Position Players on the Bump: 2015 So Far August 26, 2015Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: AL vs NL, position players pitching
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Last night, Brendan Ryan of the Yankees took the mound for two full innings to spare the bullpen after Ivan Nova, Nick Rumbelow, and Chris Capuano gamely allowed the Astros to score 15 runs in 7 innings. He allowed 2 hits and no runs in his two innings pitched. Brendan is the nineteenth position player to pitch this year; since individual mound appearances often go as cleanly as Ryan’s, I’m curious how the average appearance by a position player goes. Is it confirmation bias that leads us to remember the scoreless innings by position players?
Just for the record, Ryan’s 2 innings matched Jeff Francoeur’s 2-inning appearance for the longest appearance by a position player. Ike Davis, Jesus Sucre, Adam Rosales, and David Ross have each pitched two innings, but spread them over two appearances.
In total, position players this year have stacked up an earned run average of 4.15, which doesn’t seem too bad until you factor in the league split. The average pitcher this season for the NL has a 3.86 ERA, but the average NL position player pitcher has a much better 1.59. On the other hand, the AL has a slightly higher 3.96 on average, but position players there have a 9.00 ERA. Again, with WHIP, the average position player is pretty good – 1.52 – compared to an NL average of 1.29 and an AL average of 1.28. Again, though, there’s a big split – AL position players have a 1.75 WHIP, compared to a .088 WHIP for NL position players.
Keep in mind, though, that NL position players have pitched 5 2/3 innings, compared to 16 for AL position players. It’s likely that over a larger sample size, the National League players would similarly falter.
I Still Like Ike April 27, 2015Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: Buster Posey, Ike Davis, position players pitching
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No, not because of his .345 batting average or .405 OBP, but because of his 0.00 ERA.
The whole time Ike Davis was a Met, I would shout at the TV every time Terry Collins put in a tired reliever in a laugher that Ike needed to pitch. Ike was, after all, a starter in his freshman year at Arizona State, cobbling together 47.2 innings in 12 starts and 2 relief appearances for a 7.42 ERA. He got better, though – he spent most of his sophomore year in the outfield but still managed to make one start and six relief appearances, totalling 6.2 innings and a 1.34 ERA. In his junior year, Ike pitched in 16 games and 24 innings, going 4-1 with 4 saves and a 2.25 ERA. Ike was not a bad hurler. Buster Posey, of course, showed him up – while playing 68 games at catcher in 2007-08, Buster also made 9 relief appearances and collected 6 saves with a 1.17 ERA.
It was only natural that the A’s turned to Ike to pitch the ninth inning of a 14-1 blowout on April 21, but Ike pitched a perfect inning on 9 pitches. No runs, no hits, no errors, no walks. (No strikeouts, either….) It’s a shame I waited through all those games and Ike finally pitched on the other side of the country.
John Baker Gets the W July 30, 2014Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: John Baker, position players pitching, utility pitchers
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In more ways than one!
Much like Madison Bumgarner a few weeks ago, John Baker managed to be the winning pitcher and score the game-winning run for Chicago in last night’s game against the Rockies. Baker, a light-hitting backup catcher, came in from the bullpen for his first professional pitching appearance and pitched a clean 16th inning, walking 1 and striking out none on eleven pitches. Immediately after getting off the mound, Rockies left-hander Tyler Matzek walked Baker, who was then bunted over to second by utilityman Emilio Bonifacio. Arismendy Alcantara added some levity by getting plunked, Anthony Rizzo singled Baker over to third, and Starlin Castro lined a sacrifice fly to right field to bring Baker home for the win.
Welington Castillo deserves an honorable mention for catching all sixteen innings of the game. We can only hope he gets tonight’s game off.
Spring, When a Young Man’s Position Players Turn to Pitchers April 22, 2014Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: Baseball, Dean Anna, Jake Elmore, Leurys Garcia, position players pitching, utility pitchers
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Last week was an exciting time, because it marked the first instances of the year of one of the World’s Worst Sports Blog‘s favorite situations – a position player taking the mound.
Position players are ordinarily called on to pitch under very specific circumstances: either the team is losing in a blowout (see, e.g., Jose Canseco‘s hilarious outing in 1993 – which resulted in Canseco having Tommy John surgery) or the game has gone on so long that no legitimate relievers are available to pitch. The best example of the latter was the April 17, 2010, game between the Cardinals and the Mets, in which the former team used two position players – Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather – in a 20-inning losing effort. (The Mets used another favorite trick, using starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey to close the game, as well as starters John Maine and Jon Niese to pinch run and pinch hit, respectively.)
