September 29, 2011
Hank Aaron has been quoted as saying: "Guessing what the pitcher is going to throw is 80 percent of being a successful hitter. The other 20 percent is just execution."
A reserve infielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he set a Major League Baseball record Wednesday night, grounding out in his only at-bat to finish the 2011 season 0 for 37.
No hits. Thirty-seven at-bats. Never before in modern baseball history had a non-pitcher with that many at-bats gone hitless in a season. As Grant Bisbee of SB Nation noted in a Velez appreciation post on Sept. 1, Hal Finney went 0 for 35 for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1936.
But wait, there's more (or less)! Going back to 2010, Velez is hitless over his past 46 at-bats, which also is a record — in the view of some. Four players, including Milwaukee's Craig Counsell(notes) this season, had gone 0 for 45. In 1909, Brooklyn's Bill Bergen did likewise, as did San Diego/St. Louis/Houston's Dave Campbell (recently of ESPN) in 1973.
That's if you want to count a hitting streak (or a not-hitting streak) that covers two seasons. Some dubiously claimed that Jimmy Rollins(notes), who ended the 2005 season with hits in 36 straight games, was still pursuing Joe DiMaggio's 56-game streak when the 2006 season started. Hey, if the Cubs get to start every season 0-0, so do the players.
But 0 for an entire season? That's definitely a thing.
Velez came off the bench in most of his appearances this season, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly gave him a start a week ago Friday, when he went 0 for 3 to eclipse Finney's mark. As reporter Dylan Hernandez wrote in the Los Angeles Times, Mattingly faced a tough decision in the season's final days: Should he keep letting Velez swing away in pursuit of his first hit since May 2010?
Mattingly used Velez as an eighth-inning pinch hitter, offering the utility player a chance to hit his way out of an undesirable record. But the well-intentioned move backfired, as Velez hit into another ignoble record.
Ignoble? Au contraire! Velez is King of the Oh-Fers! And, hey, he drew two walks and somehow contributed an RBI this season. Take that, Finney (pictured). At least Velez got on, Mr. No On-Base Percentage!
The 0-for-37 streak might be upsetting, embarrassing and even depressing, but at least we'll know Velez for something other than his famous jersey misadventure.
Has someone been trying to tell Velez that he doesn't belong in the majors?
As Bisbee wrote, it would be a shame if he never got another chance to break his hitless streak. Velez is awesome in his own, unique way:
If you're not Giants or Dodgers fan, you might not have heard of him until just now, but he's amazing. He's fast, but he can't run the bases. He certainly can't bunt. You might think Steve Carlton holds the all-time record for pickoffs with 144. You'd be wrong. Velez has about 167 (rough estimate). He can't play second base or the outfield, which makes him like a Jack Cust(notes), but one who is routinely stuck at second base, or in the outfield. When Velez plays baseball, Hunter Pence(notes) stops to say, "My word, that Velez fellow is gangly and awkward."
And his middle name is "Vancomper." So that's the scouting report on Eugenio Velez. Will we ever see his likeness again?
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