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In A Pinch July 7, 2015

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Much has been made of the Mets’ inability to hit, often with the tongue-in-cheek point made that Mets pitchers are hitting better than Mets pinch hitters. In fact, that’s true: Mets pitchers have made 178 plate appearances, owning a collective .165/.174/.213 slash line with a .255 BABIP, while pinch hitters get on base slightly more often but otherwise do worse. The pinch hitters have 118 plate appearances thus far, hitting .147/.248/.186 with a ,242 BABIP.

Of course, a big portion of the Mets pitchers’ abysmal slugging average is Steven Matz‘ .500/.500/.667 in 6 plate appearances. Even so, the pitchers are still hitting fairly well – even without Matz, the pitchers have a higher batting average than the pinch hitters.

John Mayberry, Jr., has taken the most plate appearances as a pinch hitter for the Mets. In his 30 PA, he’s hit – though I’m not sure ‘hit’ is correct – .080/.233/.080, although with a terribly unlucky .118 BABIP. Darrell Ceciliani, who was recently sent back down, had 20 plate appearances at .176/.263/.235, inflated by a .375 BABIP. The recently recalled Kirk Nieuwenhuis is 0-14 with a walk (.071 OBP) pinch hitting. Together, those 64 plate appearances make up about half of the Mets’ pinch hitting appearances.

For comparison, MLB pitchers are hitting .132/.156/.163 this year collectively, while MLB pinch hitters have a collective.211/.283/.316 line. That means the Mets pitchers are decidedly above average hitters, but the thin bench is hurting their run production when it comes time to lift a pitcher for a bat.


Oh, Madison, You’ll Make Fools Of Us All July 14, 2014

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Just the other day, I said that pitchers don’t reliably hit well enough to consistently earn themselves cheap wins, and then Madison Bumgarner goes and hits a go-ahead (and game-winning) grand slam. Jacob deGrom hit an RBI of his own, but it was as part of a 9-1 Mets rout of the Marlins. Bumgarner actually earned his win (a cheap one, at that) by hitting the go-ahead RBI. Sickeningly, he did the same thing back in April.

Interestingly, Travis Wood is another pitcher who has twice this year had at least as many RBIs as the margin of victory for his team – once in April, once in May, and once in June – although in one case the save was blown. Dan Haren and Edinson Volquez each have two games as well, although Volquez only nabbed one win. A handful of other pitchers have at least one RBI in one-run games as well.

So, Madison, mea culpa. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.

The Jordan Lyles Show April 8, 2014

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Jordan Lyles put up a great line for the Rockies against the White Sox last night. Lyles threw 6 2/3 for the Rockies, striking out four, walking two, and allowing one run (which didn’t come until the seventh inning). Although he was hooked for throwing a wild pitch while striking out Paul Konerko, allowing an RBI double to Alexei Ramirez, and then walking Tyler Flowers, Lyles had more than earned the extra slack that manager Walt Weiss gave him. Lyles hit one of the team’s three doubles (the others were hit by Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer) as well as two singles of his own, including two runs batted in. That gives Lyles a pretty nice season line: 2-0, 3.86 ERA, .600/.667/.800.

It’s almost a shame to see Troy Tulowitzki‘s performance lost in the shuffle. Troy was 3 for 3 with a walk, a double, and a home run; late in the game he came out to allow Charlie Culberson some time in the field.

Though Lyles hasn’t shown this sort of consistency yet, last year marked Adam Wainwright matching his three-hit, 2-RBI feat twice. Micah Owings and Chan Ho Park have each had two 3-hit, 2-RBI games in a single season as well.

Gio Gonzalez is remarkably consistent at the plate April 3, 2014

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Man, there’s something about being reminded we have Kyle Farnsworth in the bullpen that just ruins your day.

I follow the Angels. (Given the previous post, maybe I should just move to California and give up on the Mets altogether. Maybe I could be a Padres fan …. ) I was excited to see Bartolo Colon show up in Queens, since he’s been a pretty entertaining pitcher for a while. (I’d like to publicly apologize for suggesting three years ago that Colon was too old to pitch effectively anymore, since he managed to pitch three complete games for Oakland last year. Three. Well, two and a half.) I was a bit less excited to see he’d be batting, since Colon’s last time on base was midway through the Bush administration in Shea Stadium off a plucky 35-year-old youngster named Mike DeJean. That wasn’t the last we heard of DeJean – he pitched a brilliant 1.2 innings in 2006 for Colorado.

But I digress.

