Archive for the ‘Kansas City Royals’ category

The Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2017

March 28, 2017

As everyone knows, contemporary pitchers as a group can’t hit a lick.  The rise of the designated hitter, not only in the American League, but also it’s widespread use in the minors and in the college game, is perhaps the biggest factor for the demise of pitchers who can hit, but it’s hardly the only one.

Pitchers simply don’t get as many opportunities to hit today because of the steady trend of using more and more relievers throwing more and more innings, which means starting pitchers get fewer opportunities to hit, and there are more opportunities for professional hitters to be used as pinch hitters.

Also, no matter what the old-timers might say, the level of major league play has gradually and steadily improved since the professional game started in the 1870′s, which means that pitchers, who make the major leagues solely based on their ability to pitch (this has been the overwhelming norm since at least the early 1880’s, and probably a lot earlier) have undergone a slow but steady decline as hitters by virtue of the relative improvement of pitchers (as pitchers), fielders and professional hitters, in spite of the fact that most major league pitchers were great hitters in high school and many were fine college hitters.

A final point to make is that MLB teams now almost always decide at the moment an amateur player is drafted whether he will be developed as a pitcher or a hitter.  As a result, if a player is designated as a pitcher, he won’t get many opportunities to hit in the minors even if he was an outstanding college hitter, like for example, Mica Owings.  Coming up in today’s game, Babe Ruth much more likely than not would remain a pitcher throughout his major league career.

Nevertheless, there are always a few pitchers in any era who can hit.  This 2017 update ranks current pitchers with at least 100 career major league at-bats, in order to weed out the pitchers who just haven’t had enough at-bats for their career hitting stats to mean anything one way or another.

By today’s standards, a good-hitting pitcher is any pitcher with a career batting average at or above .160 or a career OPS at or over .400.  That’s really pretty terrible as hitters go, and it shows just how hard it is even for professional athletes who have played baseball their entire lives to hit major league pitching if the players have not been selected for the major leagues based their ability to hit.

1.  Madison Bumgarner (.183 career batting average and .542 career OPS).  For the third year in a row, fangraphs rates big-swinging MadBum as the most productive pitcher as a hitter in MLB.

On paper, Jake Arrieta‘s 2016 slash line of .262/.304/.415 is much more impressive than Bumgarner’s .186/.268/.360.  I expect that park factors play a big role in fangraphs’ ratings.

In the last three seasons, MadBum has slugged 12 HRs in 229 at-bats and driven in 33 RBIs.  There isn’t a team in the National League who couldn’t use that batting performance from a starter.  He’s also the only major league hitter since the start of the 2015 season to homer twice off MLB’s best starter Clayton Kershaw.  ‘Nuff said.

2.  Zack Greinke  (.219 BA, .580 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

Greinke’s 2016 was his weakest offensive performance in four seasons.  Still, he hit .212 with a .476 OPS, which is great for a contemporary pitcher.

3.   Mike Leake (.203, .522).  Mike Leake has disappointed me as a hitting pitcher.  He hit a ton his first three major league seasons (2010-2012), but since then he’s just been a better than average major league average hitting pitcher.

I bet this has something to do with making adjustments.  By the 2013, major league pitchers realized that Leake could really hit and they’d have to pitch to him like a real hitter, and they’d figured out his weaknesses.  Leake doesn’t seem to have made the necessary counter-adjustments, and now he’s just a better than average hitting pitcher.

4.  Yovani Gallardo (.200, .562).  Gallardo hasn’t played in the NL in two years, but he’s 4 for 8 the last two seasons in the AL. His 33 extra base hits in 424 at-bats is what makes him a threat at the dish.

5. Adam Wainwright (.199 BA, .529 OPS).  With well over 500 career at-bats, Wainwright has well proven his abilities as a hitting pitcher.

6.  Noah Syndergaard (.198 BA, .613 OPS).  Syndergaard passed the 100 career at-bat threshold in 2016, and his combination of power (three HRs in 2016) and willingness to take a walk (seven in 67 plate appearances) made him a real threat at the plate this past season.

