You could say that the most Sergio Romo save of Sergio Romo’s 2014 season was his 17th, a wobbly six-batter adventure against the Cardinals in which he entered with a two-run lead and held on for a one-run victory in this sequence.
Why we might be overestimating pitchers' offensive abilities. Yes, OVERestimating.
You can see what Buck Showalter was going for on Tuesday night. Mark Reynolds is a hitter. Not always a great hitter, but one of the couple hundred best in the world, and very capable of ending the game with one swing. The guy behind him was a pitcher. Not a terrible hitter, pitcher-wise, but a pitcher. In the categories our brain creates, pitchers are non-threats. Given the choice between a threat and a non-threat, the decision to intentionally walk the threat to face the non-threat feels obvious, if you don't do the math. But you should do the math:
Gary Cohen: The Mets have a group of pitchers now who can help themselves (at the plate) a little bit more.
Ron Darling: I always say, on every ballclub there’s different fraternities—the everyday players, the bullpen guys, and the starting pitchers. If you have a close-knit bunch of starting pitchers that are talented as far as their pitching is concerned, they start to get uber competitive with the hitting, too, and you have a lot of fun with it. Who gets the most bunts down? Who’s got the most RBIs? Those are the things that make it the most fun.
Breaking down how each of this season's 10 pitcher triples happened.
Last week, we ventured into the world of pitcher offense by taking a look at the top 10 home runs that were hit by hurlers this season. At the time that the article was published, there had been 20 homers hit by pitchers on the year, but JhoulysChacin did some afternoon yardwork for pitcher bomb no. 21 last Friday. It was the first homer of the year for a Rockies pitcher, and prior to the blast the Rox were one of just two National League clubs whose pitchers had not hit either a home run or a triple on the season (the Pirates are now alone in that distinction).
By design, Raising Aces is pitcher-centric, using a multifaceted approach involving mechanics, stuff, and stats to study the game from the hill. But for the next two weeks, we are going to shift the focus from the pitcher's mound to the batter's box, taking a moment to pay homage to the under-appreciated art of pitcher offense.
Given his sterling 2.86 ERA after shutting down Chicago on Monday night, explaining the greatness of Dodgers starter Zack Greinke comes pretty easy. Even with declining velocity—his average fastball has dropped from 94 mph to 91.7 mph since 2007—few pitchers consistently contribute at the same level.
But in 2013, there’s an aspect of Greinke’s performance that cannot be ignored. After going 1-for-2 with a walk against the Cubs on Monday, the Dodgers starter is now hitting .340/.426/.383 this season. He’s not merely baseball’s only starting pitcher posting better-than-average hitting numbers, he’s leaps and bounds ahead of his peers.
Ranking closers based on how bad they've looked at the plate.
On Wednesday night, Aroldis Chapman entered an 8-6 game in relief of an injured Jonathan Broxton, who faced two batters in the top of the eighth before his elbow cut his outing short. It was the first time Chapman had been asked to get more than three outs all season. And because a “distraught” Dusty Bakerscrewed up the double switch, Chapman also made his first major-league plate appearance in the bottom of the inning.
Chapman got a standing ovation from a super-excited Cincinnati crowd when he came to the plate. And unlike some closers who rarely hit—and whose health is much more important than the outcome of any one plate appearance—he wasn’t instructed not to swing. Chapman, who played first base in Cuba before he pitched and showed a decent swing, ran the count full and took two big cuts en route to a predictable strikeout. And then the fans sat back down.
One of baseball's most dominant pitchers versus baseball's worst batters.
PECOTA ran a bit more than 1,000 hitter projections for 2013. The worst line it forecast was a .177/.205/.245 line from Elier Hernandez, an 18-year-old who had just hit .208/.256/.280 in short-season ball. The next worst was for Gabriel Rosa, who had just hit .245/.314/.406 in the Arizona instructional league, and who was forecast to hit .171/.200/.251. The average pitcher this year has hit .133/.162/.180, well below either player’s forecast.
So let’s take PECOTA’s word for it, and accept that major-league pitchers are, generally, worse hitters than every hitter in the majors, and every hitter in the high minors, and if not every hitter in the low minors then most. Let’s say they’re worse than every hitter in Nippon Professional Baseball, and every hitter in the Mexican League. Let’s further assume that they’re worse than a large number of hitters who have washed out of the minors because, through positional inflexibility and unsexy ages and generally limited upside and utility, are no longer allowed to take up organizational space—all the Eddy Martinez Esteves out there. How many is that? Around 500 big leaguers, around 3,000 minor leaguers, no fewer than 1,000 players scattered around foreign professional leagues, certainly dozens if not more college kids, a handful of extremely advanced high schoolers, and the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Eddy Martinez-Esteve desaparicidos. Let’s say that your average pitcher is the 10,000th-best hitter in the world.
You’ll notice that Tim Lincecum isn’t very good these days. He’s actually quite bad. It’s hard to watch him sometimes, especially when he’s matched up against a good opponent, knowing he’s become so likely to lose the battle. That’s what happens, I suppose: pitchers get older, they get worse.
Not his pitching, though. I’m talking about his hitting. Lincecum has one measly hit this season, a little groundball single through the hole between shortstop and third base. He has struck out 12 times in 16 official at-bats. Just six players—five pitchers, and Khris Davis, who R.J. brilliantly describes as “Chris Davis with more K”—have a lower contact rate on pitches in the strike zone.
Micah Owings has always been a good-hitting pitcher. That's a lot different than being a good-hitting non-pitcher.
There was a period, before we’d seen him be bad at pitching, when Micah Owings’ ability to hit was perceived as a complementary part of his play. Owings was a prospect for his pitching alone, a former third-round pick and a 6’5” right-hander with a 3.36 career ERA in the minors through age 23. Just the pitching, presumably, was enough to make him the 98th-best prospect in baseball entering the 2007 season, according to Baseball America(he didn’t make our list). Owings’ bat was a bonus.
That period lasted for a year or so after the point at which Owings appeared on most of our radars. In 2007, the year when he won a starting job in spring training, his comment in the annual alluded to his offense only at the end, after three sentences about stuff that made scouts drool: