Bringing the Lumber: The Top 10 Hitting Pitchers in Baseball
Let it be known—I hate Interleague baseball.
I hate the manufactured rivalries, and I especially hate the chaos it encourages in lineups.
While understandably big in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and perhaps Missouri (if you are into the whole cross-state rivalry, in the same way that Ohio State and Michigan football can be considered rivals lately), for a Bostonian, it is nothing more than a pain.
That being said, the intrigue of the pitcher hitting is still something worth watching. Pitchers are further behind the curve with the bat than ever these days, but there are always a few who can really add value with the lumber, a certain "hidden value" over the course of the season, and in a game.
No. 10: Jason Marquis
A decent starting pitcher, Marquis has also been an okay hitter in his career.
In a career spanning a decade, Marquis has posted a .519 OPS in his career to go along with five home runs. If he ran better, Dusty Baker or Ozzie Guillen might even be inclined to bat him leadoff.
No. 9: Adam Wainwright
Nowhere near a terrific hitter, Wainwright is still able to turn on a ball, hitting five home runs in 270 career plate appearances.
He walks in 3.33 percent of his plate appearances, which is downright Max Bishop-esque compared to a lot of the other pitchers on this list.
No. 8: Mike Leake
Too early to call someone a "good hitting pitcher?" Probably.
But in his 21 career plate appearances, Mike "The other pitcher from San Diego, CA in the 2009 MLB Draft" Leake has provided the Reds with a .353/.389/.412 batting line, to go along with a very good opening to his career on the mound.
Whether the bat keeps up or not, I expect good things from this guy.
No. 7: Wade LeBlanc
Not really worth praising all that much after just 39 career PAs, but he does currently sport a career .303 average.
No doubt this will not last (given his .400 BABIP). But anyone who hits over .300 for any period of time out of the dungeon known as PETCO Park deserves a round of applause.
No. 6: Andy Sonnanstine
Once again, too few plate appearances to make any sort of judgment on him as a hitter. He's also penalized because, well, he is a reliever now.
That being said, he has made the most of his 26 career PAs, going .333/.417/.381. The apparent ability to take a walk (once again, nothing is proven statistically with 26 PAs) highlights a chance for underlying talent.
I feel safer listing him lower on this list versus crowning around for such a small sample.
No. 5: Dan Haren
Immensely talented on the mound, Haren is not half bad at the plate either.
A career .216/.240/.316 hitter, while not exactly something you would want out of a position player, provides the Diamondbacks with a good bridge to the top of the order, relatively speaking.
With a .649 OPS since his move to the Diamondbacks, Haren looks to continue to improve his secondary craft as his career progresses.
No. 4: CC Sabathia
A prototypical "power hitter" pitcher, which is to say that he would make a passable position player if he could walk occasionally.
In 98 plate appearances, though, he has just one, so I would not bank on him taking one the next time up.
That being said, his 162-game average "Triple Crown" statistics are .266 with 14 HR and 65 RBI, to go along with his career .667 OPS.
On many other teams, CC would make a viable pinch-hitting option. Of course, as a Yankee, that just isn't a necessity.
No. 3: Carlos Zambrano
Speaking of never walking, I do not think Carlos Zambrano has ever seen a pitch at the dish that he didn't like.
The massive 255-lb. righty has walked only six times in his 612 PA career and sports a not-so-mighty .239 OBP.
Swinging at 47 percent of pitches outside the strike zone can do that to anyone.
One thing Zambrano does have, however, is power. He has 20 career home runs, and cleaning up his plate discipline could help prevent a return trip to the bullpen anytime soon.
No. 2: Dontrelle Willis
He was a sensation for Marlins fans from 2003-05 and almost won the 2005 NL Cy Young (apparently the voters decided win percentage was more important in 2005 and not wins, given that in this dark age, things like Twitter and FIP did not exist).
He has seen the star of his career dim lately, but he still possesses a solid .232/.278/.356 career line. Willis is one of the few pitchers on this list with over 300 PAs and also one of the few with a walk rate over five percent.
He has started 2010 as a passable starter. I would like to see him regain some of his glory, which now seems decades ago.
No. 1: Micah Owings
.291/.321/.542 sounds like something you would expect out of a corner outfielder.
However, it is coming from a pitcher over 193 career PAs, and his name is Micah Owings.
Despite having to come into games cold to hit more than any other pitcher and not being a starter anymore, Owings manages to post solid numbers with the bat and has a 119 career wRC+ (100 being average, 119 being 19 percent better).
More impressively, Owings has shown signs of being a 25-30 home run hitter if given a full 600 PA season.
Could a Rick Ankiel journey to reform as an outfielder be in the works for Owings one day? Looking at his numbers on the mound and at the plate, it may not be a bad idea.