Colon batted just about as expected, striking out twice on a total of six pitches. His opposition, however, did not. Gio Gonzalez went 1 for 3 at the plate, knocking in a solo homer in the fifth inning to bring the score to 3-1 Washington. (The final was 5-1, since Gonzalez Germen and charity case Kyle Farnsworth each allowed a run in their respective 2.0 and 1.0 innings of work.)

Gio Gonzalez has hit one homer in each of the previous two seasons, both to left. His last homer was against Miami on April 3 of last year. Now that that’s out of the way, Gio can focus on pitching again, so we won’t have to worry about him taking out pitchers deep again this year.

But geez. Kyle Farnsworth. I’d forgotten all about him until Terry had to go and put him in a game.

Helping Your Own Cause July 10, 2011

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Yesterday, Cliff Lee of the Phillies scored the only run for his team by homering to right center in the bottom of the third inning. Cliff’s lead held until Dan Uggla led off the fifth with a homer of its own, and the score stayed tied until the top of the eleventh when Alex Gonzalez and Brian McCann batted three in for the Braves to set up Craig Kimbrel for the save. Lee’s homer prompted a couple of searches that led readers here – specifically, people are curious about pitchers hitting home runs.

It’s uncommon, but not as rare as I’d expected. Fifteen home runs this year (out of 2410, so about 0.6% of MLB home runs) were hit by pitchers. They’re last in the majors for home runs by position – even pinch hitters hit more (54) – but third from the bottom are designated hitters with 154. Interestingly, even doubling DHs’ home runs puts them third (behind first basemen and right fielders).

One pitcher – Zach Duke of Arizona – has hit two home runs, with the remainder hitting only one each. The World’s Worst Sports Blog’s favorite player, Yovani Gallardo, combined with Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum to put up three pitcher homers for Milwaukee, tying Duke and Barry Enright‘s Diamondback total. No pitcher has surrendered more than one home run to another pitcher, but two have both allowed one and scored one: Greinke and Travis Wood. Besides Lee, four pitchers – Enright, Wood, Zach Britton, and Tim Hudson – have homered to break a 0-0 tie.

This year or last year, no game had home runs hit by pitchers from both teams. I scanned manually, and there were a few dates with multiple home runs by pitchers, but I couldn’t find a game with home runs by both teams’ pitchers until I got back to April 13, 1997. The Montreal Expos’ Carlos Perez homered off of Colorado starter Kevin Ritz, who was lifted (in the top of the fifth) after one more batter for reliever Darren Holmes. Holmes allowed another earned run, but got out of the inning and then led off the bottom of the fifth with a homer of his own. Pitchers for both teams homered not only in the same game, but the same inning, separated by only six batters.

Chad Billingsley’s Home Run June 6, 2011

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Chad Billingsley had what was by all accounts an unremarkable start on the mound last night: 5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, all of them earned, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts, 1 HBP. Considering that the Dodgers have seven tough losses already (only the Rays and the Nationals have more), this would ordinarily be a short entry commenting on how Billingsley needs some work.

Actually, scratch that. I wouldn’t make that entry – the folks over at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness would.

Billingsley managed to earn a mention last night by hitting the second home run of his career (solo in the second) and going 2 for 2 with a walk. Billingsley’s Win Probability Added (WPA) from the plate was a team-leading .215 (Matt Kemp was second with .168). Of course, he evened that out with actually subtracting WPA as a pitcher. Still, his walk in the third forced Casey Blake in for a second RBI, and his double in the fifth brought James Loney home and ultimately pulled Reds starter Travis Wood out of the game.

Oddly, Wood himself managed a three-RBI night back on May 9, as did the Diamondbacks’ Zach Duke on May 28. Like Billingsley, both of them took the win in those games.

The most stylish home runs by pitchers happen when the player doesn’t even know he’s a pitcher, though – on April 13, 2009, Nick Swisher hit a home run in the top of the fourth inning while playing first base and then was called on to pitch the bottom of the 8th in a 15-5 loss to the Rays. He’s the only player in the last 10 years to start the game as a position player, hit a home run, and pitch. Admittedly, that’s a weird set of conditions. Luckily, there’s another instance that almost fits, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating. Keith Osik didn’t start on May 20, 2000, but came in as part of a triple-switch in the top of the 8th to play third base. Osik hit a two-run homer to bring Mike Benjamin home in the bottom of the 8th, then gave up 5 earned runs on 5 hits in the top of the 9th.