I’ve been writing versions of this post long enough now that I’ve noticed that pitchers who hit well through their first 100 major league at-bats tend to regress in subsequent years to towards the pitchers-as-hitters mean.  That’s why I’m ranking him low until he proves he can keep doing it.

7.  Daniel Hudson (.226, .567) & CC Sabathia (.217, .546).  These two deserve to be ranked together because their career numbers are very similar and they both just barely clear the 100 at-bat threshold.  They would rank higher based on the raw numbers except: (1) Hudson is now a relief pitcher, and despite 70 relief appearances, the 2016 Diamondbacks didn’t give him even one plate appearance in spite of the fact that he had his one big season at the plate in 2011 as a D’Back (no wonder the 2016 D’Backs lost 93 games); and (2) Sabathia hasn’t gotten on base since 2010 (CC’s 0-for-18 over that span).

Sabathia has only played one-half of one season in the National League in his long MLB career.   As an American League hurler, he only gets to hit about one or two games a year (roughly two to five plate appearances a year) during inter-league play, but he’s still gotten enough hits over his career to make this list.

Sabathia is tall and heavy set, which doesn’t sound like a recipe for a good-hitting pitcher (although that certainly describes an older Babe Ruth and Buzz Arlett), but obviously he’s just a great all-around baseball player.  I’ve long wondered what kind of batting numbers he would put up playing three or four full seasons in a row in the NL.  His career is now winding down, so we’ll never know.

9.  Tyler Chatwood (.232, .526).  Chatwood was a starter again last year and made it over the 100 at-bat threshold in 2016.  He’s a fine hitting pitcher who probably benefits as a hitter from making half his starts at Coors Field.  Needless to say, Coors Field doesn’t do much for him as a pitcher.

10.  Travis Wood.  (.182 BA, .522 OPS) Wood hit poorly in 2015, was moved to the bullpen in 2016, and signed this off-season with the AL’s Kansas City Royals for the next two seasons, so he won’t have many more opportunities to improve his career batting numbers anytime soon.

11.  Tyson Ross (.201, .482).  Ross is coming back from a major injury and pitching for an AL team, the Rangers, this year, but he sure hit in 2015 for the Padres.

Young Hitting Pitchers to Watch.  Michael Lorenzen (.244, .628).  Lorenzen can hit, but he has to establish himself as a starting pitcher if he ever hopes to reach the 100 at-bat cut-off.  He pitched exclusively in relief last year, but was used as a pinch hitter or allowed to hit five times in which he hit slugged a homer for his only hit.

Shohei Otani will be one of MLB’s best hitting pitchers as soon as he signs with an MLB team some years from now.  I’m hoping an NL team signs him for this reason.

The top two prospects in this year’s amateur draft, Hunter Greene and Brendan McKay, are two-way players, who will most likely be developed as pitchers.  Thus, the odds are good that one day at least one of these two will make a future year’s version of this post.

As final notes, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad as major league hitters almost immediately.  Also, since I started writing these posts about five years ago, I’ve noticed a steady deterioration in the best-hitting major league pitchers just in that short time.  If this trend continues, I would expect the National League to adopt the designated hitter by 2030.

Remembering Jonathan Sanchez

March 21, 2017

According to mlbtraderumors.com, the Royals just released Jonathan Sanchez as he attempted what will almost certainly be his last MLB comeback attempt.  The thought of Sanchez brings back at least some fond memories.

Giants’ fans will remember a largely frustrating career — great stuff, not enough command — that culminated in one fine year in which the Giants just happened to win their first World Series since 1954. That, and his 2009 no-hitter.

2010, when Sanchez went 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA, was his one full season to remember.  His command still wasn’t great that year, but his stuff was so good that he allowed only 142 hits in 193.1 innings pitched, and he struck out 205.

Sanchez last pitched in the majors in 2013.  Injuries set in quickly in quickly after the 2010 season, and his career was straight downhill from that point.

He pitched well in the Puerto Rican Winter League in post 2015, but this past Winter League season he pitched only two innings in one start in which he gave up only one hit, but walked four while striking out three.  If his arm is healthy, he could get a shot pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter league next off-season, but that’s about it, unless he’s willing to pitch in Mexico this summer.

In today’s game, it’s hard to feel sorry for Sanchez.  His career may not have been what he and the SF Giants hoped for, but he made more than $15 million playing professional baseball, and he’s earned a substantial major league pension, which will go far indeed if he spends any significant part of each year in Puerto Rico.

It’s tough to be an MLB player this generation, but those who can have any kind of career are now well compensated.

Overpaid Glove-Tree Catchers

December 3, 2016

The Diamondbacks just signed light-hitting, defense-first catcher Jeff Mathis to a two-year $4 million contract.  While the contract is relatively small potatoes in today’s MLB, Mathis is still the second all-field, no-hit catcher to get a multi-year, multi-million deal this off-season.

Mathis will be 34 next season, and fangraphs values his career MLB performance as worth -$5.3 million.  His defense is indeed above major league average but his hitting is so poor that even at a position where a lot of hitting isn’t expected, he hurts the team the more he plays.

Guys like Mathis and Drew Butera may be good in the club house, and they certainly make a team’s pitchers happy behind the plate, but they don’t help a team with their total lack of offensive production.  Butera at least hit in a little capacity in 2016, but Mathis has never had a single season OPS higher than .642.

Clearly, the fact that both Mathis and Butera got multi-year deals for roughly the same amount means that this is the value that teams give to veteran good-field, no-hit back-up catchers.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

The old baseball term “glove-tree” refers to the fact that it has typically been much easier to find a player who can provide above-average major league defense than it is to find a player who can provide adequate major league defense at a defense-first position who can also hit.  If you need one of the defense-first players, you just go shake the glove-tree, and one will fall out.  You sure don’t give these guys multi-year contracts at more than three times the league’s minimum wage, at least not if you hope to be competitive.

In this age of sabermetrics, where defensive values are more accurately known than ever before, but defensive performance is still largely undervalued, it is hard to understand why players whose defense analytically does not make up for their lack of offense should get be getting $4 million contracts.

Mid-November Musings

November 19, 2016

With the World Series long over, but with the off-season signing period not yet hot and heavy, there hasn’t been much I’ve really felt like writing about.  I’ve reached a point in my blogging career where I feel like it’s only worth my writing about something if I have something truly meaningful to say that isn’t being contemporaneously beaten to death by all the hundreds or thousands of other baseball blogs out there.

As such, I write about a lot of obscure topics precisely because you’re not going to find dozens of other sites providing similar infotainment.  It also frees me to write about darker corners of the baseball world that I find interesting, but not a lot of other people care much about.

For example, I am endlessly fascinated about the American players who play in Asian leagues.  Every off-season I follow who the new crop of players moving their careers there and wondering about how Asian teams identify these prospects.  Do Asian teams regularly contact specific players (or their agents) whom Asian teams have identified based on their own research, or do the players and their agents contact Asian teams advising of their interest in playing abroad.  Is it some combination of the two?  Do Asian teams contact the MLB players’ association and MLB organizations at the start of every off-season to get the players informed about the possibilities of playing in Asia?

My guess is that a lot of the border-line MLB players who are most likely to succeed in Japan’s NPB or South Korea’s KBO simply have no interest in playing in Asia unless they get an offer they can’t refuse.  The dream of major league success dies hard for a lot of these guys.  It must, or otherwise the caliber of American players going to Japan or South Korea would be higher than it actually is, since NPB and the KBO certainly pay better than a year mostly spent at AAA.  Also, it’s a big adjustment to live and work in a foreign culture, which is exacerbated if the player has a family in the U.S.  Do you bring the wife and kids to Japan or South Korea once the school year is over, or do you live apart for six months?

The players who make the leap usually have to reach a point where they are convinced that they aren’t going to get even a fair shot at becoming major league players, usually because they’ve aged out, but sometimes because they are guys who were low draft picks who have outperformed expectations but still haven’t necessarily been shown a whole lot of respect or as many opportunities as their on-field performance alone might merit.

Something that got me thinking about this today was the KC Royals’ decision to sign catcher Drew Butera to a two-year $3.8 million contract.  Butera strikes me as a guy more lucky than good, a player who got a major league opportunity when a team (the Twins) was desperate for a catcher who could at least field the position and who then stuck around long enough that other teams began thinking of him as a major league player, even though his performances were generally poor.

Butera, at age 32 in 2016, had the first season of his major league career in which his offensive performance was not dreadful, and he was able to parlay it into a two-year deal, that, while modest by current MLB standards, is still not chump change.  It is worth noting that while fangraphs rated the value of Butera’s 2016 performance at $5.3 million, the site still gives him a negative value for his major league career.

Butera is a good defensive catcher, but not nearly good enough to make up for his typically dreadful hitting.  I strongly suspect his batting will regress toward his mean in 2017.

Anyway, the existence of long-term major leaguers like Butera who aren’t as good as a replacement level player, means that there are guys stuck in the minors who aren’t getting all the opportunities they deserve.  I’m a little surprised that even more of these guys aren’t fighting among themselves to play for major league money in Asia, in large part because the idea of getting paid big money to play baseball and experience a foreign culture for six months sounds so appealing to me.  Also, being in my late forties, it’s a lot easier for me to see the long view of a player’s professional career.

Triples Alley

May 4, 2016

Hitting three-baggers is something of a lost art, and is now largely limited to certain ballparks or when an outfielder misplays a ball off the wall not quite badly enough to be called an error.  This was not always so.

In the Deadball Era before 1920, triples were the big power hit, simply because they were much more common (most years at least) than home runs.  Aside from the dirty, battered baseballs in play, the slower, less athletic outfielders and the inferior fielder’s gloves of those days, many ballparks had very deep outfield fences, particularly to one or two of the three fields, than they do today, because of the urban lot shapes on which the fields were built and that fact that with home runs an extreme rarity, no one was really concerned with symmetric fields and keeping fences within reasonable home run distance.  In fact, before Babe Ruth, most home runs were of the inside-the-park variety when a batter split the outfielders to the long field.

Time for some trivia: Who hit the most triples in a season after 1920?  After 1946?  Since 2000?

Who hit the most career triples for any player to play in the 1960’s?  In the 1970’s?  1980’s?  1990’s?  2000’s?  2010’s?

The answers will show you just how much triples have declined as part of the offensive game, with the slight exception that integration starting in 1947 brought more speed and speed/power players into the game.

Kiki Cuyler hit 26 triples in 1925. Hazen Shirley Cuyler (pronounced Ky-ler) was nicknamed “Kiki” (rhymes with “sky”) because he had a bad stutter.  Nicknames weren’t nearly as kind back in the day.  Unfortunately, Cuyler did not live long enough to see the Veterans’ Committee vote him into the Hall of Fame in 1968, which is pretty much the ultimate retort to a mean-spirited nickname.

Since 1946, Curtis Granderson‘s 23 in 2007 is the most, although a number of players have hit at least 20 in a season since 1946.

Most career triples for any player to play in the 1960’s?  Stan “The Man” Musial with 177, tied for 19th best all-time.

1970’s?  Roberto Clemente 166 (tied 27th best all-time).

1980’s and 1990’s? Willie Wilson 147 (tied 56th best all-time).

2000’s?  Steve Finley 124 (tied 90th all-time).

2010’s?  Carl Crawford 123 (tied 94th all-time).  Although Crawford’s career appears to be winding down, with his big-money free agent contract running through the 2017 season, the odds are fairly good he can collect two more triples to move past Finley.

For what it’s worth, Babe Ruth hit 136 triples in his career, good for a tie at 71st best all-time.  While the Bambino’s lofty career total is largely a product of the times he played in, people forget that when Ruth was young and lean, he was very fast, kind of like a young Reggie Jackson, or some of the big fast guys of today’s game, like Mike Trout.

In the six seasons between 1918 and 1923, from ages 23 through 28, the Babe hit 69 triples, more than half his career total.

 

The Best and Worst Hitters’ Parks in MLB Baseball 2016

April 8, 2016

Back in the summer of 2012 I discovered that espn.com provides stats for what it calls “park factor”, which for purposes of this post means the ratio between the number of runs scored at a ballpark in any given season divided by the number of runs scored by said ballpark’s occupant (and its opponents) in away games that same season.  I’ve written several posts on this subject, which have proven quite popular, the last about two years ago, so it feels like a good time for an update.

As we enter the 2016 season, below are the average park factors for all major league ballparks over the last six seasons, 2010 through 2015 (four seasons for Marlins Park which opened in 2012).

1.  Coors Field (Rockies) 1.427.  Coors Field remains far and away the best hitters’ in MLB by a wide margin.  Every other stadium had a season or two between 2010 and 2015 well out of line with its overall average position except Coors Field.  It was the best hitters’ park in MLB five of the six seasons, usually by a lot, and a strong second in the sixth season.

2.  Globe Life Park at Arlington (Rangers) 1.144.  Globe Life Park remains the best hitters’ park in the American League.

3.  Fenway Park (Red Sox) 1.107.

4.  Chase Field (Diamondbacks) 1.093.

5.  Camden Yards (Orioles) 1.083.

6.  Miller Park (Brewers) 1.072.

7.  Yankee Stadium 1.059.

8.    U.S. Cellular Field (White Sox) 1.058.  One of the more variable parks in MLB, U.S. Cellular Field was a pitchers’ park in 2015, but a strong hitters’ park in 2010 and 2012.

9. Rogers Centre (Blue Jays) 1.047.  A pitchers’ park in 2015, Rogers Center was a hitters’ park every other year of the last six.

10.  Great American Ball Park (Reds) 1.045.

11.  Wrigley Field (Cubs) 1.034.  Long regarded as one of the best hitters’ parks in MLB, Wrigley was a pitchers’ park in 2014 and 2015, bringing it’s six year average down considerably.

12.  Comerica Park (Tigers) 1.026.

13.  Kauffman Stadium (Royals) 1.027.  25 or 30 years ago, Kauffman Stadium was one of the best hitters’ parks in baseball.  However, the newer parks built starting with Camden Yards in 1992, have for the most part been much better hitters’ parks than the ballparks they replaced.  The casual fans want to see offense, and the modern parks have largely catered to that desire with resulting attendance increases.

14.  Target Field (Twins) 1.013.  The Twins’ new ball park looked like it was going to be a pitchers’ park after the first couple of seasons of play there.  However, it now looks to be a slight hitters’ park.

15.  Citizens Bank Ballpark (Phillies) 1.005.

16.  Nationals Park 1.004.

17.  Marlins Park (2012-2015) 1.000.  The Marlins’ new park appears to be as close to a perfectly level playing field for pitchers and hitters as currently exists in MLB, at least based on the first four seasons of play there.

18.  Progressive Field (Indians) 0.992.  Progressive Field was the second best hitters’ park in MLB last year, after five consecutive seasons as a moderate pitchers’ park.  2015 was almost certainly a fluke.

19.  Minute Maid Park (Astros) 0.987.  Once known as Ten-run Park, when it was named after failed energy company Enron, Minute Maid Park varies wildly between a hitters’ park and pitchers’ park from season to season.

20.  Turner Field (Braves) 0.972.

21.  Busch Stadium (Cardinals) 0.957.

22.  Oakland Coliseum (A’s) 0.941.  O.co isn’t as much of a pitchers’ park as it once was, more or less switching places with Angel Stadium, another now antiquated multi-use stadium from the 1960’s.

23.  PNC Park (Pirates) 0.927.

24.  Dodger Stadium 0.906.

25.  Tropicana Field (Rays) 0.894.

26.  Angel Stadium 0.877.  The fact that Angel Stadium is now one of the worst hitters’ parks in MLB gives one additional appreciation of just how good Mike Trout is as an offensive player.

