andre Ethier is working on an 27-game hitting streak. His most recent single on Sunday wasn't clearly a hit, but it wasn't clearly not a hit, and given that the game took place in Los Angeles, the scorer's judgment was pretty predictable. The streak lives on, as the Dodgers prepare to take on the Cubs Monday night.
Ethier's hitting streak got me thinking about long hitting streaks in general. And thinking about long hitting streaks got me thinking about the worst hitters to ever have one. Which isn't to say that Ethier is a bad hitter; these were connected but separate thoughts. So to investigate, I went to the Baseball-Reference Play Index, which probably deserves its own holiday, and, after multiple attempts and refreshes, got a list of all the hitting streaks in Major League history that lasted at least 25 games. I then went down the list, player by player, and made a note of his career OPS+, and subsequently sorted the data in ascending order.
What follows, then, is a list of the five worst hitters in Major League history ever to have a hitting streak of at least 25 games, as measured by OPS+. Honorable mentions: the unfortunately named Dick Groat (89 OPS+), Roger Peckinpaugh (86), Sandy Alomar (86), Danny O'Connell (85) and Glenn Beckert (82). Off we go!
5. Rowland Office (80)
The only player in Major League history with the first name 'Rowland', and the only player in Major League history with the last name 'Office', Rowland Office was a fourth-round pick in 1970 and became the youngest player in the National League when he was called up to the Braves in 1972, at 19. He established himself as a regular in 1974, batted .290 in 1975, and, between 5/23 - 6/23 in 1976, hit safely in 29 consecutive games. In the 35 games prior to the streak, his batting average was .207. In the 35 games after the streak, his average was .220. Never a power hitter, Office's batting averages slipped after his early career peak, and he was essentially finished before his 28th birthday.
4. Mel Almada (79)
Born Baldomero Melo Almada Quiros, Almada was the first "Mexican national" to play in the Majors after his brother Lou made the Giants but subsequently suffered a preseason injury. Almada had little power, but he was a contact hitter with decent speed, and so he regularly hit for a good average, allowing him in 1938 to hit safely in 29 consecutive games between July 12 and August 11. That was part of a stretch in which he hit safely in 54 of 56 games. (Almost!) Despite a career .284 average, Almada was finished in the bigs by the time he turned 27 after a disastrous 1939 campaign. He later played for Sacramento in the Pacific Coast League and Torreon in the Mexican League.
3. John Flaherty (74)
Most who remember Flaherty remember him as a backup catcher, but it was not always so; over a six-year span near the start of his career, Flaherty played in 677 games, and in 1996, he hit safely in 27 straight between June 21 and July 27. That was the year Flaherty finished with his best single-season OPS+: 95. With ten career steals and three career triples, Flaherty's nickname of "Flash" can only be considered ironic. His Baseball-Reference biography page is two lines long. To this day, John Flaherty and Ichiro are tied in career-long hitting streak.
2. Joe McEwing (71)
McEwing came up as an unheralded Cardinals rookie in 1999 and batted .407 over his first 25 games. That was not his hitting streak. His hitting streak came over 25 games from June 8 through July 4 that summer. After that streak ended, he batted .223 for the rest of the season, and .222 in the next season, and although he broke out with the Mets in 2001, the success was short-lived, and McEwing posted a 573 OPS over the rest of his days before calling it quits (or having quits called for him). A little utility player with hustle like cheese on the Ritz cracker that was his ability level, McEwing was beloved by Tony La Russa, and he had obvious managerial potential from the get-go. He currently manages the AAA Charlotte Knights.
1. Willy Taveras (68)
Taveras' 30-game hitting streak from July 27 through August 27 in 2006 is tied for the sixth-longest hitting streak in the last 20 years. It's longer than Ichiro's longest hitting streak. It's longer than Manny Ramirez's longest hitting streak. It's as long as Albert Pujols' longest hitting streak. And it came in a year in which Taveras slugged .338. Devoid of power and plate discipline, Taveras was nevertheless fast enough to get himself to the top of a lineup, from where he put enough balls in play to get lucky. Generally unproductive all around, Taveras eventually played himself out of favor with Houston, and then Colorado, and then Cincinnati, and then Washington. He spent most of the 2010 season in AAA, where he posted a .571 OPS.