When we last checked in with White Sox outfielder Daniel Palka, he had just a prolonged hitless streak spanning 41 plate appearances. After he finally got a hit to end his skid (and made outs in his next two trips to the dish), the White Sox optioned him to Triple-A Charlotte. Palka’s streak occurred around the same time as the more well-known Chris Davis was setting a record in that field. Davis ended up going 62 consecutive PA without a hit.
Palka returned to the majors briefly in late June, appearing in four games and amassing 10 hitless plate appearances before returning to the minors. After rosters expanded on September 1, the White Sox brought Palka back to the bigs for a third time this year. Entering Thursday afternoon’s action against the Royals, Palka had nine more consecutive hitless plate appearances in this latest stint, meaning he had a total streak of 21 consecutive hitless plate appearances. Not quite as long as the ignominious streak that dated back to his final two plate appearances of the 2018 season, but painful nevertheless.
Palka was included in Thursday’s starting lineup, batting sixth and playing right field. He flied out in the second inning and grounded out in the fourth, running his streak up to 23 games. In the sixth, after James McCann led off with a double, Palka hit a grounder to Whit Merrifield who was playing in shallow right field. Merrifield’s off-balance throw was not in time, so Palka moved McCann over to third base and reached safely himself, ending his latest skid of 23 consecutive PA without a hit.
According to MLB.com’s Mike Petriello, who made use of Baseball Reference’s Play Index, no other player has accrued 60 or more trips to the plate in a season with one or zero hits. After the single, Palka brought his slash line up to .035/.141/.035 on the season. He has two RBI and zero runs scored across 64 PA. Last year, in his rookie season, Palka posted a slugging-heavy .240/.294/.484 line with 27 home runs, 67 RBI, and 56 runs scored in 449 PA. As Petriello points out, Palka has been striking out a lot and in the rare moments he does make contact, it’s usually a ground ball. But for him to go from a 110 OPS+ to this is just wild.