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The Mets have the worst, but who has the best? July 7, 2015

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Earlier, I posted about the Mets’ anemic pinch-hitting performance this year, led by John Mayberry, Jr., whose .080 mark is the worst in the league among hitters with at least 20 plate appearances as a pinch hitter. Even more shocking is that Mayberry is seventh in the league in plate appearances as a PH. The Mets may have the worst pinch hitters in the league, but Cleveland may have the best.

Cleveland’s David Murphy, who has a .333 batting average in 26 pinch-hit appearances, and Ryan Raburn, who is tied for highest OBP as a pinch hitter with .455 in 22 plate appearances, both lag behind Mayberry in appearances. (Arizona’s Cliff Pennington also has a .455 OBP in 22 plate appearances, and Washington’s Dan Uggla deserves an honorable mention for a .429 mark in 21 times at the plate.)

Murphy’s monstrous batting average as a pinch hitter matches some general trends shown in his split page. Against a starter, Murphy hits a disgusting .357 the first time and an obscene .432 his second time up. His OBP during that second-appearance sweet spot is an unconscionable .476.

Meanwhile, Raburn demonstrates the opposite trend, hitting uniformly better against starters his first time up: .333/.419/.593 the first time, versus .286/.333/.586 the second time. This, at least in theory, means that Raburn can hammer a pitcher the first time up and Murphy can maintain the pressure.

Oh, and both Murphy and Raburn pitched on June 17th, making them part of an already unusually large Spectrum Club for 2015.

The Spectrum Club: 2014 Edition January 1, 2015

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2013 and 2014 were unusually large Spectrum Clubs. The prestigious1 Spectrum Club consists of players who played as designated hitter and also pitched for their teams. Though there surely are a couple of people caught in this table who were primarily pitchers and just came in listed as a DH on the batting order, 2013 shows the largest Spectrum Club since the introduction of the designated hitter and 2014 following closely behind. The list of all Spectrum Club members is here.

This year inducted nine brand-new members. Although Mitch Maier and Darnell McDonald repeated from 2010 to 2011, everyone this year was a first-time pitcher/DH. As usual, though, they were all primarily position players.

This year’s inductees are:

Rk Player HR PA Year Age ▾ OPS Pos
1 Adam Dunn 22 511 2014 34 .752 *D3H/791
2 Chris Gimenez 0 128 2014 31 .640 *23/H1D5
3 Steven Tolleson 3 189 2014 30 .679 *4H5/9617D
4 J.P. Arencibia 10 222 2014 28 .608 32D/H1
5 Mitch Moreland 2 184 2014 28 .644 D3/H71
6 Andrew Romine 2 273 2014 28 .554 *64/H1D
7 Mike Carp 0 149 2014 28 .519 *3H7/91D5
8 Travis Snider 13 359 2014 26 .776 9H7/1D
9 Leury Garcia 1 155 2014 23 .399 H584/6D971
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/1/2015.
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Congratulations to this year’s inductees!

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1 Not a guarantee.

The Spectrum Club, 2011 Edition January 19, 2012

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2011 yielded 5 new members to the prestigious* Spectrum Club; the Spectrum Club is a collection of baseball players who have played at each end of the defensive spectrum, playing at least one game each as a pitcher and designated hitter. Those players were Michael Cuddyer, Don Kelly, Mitch Maier, Mike McCoy, and Darnell McDonald.

Of these five, Kelly was the most versatile, playing at every position except second base and shortstop this year. Maier and McDonald were the least: each played three outfield positions in addition to pitching and hitting, while Cuddyer played first base, second base, and right field. McCoy, a typical utilityman, played second, third, short, center, and right. Kelly’s tenure on the mound was the shortest (one batter, one out), with everyone else pitching a full inning. McDonald gave up two runs on a hit and two walks in six batters faced; Maier faced four and gave up one hit, but no runs; Cuddyer allowed one hit and walked one for six batters faced and no runs; and McCoy pitched a perfect inning.

There’s no telling who will join these fellows next year – Skip Schumaker and Wilson Valdez each pitched an inning this year, but  while Valdez is a journeyman, he’s unlikely to DH, and Schumaker is locked in with the Cardinals for the next two years.

*not a guarantee

Big Doin’s This Week July 27, 2011

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Michael CuddyerWhen 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

Appendix B: All starters since 2002 who have allowed at least 6 runs, all of them unearned

Photo credit: Keith Allison. Used under ShareAlike license.

* not a guarantee

Don Kelly, Utility King June 30, 2011

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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’s lifetime pitching statistics: 0.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 0 E, 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 BF. That batter was Scott Hairston, who flied out to Austin Jackson at center.

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, 2011

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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

A Utility Pitcher Sidebar December 30, 2010

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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

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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.