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A Utility Pitcher Sidebar December 30, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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The joys of the position player pitching were well represented this year. A whopping eight players came in from the infield or outfield and stood on the mound, more often than not looking pretty comfortable. Two of them – Aaron Miles and Andy Marte – joined the Spectrum Club by pitching and being the designated hitter in the same season, as we discussed in a previous post. Miles’ achievement was even more unlikely because he played for a National League team, so he had to get lucky and DH an interleague game.

Let’s talk about the average utility pitcher, which is a phrase I just made up to avoid saying “position player called on to pitch” over and over again.

  1. He’s a journeyman. Felipe Lopez, who pitched for the Cardinals on April 17 in a 20-inning game against the Mets, has played for six teams since 2001. Joe Inglett played for three different teams since 2006, and he pitched for the Brewers in a loss on July 27. Backup catcher Kevin Cash has pitched for five teams since 2002, including Houston, where he pitched in a loss on May 28.
  2. He’s expendable.Jonathan Van Every, who pitched for Boston in a May 8 loss to the Yankees, has played 39 games over three seasons of bouncing between the minors and the majors. Bill Hall, his teammate, pitched on May 28 (in a different game than Cash did!) and played six utility positions for Boston during 2010 – second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions – in addition to pitching. Joe Mather, who pitched in the same game as Lopez and took the loss, played all three outfield positions and both infield corners. These are guys who are marginal enough that they have to learn a million positions just to be on the roster.
  3. He played for Boston at some point. Okay, okay, Inglett, Miles, Marte and Mather never did. Fine. But Van Every and Hall both pitched for Boston, Cash has done two unrelated stints with the Red Sox, and Lopez ended the season as Terry Francona’s utility man. That’s quite the coincidence, wouldn’t you agree?

Before anyone gripes, there’s one other type of utility pitcher, but he wasn’t represented this season. That, of course, is the star who gets his jollies pitching. This includes two prime varieties: the Wade Boggs, (wily vet who taught himself a knuckleball), and the Jose Canseco (idiot who hurts himself).

The Spectrum Club December 28, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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This year, I get to induct two more players into the prestigious* Spectrum Club.
*not a guarantee

The Spectrum Club is the elite group of players who play, in one season, at both ends of the Defensive Spectrum. At the end of a season, a player is inducted if he pitches in at least one game and appears as designated hitter in at least one game. As it stands, that leaves about ten pitchers who only served as placeholder DHs but never made a plate appearance on the rolls, but that’s okay.

Three players have joined the Spectrum Club twice – Jeff Kunkel in 1988 and 1989 for Texas, Mark Loretta in 2001 for the Brewers and 2009 for the Dodgers, and Wade Boggs in 1997 for the Yankees and 1999 for Tampa Bay. Baltimore leads the club in inductees with six.

This year’s first inductee is Aaron Miles of the Cardinals, who actually pitched twice (August 3 in a loss to  Houston and September 28 in a loss to Pittsburgh). Making it more impressive, Miles DHed only once, in an interleague win over Kansas City on June 26. Miles is an experienced pitcher, having tossed twice in 2007 and once in 2008. Tony Larussa has quite the commodity there, and I bet he wishes he’d had Miles on hand for that crazy 20-inning game against the Mets on April 17.

The second player to join the club is Andy Marte of Cleveland. Marte DHed twice, once on July 10 in a loss to the Rays and once on September 7. His single inning pitched came as part of the Best Game Ever, a July 29 loss to the Yankees in which the Yankees lost their DH and Marte struck out Nick Swisher.

Who’s the smart money on for Spectrum Club inductions in 2011? Joe Mather and Felipe Lopez are both reasonable hitters and both pitched for Tony Larussa in the Mets-Cardinals game. If Lopez stays with the Red Sox, he might be called on to DH an odd late game, and Terry Francona has been known to use position players in emergencies. Ike Davis may well be asked to DH interleague games for the Mets, and he was a closer in college, so he’d be a solid emergency reliever. If I had to guess, though, I’d figure that the next Spectrum Club inductee will be Nick Swisher getting his second induction for the Yankees.

The Best Game Ever July 30, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Two of my favorite things about baseball happened during tonight’s game between the Yankees and the Indians.

First of all, in the top of the ninth inning, corner infielder Andy Marte pitched for the Indians. Marte pitched a perfect ninth and coincidentally struck out Nick Swisher, who was brought in to pitch for the Yankees in a similar situation last year and struck out Gabe Kapler of the Tampa Bay Rays. I can’t promise it’s true, but I think that puts Swisher at the top of the list for involvement in position player pitcher strikeouts.

Marte’s presence was necessary because the Indians used seven other pitchers. Starter Mitch Talbot went only two innings, and the Indians got another two out of Rafael Perez. Frank Hermann took the loss for the Indians during his 1 1/3 innings. Tony Sipp pitched another 1 1/3, and Joe Smith managed to give up four earned runs in 1/3 of an inning before being removed for Jess Todd for an inning. In the bottom of the 9th, Marte was all the Indians had left.

Not to be outdone, Joe Girardi gave up his designated hitter by moving his DH – funnily enough, it was Swisher – into right field as part of a triple switch. Swisher moved to right field; Colin Curtis moved from right field to left field; Marcus Thames moved from left field to third base;  finally, pitcher Chan Ho Park was put into the batting order in place of Alex Rodriguez, who came out of the game.

Finally, A-Rod is up to 33 plate appearances without a home run. Assuming his standard rate of .064 home runs per plate appearance, the likelihood of this happening by chance is .936^{33} = .113 \approx 11.3 \% . I stand by my belief that there’s something other than chance (i.e. distraction or other mental factors) causing Rodriguez’s hitting to suffer.