27.  Citi Field (Mets) 0.876.

28.  Petco Park (Padres) 0.857.

29.  Safeco Field (Mariners) 0.842.  The Mariners and the Padres moved their outfield fences in before the 2013 season in order to goose offensive production.  It hasn’t helped a whole lot, as both parks remained among the worst hitters’ parks in MLB from 2013-2015.

29.    AT&T Park (Giants) 0.842.  AT&T varies a lot season to season, but in 2011, 2012 and 2015 it was a strong pitchers’ park.

The Best Hitting Pitchers in MLB Baseball 2016

April 7, 2016

As everyone knows, modern pitchers as a group can’t hit a lick.  The rise of the designated hitter, not only in the American League, but also it’s widespread use in the minors and in the college game, is perhaps the biggest factor for the demise of pitchers who can hit, but it’s hardly the only one.

Pitchers simply don’t get as many opportunities to hit today because of the steady trend of using more and more relievers throwing more and more innings, which means starting pitchers get fewer opportunities to hit, and there are more opportunities for professional hitters to be used as pinch hitters.

Also, no matter what the old-timers might say, the level of major league play has gradually and steadily improved since the professional game started in the 1870′s, which means that pitchers, who make the major leagues solely based on their ability to pitch (this has been the overwhelming norm since at least the early 1880’s, and probably a lot earlier) have undergone a slow but steady decline as hitters by virtue of the relative improvement of pitchers (as pitchers), fielders and professional hitters, in spite of the fact that most major league pitchers were great hitters in high school and many were fine college hitters.

A final point to make is that MLB teams now almost always decide at the moment an amateur player is drafted whether he will be developed as a pitcher or a hitter.  As a result, if a player is designated as a pitcher, he won’t get many opportunities to hit in the minors even if he was an outstanding college hitter, like for example, Mica Owings.  Coming up in today’s game, Babe Ruth much more likely than not would remain a pitcher throughout his major league career.

Nevertheless, there are always a few pitchers in any era who can hit.  This 2016 update ranks current pitchers with at least 100 career major league at-bats in order to weed out the pitchers who just haven’t had enough at-bats for their career hitting stats to mean anything one way or another.

By today’s standards, a good-hitting pitcher is any pitcher with a career batting average at or above .160 or a career OPS at or over .400.  That’s really pretty terrible as hitters go, and it shows just how hard it is even for professional athletes who have played baseball their entire lives to hit major league pitching if the players have not been selected for the major leagues based their ability to hit.

1.  Madison Bumgarner (.182 career batting average and .521 career OPS as I write this).  The big-swinging Bumgarner has forced me to change the way I do my rankings.  In previous iterations of this post, I ranked pitchers-as-hitters strictly based on best career numbers for pitchers with at least 100 career plate appearances.  However, despite some poor hitting seasons early in his major league career, MadBum has clearly and pretty much indisputably been the best hitting pitcher in each of the last two seasons, so it’s safe to say that entering the 2016 season, Bumgarner is the best hitting pitcher in MLB at this point in time.  Of course, I reserve the right to drop Bumgarner down more than a few notches next year if he isn’t one of MLB’s 10 or 15 best hitting pitchers in 2016.

Bumgarner has hit nine HRs in 159 plate appearances the last two seasons with 24 RBIs, and that probably goes a long way in explaining why his record was 36-19 over those two seasons, compared to going 13-9 in 2013, when he didn’t hit a lick, but had a lower ERA.  All things considered, Bumgarner probably pitched as well or better last year than he did in 2013, but not enough to explain the much better won-loss record in 2015.

2.  Zack Greinke  (.223 BA, .603 OPS).   One thing I’ve noticed about good hitting pitchers, writing about them as I have  for some years now, is that there doesn’t seem to be a particularly strong correlation between a pitcher’s ability to hit and his having spent his minor league time or the vast majority of his MLB career with a National League team, even though this would presumably mean that the pitcher got a lot more opportunities to hit.  After spending his minor league career and his first seven major league seasons with the Royals, Greinke established himself as a fine hitter by his second National League season.

