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Pitcher as Position Player April 22, 2016

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Earlier this week, a reader found the World’s Worst Sports Blog by searching “Pitcher as Position Player.” While the WWSB is well-versed on position players hopping on the mound, there haven’t recently been many opportunities for pitchers to take the field. When they do, it’s often for strategic reasons.

Twice – in 2011 and 2012 – the Houston Astros’ Wesley Wright took the field to keep him in the game. Wright, a left-handed specialist, was noticeably better against lefties than righties. In 2011, his slash line against right-handers was .385/.429/.923 in 14 plate appearances. Against lefties, it was .067/.138/.067 in 30 plate appearances. I cannot emphasize how much Wesley Wright is two different pitchers depending on who he faces. The numbers weren’t as stark in 2012: .269/.367/.423 in 90 plate appearances against righties, .198/.265/.273 in 133 appearances against lefties. On August 23 of 2011, Houston manager Brad Mills put Wright in to pitch the 8th against the Colorado Rockies. Wright got Carlos Gonzales to pop out. Mills wanted a righty to face Troy Tulowitzki, so he stashed Wright in right field. Brian Bogusevic left the game to make room for Wright in the outfield and David Carpenter came in to face Tulowitzki. Carpenter induced a groundout, and then Wright came back to the hill to strike out Todd Helton with J.B. Shuck in right.

On July 27 of 2012, Wright did a similar shuffle: he came in in the 8th to get a groundout from Pittsburgh’s Alex Presley, but Brad Mills brought in Wilton Lopez to face Andrew McCutchen. Wilton replaced Wright on the mound with Ben Francisco leaving the game to make room for Wright. McCutchen doubled to center and Lopez left the game, so Bogusevic came in to play the field. Wright then took the mound again and got outs from Garrett Jones and Neil Walker, then from Pedro Alvarez in the ninth. (Interestingly, Bogusevic also hurled an inning in a blowout in 2012.)

Manager Bo Porter used fellow Astro Tony Sipp in the outfield twice in 2014, as well: right field on June 9 while Jerome Williams walked Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks, and left field six days later while Josh Zeid struck out the Rays’ Evan Longoria. Meanwhile, in 2010, pitchers Kyle Lohse and Roy Oswalt each spent some time in left field – 3 innings for Lohse and 2 for Oswalt – in extra-innings games. Neither had spent any time in the field in the minors.

Though an injury last year to David Wright made it look like the Mets might have to use Jacob deGrom as a shortstop, the Mets settled on putting catcher Anthony Recker at third base instead. It’s highly unusual to use a pitcher in the field because of the lack of experience and potential for injury. Even using pitchers to run is controversial. However, pitchers do occasionally come in to pinch hit, as Colin Rea did for the Padres earlier this year in an extra-innings game.

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