Is Lou Marson a Historic Non-Hitter?

Meet your brethren, Lou.

The last few days have seen a lot of shrill discussion about Lou Marson's inability to hit a baseball. A straightforward exercise: I went to B-Ref's Play Index and found all the players who started their career like Marson or significantly worse. This is a list of all the players who, over their first five seasons:

  • Played at least 185 games (Marson = 188)
  • Had an OBP and SLG of less than .310 (Marson = .295/.305)
  • Had an OPS+ under 75 (Marson = 68)
  • Worked primarily (more than 75% of games) as a catcher (Marson has never logged an inning anywhere else)

Rk Player G OBP SLG OPS+ From To Age PA AB 2B 3B HR BB SO OPS Tm
1 Jerry Grote 467 .293 .298 72 1963 1968 20-25 1517 1368 47 5 13 119 305 .590 HOU-NYM
2 Matt Walbeck 333 .277 .310 52 1993 1997 23-27 1190 1113 45 1 12 64 167 .587 CHC-MIN-DET
3 Mike Ryan 325 .251 .258 45 1964 1968 22-26 1091 1001 25 7 8 76 188 .509 BOS-PHI
4 Alan Ashby 324 .303 .303 72 1973 1977 21-25 1082 933 32 5 12 110 155 .606 CLE-TOR
5 Mickey Grasso 303 .291 .268 53 1950 1953 30-33 1016 927 23 1 4 77 104 .559 WSH
6 Jerry Zimmerman 295 .271 .248 43 1961 1965 26-30 665 596 14 1 1 38 72 .519 CIN-MIN
7 Rick Sweet 272 .292 .292 63 1978 1983 25-30 813 736 23 1 6 60 73 .584 SDP-TOT-SEA
8 Jeff Reed 260 .284 .292 58 1984 1988 21-25 742 668 29 3 4 58 89 .576 MIN-MON-TOT
9 Joel Skinner 249 .261 .301 51 1983 1987 22-26 639 589 19 2 9 36 162 .562 CHW-TOT-NYY
10 Jeff Torborg 243 .268 .281 63 1964 1968 22-26 657 602 15 3 6 42 98 .549 LAD
11 Bob Didier 242 .289 .277 56 1969 1973 20-24 820 737 25 4 0 57 71 .565 ATL-DET
12 Mike Sadek 237 .301 .286 63 1973 1978 27-32 570 500 18 3 3 58 48 .587 SFG
13 Rob Johnson 228 .275 .297 59 2007 2011 23-27 733 649 35 3 8 65 170 .573 SEA-SDP
14 Mike Brumley 224 .295 .294 67 1964 1966 25-27 731 660 24 2 5 60 89 .589 WSA
15 Tom Nieto 223 .277 .292 58 1984 1988 23-27 636 569 24 4 5 46 117 .569 STL-MON-MIN
16 Skip Jutze 212 .250 .247 42 1972 1976 26-30 590 547 12 3 0 27 74 .497 STL-HOU
17 Kirt Manwaring 206 .267 .278 58 1987 1991 21-25 566 514 20 3 1 22 75 .545 SFG
18 Luis Pujols 206 .239 .246 40 1977 1981 21-25 628 581 19 4 2 37 110 .485 HOU
19 Dave Skaggs 205 .309 .302 72 1977 1980 26-29 578 510 18 2 3 51 76 .610 BAL-TOT
20 Choo Choo Coleman 201 .266 .281 53 1961 1966 23-28 509 462 8 2 9 37 85 .548 PHI-NYM
21 Chad Kreuter 195 .303 .301 70 1988 1992 23-27 501 425 15 1 8 62 101 .605 TEX-DET
22 Mike Roarke 194 .296 .297 60 1961 1964 30-33 543 491 11 2 6 45 61 .594 DET
23 Junior Ortiz 192 .295 .306 68 1982 1986 22-26 512 481 17 0 1 22 82 .601 PIT-TOT-NYM
24 Lou Marson 188 .295 .305 68 2008 2011 22-25 642 570 31 2 5 60 146 .600 PHI-TOT-CLE
25 Bruce Kimm 186 .290 .292 63 1976 1980 25-29 484 439 19 1 1 32 50 .581 DET-CHC-CHW
Rk Player G OBP SLG OPS+ From To Age PA AB 2B 3B HR BB SO OPS Tm
26 Alberto Castillo 185 .310 .307 60 1995 1999 25-29 504 437 13 0 6 45 94 .616 NYM-STL
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/5/2011.

There are players who were at the end of the line after these short runs of struggling (Bruce Kimm), and there are players who grew into decent starting options later in their careers (Alan Ashby). I don't have time to dig through some of the more interesting trajectories (I hope somebody else will in the comments), or bring Marson's defense or minor league track record into the discussion. I just wanted to get out there who was really Marson's cohort so that others could tease out some implications.

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