Ben Revere and other Punch and Judy Hitters

Punch and Judy hitter. It’s an old-school phrase that you can find on the Wikipedia Glossary of Baseball. It references a popular puppet show dating back to the early 19th century that featured Mr. Punch striking his wife, Judy. Apparently domestic violence was funny. Mr. Punch couldn’t hit very hard, so the phrase Punch and Judy hitter was coined to describe someone with little power. About ten years ago some chatty umpire utilized the phrase to describe a base hit a little guy blooped off my six foot tall junior high self. Not too long after that I decided I was better at hitting baseballs than throwing them past hitters.

Anyways, I digress. Ben Revere went another season without hitting a home run, and he’s now up to 1400 major league plate appearances without a home run. He’s got five in 1755 minor league plate appearances. With that in mind, I attempted to find the ten best “Punch and Judy” seasons since 1999. Other than receiving enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title, hitting a home run was the only requirement. Here they are, sorted by OPS+.

Rk Player OPS+ ISO PA Year Age 2B 3B BA OBP SLG
1 Jamey Carroll 99 .058 510 2011 37 14 6 .290 .359 .347
2 Luis Castillo 98 .064 563 1999 23 23 4 .302 .384 .366
3 Reggie Willits 96 .051 518 2007 26 20 1 .293 .391 .344
4 Ben Revere 88 .049 553 2012 24 13 6 .294 .333 .342
5 Scott Podsednik 86 .059 568 2005 29 28 1 .290 .351 .349
6 Jason Kendall 80 .050 676 2005 31 28 1 .271 .345 .321
7 Juan Pierre 77 .060 729 2007 29 24 8 .293 .331 .353
8 Nyjer Morgan 73 .061 577 2010 29 17 7 .253 .319 .314
9 Elvis Andrus 72 .036 674 2010 21 15 3 .265 .342 .301
10 Rey Sanchez 64 .055 579 2001 33 18 6 .281 .300 .336
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/12/2013.

And the winner by a nose is Jamey Carroll. He didn’t hit any home runs in 2010 either, but managed a 100 OPS+ with over 414 plate appearances.

I was a little disappointed to see that a personal favorite of mine, Jason Tyner, did not qualify as he never received more than 420 plate appearances in a season. Tyner didn’t hit his first major league home run until plate appearance number 1,322. He hit four home runs in 5,372 professional plate appearances.

An interesting factoid is that Luis Castillo had a higher slugging percentage in 1999 than J.P. Arencibia did this year when he hit 21 home runs.

Here are some more interesting facts about players that didn’t hit home runs. Tom Oliver, who played from 1930 to 1933 is the all-time leader in plate appearances without hitting a home run. Revere is 7th on that list. The most single season WAR for a player that did not hit a home run is Nap Lajoie with 9.4 fWAR in 1906. Since 1920, it’s Ozzie Smith in 1987 with 6.3 fWAR. Of these powerless players, several of them carved out nice careers for themselves. Juan Pierre might have overstayed his welcome, but he had back-to-back seasons of at least 4 fWAR in 2003 and 2004. Elvis Andrus regressed a little this year, but he has 16 fWAR in five seasons, which is almost as many as the home runs (18) that he’s hit. Castillo had a career OBP of .368. Revere had a solid 2012 season. His 3 fWAR was more than Curtis Granderson, who tied for the AL lead in home runs with 43.  Before breaking his foot in 2013, he had a higher wRC+ (92) than Matt Wieters (86) who hit 22 home runs. The long ball is a lot of fun, but it’s not essential. There’s been a lot of emphasis on right-handed power this offseason, and for no good reason. Michael Morse and his 2.6 career fWAR will likely have a starting job in the outfield in 2014. The Arizona Diamondbacks gave up two solid prospects in Adam Eaton and Tyler Skaggs in exchange for Mark Trumbo of the .299 career OBP. And rumors are swirling that Nelson Cruz will get a multi-year deal in the range of $15 million per year. Maybe the phrase “chicks dig the long ball” should be replaced by “math-averse general managers dig the long ball.”
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