If I had to guess, I would say that the ability to hit the fastball (and lay off breaking pitches) is probably the most important factor in a pitcher’s ability to hit.  Pitchers hate to walk the opposing pitcher, so any time the pitcher-as-hitter is ahead in the count, fastballs for strikes are likely to follow.

3.   Mike Leake (.212, .545).  Leake’s hitting has dropped off substantially the last two seasons, but I still rank him as third above Yovani Gallardo because of his higher OBP (.235 to .223).

4.  Yovani Gallardo (.198, .556).  His 12 career home runs make him one of the best power threats among today’s pitchers.

5.  Daniel Hudson (.226, .567) & CC Sabathia (.219, .551).  These two deserve to be ranked together because their career numbers are very similar and they both just barely clear the 100 at-bat threshold.  They would rank higher based on the raw numbers except: (1) since Hudson blew out his elbow tendon in 2012, he worked his way back to the majors as a reliever and has had only one plate appearance the last three seasons; and (2) Sabathia hasn’t gotten on base since 2010.

Sabathia has only played one-half of one season in the National League in his long MLB career.  As an American League hurler who has been hurt a lot in recent seasons, he only gets to hit about one or two games a year (roughly two to five plate appearances a year) during inter-league play, but he’s still gotten enough hits to make this list.

Sabathia is tall and heavy set, which doesn’t sound like a recipe for a good-hitting pitcher (although that certainly describes an older Babe Ruth and Buzz Arlett), but obviously he’s just a great all-around baseball player.  I’ve long wondered what kind of batting numbers he would put up playing three or four full seasons in a row in the NL.  His career is now winding down, so we’ll never know.

7.  Adam Wainwright (.197 BA, .508 OPS).  Wainwright’s hitting has dropped off at bit in recent seasons, but I rank him above Travis Wood because of the Wainwright’s better career on-base percentage (.225 to .206)

8.  Travis Wood.  (.182 BA, .525 OPS) Wood hit poorly in 2015, and he’s been moved to the bullpen, so he won’t have many more opportunities to improve his career batting numbers, particularly on a Cubs team loaded with talented potential pinch-hitters.

9.  Tyson Ross (.201, .482).  Ross hit extremely well for a pitcher last year (.250 batting average and .640 OPS) as a full-time starter for the Padres.

10.  Jacob DeGrom (.200, .458).  Even with no power and few walks, hitting at exactly the Mendoza Line after 105 career MLB at-bats makes DeGrom MLB’s tenth best hitting pitcher entering the 2016 season.

Young Hitting Pitchers to Watch.  Taylor Jungmann (.270, .614), Michael Lorenzen (.250, .576), Noah Syndergaard (.209, .530), and Jose Fernandez (.190, .498) are the sweet-swinging young hurlers to keep an eye on.

Of the four, Michael Lorenzen, if he can prove himself to be an MLB starter [remember pitcher first, pitcher first, pitcher first], is the best bet to move quickly up my list in future years.  Someone posted a comment last year tipping me off to him.  Lorenzen was a fine college hitter (.872 career college OPS in three seasons at Cal State Fullerton, one of the many excellent Cal State University system baseball programs in Southern California).  He started his college career as a position player, but became the team’s closer as a sophomore.  In his case, as opposed to the aforementioned Mica Owings, his college numbers much more strongly suggested his development as a pitcher in the professional ranks, mainly due to his lack of power as a hitter.  If he ends up back in the bullpen, so much for his being a great hitting pitcher.

What is interesting about Taylor Jungman is that he pitched three seasons as the ace of the University of Texas Longhorns (Hook ’em, Horns!) without receiving even a single plate appearance (see my comments at the top of this post).  He had only 65 plate appearances in the minor leagues before hitting strongly in 38 plate appearances for the Brewers last year.  In short, there is really no way to tell at this moment what the future holds for him as a major league hitter.

As a final note, the best hitting major league pitchers get pretty bad as major league hitters almost immediately.  Since I started writing these posts about five years ago, I’ve noticed a steady deterioration in the best-hitting major league pitchers just in that short time.  If this trend continues, I would expect the National League to adopt the designated hitter in as little as ten or fifteen years from now.