Hopefully Billingsley will repeat his performance at the plate and will continue cleaning up on the mound. Last night was his first Cheap Win of the year, and he already has two Tough Losses. Not a bad showing as far as ability goes.

Zambrano Back on the Horse May 27, 2011

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Last night, Carlos Zambrano pitched on one day’s rest after pinch-hitting against the hapless Mets for two RBIs on Tuesday. We’ve talked about Zambrano’s pinch-hitting prowess before, but last night he was an awesome 3 for 3 from the plate, including a double. In fact, in 26 plate appearances, Zambrano’s got 9 hits for a .375 batting average and, since he has no walks, a .375 on-base percentage. Not only is that impressive, but I hear he can pitch, too.

I figured that was pretty impressive. It can’t be often that a pitcher gets three at-bats and hits for all of them, can it? It’s happened 450 times since 1919, including, surprisingly, once already this year. The Mets’ Chris Young managed a 3-for-3 night while notching the win against the Phillies back on April 5.

In recent memory, the most at-bats by a pitcher who hit each time was Dan Haren, who grabbed a 4-for-4 as a Diamondback against the Cardinals last year (also as the winning pitcher). Haren also gave up a whopping 7 runs, so he’s lucky he was hitting.

Micah Owings has had two games where he pitched and hit in all of at least 3 plate appearances, including a 4-for-4 from 2007 in which three of his 4 hits were doubles.

Finally, Mel Stottlemyre (in 1964) and two pitchers from the 1920s had 5-for-5 games. Stottlemyre’s two-hit gem included him hitting a double and pitching to a game score of 83.

Pitchers Hit This Year (or, Two Guys Named Buchholz) December 23, 2010

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Okay, I admit it. This post was originally conceived as a way to talk about the supremely weird line put up by Gustavo Chacin, who in his only plate appearance for Houston hit a home run to leave him with the maximum season OPS of 5.0. Unfortunately, Raphy at Baseball Reference beat me to it. Instead, I noticed while I was browsing the NL’s home run log to prepare to run some diagnostics on it that Kenley Jansen had two plate appearances comprising one hit and one walk. (Seriously, is there anything this kid can’t do?)

In Kenley’s case, that’s not entirely surprising, since he was a catcher until this season. His numbers weren’t great, but he was competent. What surprised me was that 75 pitchers since 2000 have finished the season with a perfect batting average. 9 were from this year, including Clay Buchholz and his distant cousing Taylor Buchholz. Evan Meek and Bruce Chen matched Jansen’s two plate appearances without an out. None of the perfect batting average crowd had an extra-base hit except for Chacin.

Since 2000, the most plate appearances by a pitcher to keep the perfect batting average was 4 by Manny Aybar in 2000.

At the other end of the spectrum, this year only three pitchers managed a perfect 1.000 on-base percentage without getting any hits at all. George Sherrill and Matt Reynolds both walked in their only plate appearances; Jack Taschner went them one better by recording a sacrifice hit in a second plate appearance.

Finally, to round things out, this year saw Joe Blanton and Heureusement, ici, c’est le Blog‘s favorite pitcher, Yovani Gallardo, each get hit by two pitches. Gallardo had clearly angered other pitchers by being so much more awesome than they were.

Santana the Late-Blooming Hitter July 7, 2010

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Last night, Johan Santana hit his first home run in his 87th career game as a batter. (Granted, he’s played far more than that many games because he played a few years in the American League.) Out of curiosity, I checked Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index to see how many home runs have been hit by pitchers in their first 87 games as batters.

Since 1961, there have been 431 home runs (although the Play Index only lists games starting at 1970, so that may or may not be accurate). Four pitchers have hit home runs in their first games, including Yankee pitching coach Dave Eiland in 1992 and Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings. Like Johan, Jennings pitched a complete game shutout for the win that night.

The all-time leader in home runs by a pitcher in the first 87 games (how’s that for esoteric?) is Yovani Gallardo, who’s in his fourth season pitching for the Brewers. He’s hit seven of them, and as of July 4 he’s only hit in 71 games. He’s got a lot of time to pick up the pace and possibly hit the triple-digit mark when he gets back from the disabled list some time after July 20.

Pitchers with 4+ RBIs (Sorry, Mets fans) September 23, 2008

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Last night, the Cubs’ Jason Marquis hit a rare grand slam. Even rarer is that Marquis was the starting pitcher and got the win. Still rarer: Marquis had one hit and 5 RBIs.

That raises the question: just how common an event is Jason’s productivity?