The first appearance of a position player on the mound this year was similar to that 20-inning game. On April 16th, the White Sox’ Leury Garcia engaged the rubber in the top of the 14th against the Red Sox. Though he pitched a full inning, Garcia did allow two walks and a crucial double to open the game up, and ended up taking the loss. Starter-turned-long-man Chris Capuano got the win for the Red Sox with Burke Badenhop covering the last out to take the save.
The second was the blowout-type, in which the Yankees turned the final inning of a brutal loss over to middle infielder Dean Anna on April 19th. When Anna got up, the Yankees were trailing 14-1; Anna allowed two earned runs on three hits and no walks. Anna moved from shortstop to pitcher, so the Yankees gave up their designated hitter in the process. This triggered a fascinating six position changes to start the inning:
Dean Anna moves from SS to P
Kelly Johnson moves from LF to 1B
Scott Sizemore moves from 1B to 3B
Yangervis Solarte moves from 3B to SS
Alfonso Soriano moves from RF to LF
Ichiro Suzuki replaces Carlos Beltran (DH) playing RF batting 3rd
Still, the World’s Worst Sports Blog has a new spirit animal; although Don Kelly is still our favorite position player, he was outdone last season by the magical Jake Elmore, who played every position including designated hitter during his 2013 season with the Astros. Elmore played mostly middle infield and came in (mid-inning!) to catch on August 19 after Carlos Corporan was hit by a foul ball (catcher Jason Castro was serving as DH), and then was asked to pitch the final inning of that game. Oddly, even though pitcher and catcher are the toughest boxes to check off, Elmore’s last position? The innocuous center field on September 10th.
In any just world, Elmore and Kelly will end up on the same team at some point in the future and be batterymates.
Quickie: Missed one. July 28, 2011Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: Bryan Petersen, Chris Denorfia, position players pitching, utility pitchers, Year of the Position Player Pitchers
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Bryan Petersen of the Florida Marlins joined the ranks of the utility pitchers this year. Petersen was one of five position players called on to pitch this year, and like most of them, he was pitching on the losing end of a blowout. Specifically, the Padres were leading 14-3 going into the top of the 9th and Petersen, who had pinch-hit and moved to center field, got on the mound to finish off the game.
It wasn’t a perfect inning – he walked left fielder Chris Denorfia – but it was scoreless and he pitched reasonably well.
One reader found The World’s Worst Sports Blog by searching “Year of the Position Player Pitchers.” I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Last year, the number of left fielders alone who pitched was four. (That doesn’t count Roy Oswalt or Kyle Lohse, each of whom did spot duty at left field once last year.) Felipe Lopez, Andy Marte, Joe Mather, Kevin Cash, Jonathan Van Every, Joe Inglett, Aaron Miles, and Bill Hall were the eight position player pitchers last year; Petersen, Wilson Valdez, Mike McCoy, Michael Cuddyer, Don Kelly, and Mitch Maier are six players over about 64% of the season (based on games played). That works out to about 9 to 10 position player pitchers on the season, if they’re uniformly distributed (which they’re not). There was probably a dip in use of position player pitchers after Jose Canseco‘s famous bonehead inning (in which he blew out his arm and required Tommy John surgery), but it’s not that uncommon.
Big Doin’s This Week July 27, 2011Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: Brandon Phillips, Cristhian Martinez, Daniel McCutchen, Daniel Murphy, free baseball, Joey Votto, Johnny Cueto, Michael Cuddyer, Miguel Cairo, Mitch Maier, position players pitching, Scott Proctor, Spectrum Club, unearned runs, weird lines
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When I was a baby sports economist, my father used to refer to busy days as ‘Big Doin’s.’ Well, Major League Baseball has been doin’ big things since my last entry, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to mention at least a few of them.
The Braves and the Pirates slugged out a marathon game last night. (Well, maybe not a marathon, but 19 innings is pretty close to 26.2 miles.) I can’t weigh in on the obviously blown call that ended the game, but I was thoroughly impressed with Cristhian Martinez, who pitched a career-high 6.0 innings in relief for the Braves. Martinez had previously pitched 4 innings twice. Scott Proctor got the win when converted starter Daniel McCutchen ‘allowed’ the winning run in the 19th during his 6th inning of work. Fifteen pitchers combined for both teams to get the 37.1 innings covered, all of whom pitch as their primary position.
That’s distinct from Michael Cuddyer, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Twins in their blowout loss (20-6) to the Rangers on Monday. He allowed two hits but maintains his career 0.00 ERA (since this was the first time he pitched professionally, even counting the minors). Since Cuddyer has DHed a couple of times for the Twins, he joins Mike McCoy and Don Kelly as a 2011 inductee into the prestigious* Spectrum Club (for players who play at both ends of the defensive spectrum in the same season).
