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The Best Hitters of All Time (Minimum 1 PA)

A player who gets a hit in the first plate appearance of his career has a career batting average of 1.000 at that very moment in time. That is the highest possible batting average, so why is this player not considered to be an all-time great at this moment? The answer is obvious, the sample size is entirely too small to accurately judge how good the player is. That, after all, is why 502 plate appearances are required to qualify for the batting title in any given year. What if sample size didn’t matter, and we just blinding trusted what the average-based statistics told us? The result would be a group of players, that likely nobody outside of their family has ever heard of, as the all-time greatest hitters. The following is the list of the four players tied at the top of the all time OPS list with no plate appearance requirement.

Eduardo Rodriguez – OPS of 4.000

To start our list is the only player that might have any sort of recognition. This is not the Eduardo Rodriguez that is currently playing in the MLB (if that were true, his career OPS obviously would not be set in stone). This Eduardo Rodriguez played from 1973-1979 and pitched 734 career innings. In 7 seasons he accumulated 5.0 bWAR as mostly a relief pitcher. Relief pitchers are barely ever given the chance to bat, and on top of that Rodriguez played in the American League his entire career. It is somewhat surprising that he was able to step up to the plate at all in his career. Like all four of the players on this list, he only logged one career plate appearance. Also like all of the players on this list, he did it by hitting a triple (hitting a triple is the only way to accumulate a 4.000 OPS in only one plate appearance). Rodriguez had a seven year career where he never had an ERA higher than 5.00, so he can probably see this stat and laugh at it, when in the grand scheme of his career its very irrelevant. For the other three guys on this list, its about all they have.

Eric Cammack – OPS of 4.000

Like Rodriguez, Eric Cammack was a relief pitcher. Unlike Rodriguez, Cammack only pitched 10 innings in his entire one year career. Cammack made it, and that is certainly an accomplishment, but once he got their he had an extremely forgettable career. What he may or may not know about his short-lived career is that he is tied for the highest career OPS of all time. The most interesting thing about this is that in only 8 career games, Cammack was able to step up to the plate the same amount of times as Rodriguez, the seven year vet. He did play in the National League, but like I said, rarely do relief pitchers ever get the chance to bat. For the situation however, it does make sense. Cammack came in to pitch the 8th inning and eventually finish the 11-2 win over the marlins. Unfortunately, this game was played in Miami, and only less than 15,000 fans were able to see the rookie relief pitcher club a triple in the top of the ninth. Two months after what would become the highlight of his career, Cammack came in to finish another 11-2 win over Montreal. He would never play another game in his career.

Scott Munninghoff – OPS of 4.000

Scott Munninghoff was easily a more effective pitcher than Cammack. In only 6 career innings, Munninghoff doubled Cammack’s career bWAR (0.2 to 0.1). All jokes aside, Munninghoff and Cammack had very similar careers, both making less than ten appearances in their one year careers. It is all the more interesting that they share this career OPS crown as well (it is also a weird coincidence that both are listed at the same weight during their player careers, but that is not very relevant to this article). What is more interesting about Munninghoff’s story is that it was a much less conventional scenario for him to be in this game to begin with. The final score of this game was a 14-8 Philadelphia (Munninghoff’s team) win. Seeing that would make one think that he was only in the game for mop up duty. That is true, but the opposite kind of mop up duty. The Phillies starter Dick Ruthven allowed six innings in the second inning, allowing the Mets to take a 6-2 lead. Munninghoff came into the game in his second career appearance to provide some length out of the pen. He pitched three innings, and in order for that to be possible he had to hit one time. The rest is history as Munninghoff hit himself into the record books with a triple. Interesting enough, he was pinch hit for in his next at bat, and pinch hitter George Vukovich also hit a triple. This helped the Phillies to tie the game at 8 and with 6 runs in the bottom of the eighth, win the game.

Charlie Lindstrom – OPS of 4.000 

Lastly on our list is the only position player of the bunch, Charlie Lindstrom. Also the oldest of the group, Lindstrom played his one season in 1958 for the Chicago White Sox, his hometown team. It is especially embarrassing that Lindstrom only got one plate appearance, given that it was actually his job, unlike the relief pitchers. What is more surprising is that he was never again given the chance to bat. For pitchers, the triple is easily dismissed as a fluke, because hitting is not the reason they are in the league to begin with. Lindstrom was a catcher, so it is possible he was only needed for his defense, but he showed the manager something with his bat. Every other position player in history that hit a triple or home run in their first plate appearance was given at least one more chance to bat (otherwise, they would be on this list). It begs the question, was there really anything more Lindstrom could have done to stay in the league? Cammack and Munninghoff were let go because they weren’t good enough pitchers, but this guy’s job was largely to hit. It probably tells us that Lindstrom’s career was doomed from the start. On the bright side however, he would most likely not be among the royalty on this list if he had gotten to step up to the plate again. This occurrence was even more of a tragedy than Cammack’s, whose was only seen by roughly 15,000 people. Lindstrom did his magic in 1958, in front of only roughly 4,000 people.

Considering that only four players have ever done this before, its extremely unlikely that we will see this again in the near future. It is near impossible that this will ever happen again for a position player, so the 4,174 people in Comiskey Park I that day saw what is a tragically overlooked event in the history of Major League Baseball.

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Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

Peter Khayat

I’m a high school student from Shaker Heights, OH, and a huge Indians fan. I write a lot about my Indians, baseball history, and the league in general. Follow me on Twitter: @xwOBA

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