Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pitchers' hitting-Can you hit better than a utility guy?

The previous post discussed my view that baseball should keep the DH.

In looking up the batting stats of two pitchers who are well-known as guys who can swing the stick, I noticed that Mike Hampton and Dontrelle Willis have career OPS+ of 67. So I wondered-how do even the best-hitting pitchers hit compared with notoriously weak-hitting position players?

Let's use the Mendoza Line man himself, Mario Mendoza, as our baseline, and another couple notorious all-glove, no-hit types, then some renowned good-hitting pitchers. I'll list the player or pitcher, his career OPS+, and other notable hitting stats for that guy.

M. Mendoza: 41 OPS+; 4 HR in nine seasons.

B. Wine:  55 OPS+; he hit 30 HR in his 12 year career, which amazes me.

M. Belanger: 68 OPS+; Mark had one (exactly) 100 OPS+ season, 1976, whn he hit .270 with 51 BB. He wasn't a utility guy, of course, but the best SS of his generation.

To the pitchers:

I've already mentioned Willis and Hampton, who had career OPS+ of 67.

D. Drysdale: 45 OPS+; he did hit .300, with 7 HR and 19 RBI in 1965. He also had 7 HR in 66 AB in 1958.

R. Rhoden:  59 OPS+; he had several impressive hitting years, including 1984, when he hit .333 in 84 AB. The Pirates always seemed to have a lot of pitchers who could hit in that period.

S. Carlton:  33 OPS+; surprisingly low, but then again, Lefty never put any more effort into hitting or baserunning than absolutely necessary. He saved his energy for the mound. He did hit a memorable playoff HR against the Dodgers in 1978.

D. Newcombe:  85 OPS+; Newk is probably the first guy that comes to mind when you think of pitchers who can rip, and he lives up to his rep. Unlike some other pitchers who can handle the bat, he was mostly a singles hitter, except for 1955 (that magical year for the Dodgers), when he hit seven HR. Newk is still alive, one of the last of The Boys of Summer still with us-Duke Snider, Don Zimmer, and Sandy Koufax (who did make 12 appearances with the '55 club) among the few others. And Vin Scully, of course!

This is just a quicky look at the subject, but it is interesting to note that even someone like Don Newcombe was a below-average hitter, compared with all batters. Most teams are like the '09 Phillies, where most of the pitchers actually have negative OPS+'s. Who wants to watch that?

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