When Pitchers Were Hitters

Before there was the DH, all pitchers HAD to hit and there were some greats, if you can remember. I recall someone by the name of Ruth who came up in the Boston organization as a starting pitcher. We all know what happened to George Herman Ruth once he was traded to NY and transitioned into an everyday player in the OF. Now-a-days, you have players like Micah Owings, who, in a short period of time, has been looked upon as one of the best hitting pitchers of recent history as the Diamondbacks have even used him as a pitch hitter this year. Somewhere in between, you had Glavine and Maddux reminding us that “Chicks Dig the Long Ball”. Both were decent hitting pitchers in their younger days.

But let’s take a look back to Owings and what a good hitting pitcher can do for a ballclub. Having a pitcher on your team that hits better than your last position player must almost feel like cheating. It just gives a manager a lot more options. For one, you don’t have the headache of deciding to pull the pitcher for a pinch hitter when he’s pitching well in a close game or carrying a weaker hitting position player who is great defensively, but can’t hit well because now you have a one off option who wouldn’t be going into the field anyway. The risk here is of course, the extra chance of an injury, getting hit by a pitch (especially in retaliation), fouling a ball off himself or even injuring himself on the base path.

If I were a major league manager who isn’t in Arizona, I’d be highly jealous, bordering on covetous, of the Diamondback’s Micah Owings. By the way, does Jim Leyland know how good of a hitter D-Train is? Or how about the Twins innings eater Livan Hernandez? For a list of the top 10 current players, go to Baseball Prospectus and either look up Nate Silver’s article on this topic entitled “Evaluating Pitcher Hitting” or just click HERE. By the way, it’s also a good read if you bother to read the whole article and not just look at the top 10 list. 😉

Other good hitting pitchers that I can remember are Steve Avery, Josh Beckett, and Tom Seaver; all were within the past 30 years, but to look beyond this timeframe go to the Baseball Think Factory and look at their article on pitcher hitting which you can find HERE. Here is another site titled Career Batting Records From Great Hitting Pitchers.

In my opinion, High School and College pitchers should be held accountable to work on their hitting skills almost as much as they do their pitching. For proof, just look at players like Rick Ankiel of the Cardinals. You just never know!

If you remember a pitcher who stood out to you at the plate, please list him in the comments section of this post!

5 Comments

  1. Kevin Mark

    June 8, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    In the first year of the Kansas City Royals existence (1969), Jim Rooker hit .281/.305/.544 with 4 HRs and 8 RBI. Rooker was the first Kansas City Royals player to have a multi homerun game. The following year Rooker didn’t hit for a high average but he did have 13 RBI. Over the course of his career he wasn’t all that good of a hitter but he was pretty solid in 69 and 70.

  2. SoxAddict

    June 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

    I remember when Beckett first came to Boston and he dominated with the bat in an interleague game against the Phillies. That was the first time I remembered seeing a Red Sox pitcher swing the bat well.

  3. Peter

    June 9, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    The Sox also had a guy named Steve Avery who could hold his own with the bat back in 1997-1998. He had played for the Braves prior to the Sox and was teammates with Glavine and Maddux (both decent hitting pitchers in their younger years).

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