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Tuesday, August 30, 2011
In search of the worst cleanup hitters

By David Schoenfield

Fifty-four different players have batted at least 100 times in the cleanup spot this season. Seattle's Miguel Olivo has been the worst, hitting .187/.224/.287 in 150 at-bats. The Mets' Jason Bay hasn't been much better, posting a .528 OPS in 86 at-bats (he hasn't homered). Adam LaRoche hit .186 for the Nationals. Jack Cust hit .205 for the Mariners. Justin Morneau has one home run in 182 at-bats while batting cleanup.

How do those compare to the worst cleanup hitters ever? As it turns out, Olivo and Bay are among the worst ever (or at least since 1974). Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Info, here are the five worst OPS totals while hitting cleanup since 1974 (minimum of 100 plate appearances).

5. Greg Vaughn, 1995 Brewers: 181 PAs, .177/.276/.266 (.542 OPS)

At least it made sense that Vaughn was hitting cleanup. He'd hit 30 home runs in 1993, 19 in the strike-shortened 1994 season and would hit 41 in 1996. He started the season in the four-hole but was hitting .229 with two home runs by mid-May and moved temporarily out of the cleanup spot. He hit .224/.317/.408 overall, he just never hit when batting fourth.

4. Dave Hostetler, 1983 Rangers: 160 PAs, .163/.288/.252 (.538 OPS)

Hostetler had showed promise as a rookie in 1983, hitting 22 home runs in 418 at-bats. Entrusted with the cleanup spot in '83, he flopped and his major league career was over by 1984 other than a brief appearance in 1988.

3. Joe Rudi, 1978 Angels: 182 PAs, .202/.254/.280 (.534 OPS)

Rudi was a good player, a guy who twice finished second in the MVP vote. Part of the first free-agency class in 1977, he signed with the Angels but spent much of the season on the DL. He began 1978 as the team's No. 4 hitter, didn't hit, and spent most of the season hitting fifth. He finished the year .256/.295/.416.

2. Pat Putnam, 1984 Mariners/Twins: 153 PAs, .177/.229/.227 (.456 OPS)

I remember this one. Putnam had been the Mariners' team MVP in 1983, which wasn't saying much since that team lost 102 games. It was his last bit of glory, as 1984 would be his final season in the majors.

1. Glenn Adams, 1981 Twins: 105 PAs, .126/.200/.179 (.379 OPS)

Adams was a career .292 hitter, albeit with little power, entering the 1981 season. Adams was never the regular cleanup for any period of time as manager John Goryl and Billy Gardner struggled to find any offense on a team that finished the season hitting just .240 with 47 home runs in 110 games.

By the way, of the 25 lowest OPS totals from cleanup hitters since 1974, only one accumulated at least 300 plate appearances -- Jose Lopez, of the 2010 Mariners.

Yes, it's been a rough couple of seasons for Seattle fans.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.