Not to be outdone, Mitch Maier of the Royals (a career outfielder who’s also done time at first base and designated hitter) pitched a scoreless ninth against the Red Sox. Mitch has taken two at-bats as DH this year, so welcome to the Spectrum Club!
So, what do Maier and Cuddyer have in common with Reds starter Johnny Cueto? Neither of them allowed an earned run in their last appearance. Unfortunately for Cueto, while Mitch and Michael both had decent defense behind them, Cueto allowed SIX unearned runs in his start against the Mets. Errors by Joey Votto (1B, 1st inning), Brandon Phillips (2B, 3rd inning), and Miguel Cairo (3B, 6th inning) contributed, although Cueto plunking Daniel Murphy didn’t help.
Appendix A: 2011’s Spectrum Club, as of today
Photo credit: Keith Allison. Used under ShareAlike license.
* not a guarantee
Don Kelly, Utility King June 30, 2011Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: Angel Pagan, Austin Jackson, Carlos Beltran, David Purcey, Don Kelly, Jason Bay, Justin Turner, Mets, Mike McCoy, position players pitching, Ronnie Paulino, Roy Halladay, Scott Hairston, Spectrum Club, Super utility dervish, Tigers, utility pitchers, utility player, utilityman, Wilson Valdez
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Super utility dervish Don Kelly is this year’s second inductee into the prestigious* Spectrum Club, which loyal readers if any will recognize as the group of players who have played both pitcher and designated hitter in a given season. Kelly pitched a perfect third of an inning (for those keeping score at home, that’s one out) against the Mets last night during a 16-9 Tigers loss.
Kelly came in after David Purcey, the Tigers’ last arm in the bullpen, pitched the last out of the eighth and the first two of the ninth. In his one inning, Purcey gave up five hits, four runs (all of them earned), two walks (one intentional), and no strikeouts. Purcey’s ninth inning started promisingly when Justin Turner grounded out and Carlos Beltran flied out, but David then gave up a double to catcher Ronnie Paulino, walked Jason Bay, and then allowed Angel Pagan to double, scoring Paulino. At that point, Jim Leyland called on Kelly, who took care of Hairston to end the inning.
That makes three utility pitchers thus far this year. Of the position players who pitched, Wilson Valdez, Mike McCoy and Don Kelly have each played at least three non-pitching positions. Valdez has played at second base, third base, and shortstop; McCoy has played second, third, shortstop, center field, and left field; and Kelly has played first, third, left, center, and right. They’re three of the four pitchers with fifty or more plate appearances. (Roy Halladay is the fourth, with exactly 50 PA this year.)
Over the course of his career, Kelly has been a utility ubermensch, playing every position except catcher. As a lifetime .242/.287/.341 hitter, Kelly needs to be versatile defensively to keep himself working. That’s essentially the same way Mike McCoy keeps his job. Kelly had never pitched professionally before.
*not a guarantee
Quickie: Mike McCoy, Utility Pitcher du Jour June 13, 2011Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: Blue Jays, Mike McCoy, position players pitching, Spectrum Club
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The Blue Jays used seven pitchers in their 16-4 loss to the Red Sox on Saturday. One of those was utility player Mike McCoy, who pitched his first major league inning in the ninth. He managed no strikeouts but also no walks, and finished with an impressive perfect inning.
McCoy is unusual among position players who pitch in that he’s pitched before professionally. Most recently, he finished a AAA game for Colorado in 2009, but he’d also finished two games in A – one in 2004 and one in 2005. His pitching history in the minors is here.
McCoy is also the first inductee into the prestigious* 2011 Spectrum Club, which is a group of players who have both pitched and played designated hitter in the same season, showing off the full spectrum of their abilities from purely offensive to purely defensive. He’s made a few appearances as a pinch runner for the DH, but back on April 6, he played a complete game as the designated hitter and so became this year’s first member.
Of course, for position players pitching, nothing beats Wilson Valdez, Utility Pitcher Extraordinaire, or Andy Marte in the Best Game Ever, but if you’re especially curious, check out last year’s Utility Pitcher Roundup.
*not a guarantee
Chad Billingsley’s Home Run June 6, 2011Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Tags: Casey Blake, Chad Billingsley, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, James Loney, Keith Osik, Matt Kemp, Nationals, Nick Swisher, Pitchers batting, position players pitching, Rays, Reds, Travis Wood, Yankees, Zach Duke
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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.
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.