Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dal Maxvill, 1970 St. Louis Cardinals

The surprisingly gaunt Maxvill (5’11, 160 lbs) is, to borrow a cliché, a St. Louis institution. A product of Washington University-St. Louis, this longtime Cardinals utility infielder (and short-time Athletics and Pirates stopgap) ground out 14 seasons in the show, accumulating 3898 plate appearances at a ridiculously low 57 OPS+. Whatever gains the excellent Gibson/Brock-era Cardinals believed they were getting from Maxvill’s glove were surely defaulted by virtue of what Jim Bouton might call his “cancer bat.” Maxvill was, for a full-time player, a historically bad hitter. He was worse (I’m guessing) than Mark Belanger (68 career OPS+), Neifi Perez (64 OPS+), and the other poor-hitting, slick fielding middle infielders we so enjoy mocking. In 1965, Maxvill accumulated an OPS+ of 11 in 98 plate appearances. Eleven. Think about it. As bad as that season was, however, Maxvill’s nadir surely came in 1970 when he was serving as the starting shortstop for a disappointing 76-86 Cardinals team that was just two years removed from a World Series appearance (the Cardinals lost to the Tigers in 7, of course, with Maxvill going a predictable 0 for 22 against a formidable Detroit staff). In 1970, Maxvill was also personally two years removed from “greatness” (of a sort), as he had won a Gold Glove and come 20th in MVP voting in ’68, finishing with a monster (for him) OPS+ of 91. Following this high point, though, Maxvill proved, beyond dispute, that he was a historically terrible hitter. Even in an extreme pitcher’s era, he was particularly bad at producing runs. In 1970, Dal proved his singular hitting badness by becoming the first player to accumulate fewer than 80 hits in over 150 games played. Maxvill racked up 466 plate appearances, exactly 80 hits, 5 doubles, 2 triples, and 0 home runs for an eye-popping .201/.287/.223 slash line…which was largely IN LINE WITH HIS CAREER NUMBERS! Yes, Maxvill was so bad a hitter that he set a record for hitting futility and it didn’t even result in a particularly “down” year. Given this amazing fact, one needn’t be surprised that, when Maxvill came up for Hall of Fame voting, he received exactly zero votes, finishing behind such luminaries as Jim Northup and Leo Cardenas (remember that name). Maxvill would have the last laugh, though, catching on as a coach with the A’s, Mets, Braves, and, of course, the Cardinals, before becoming the General Manager of the Cardinals between 1984 and 1994, delivering two World Series appearances (and two very narrow losses) to St. Louis in 1985 and 1987. Not bad for a cancer bat.

150+ G, 80- hits

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