Archive for the ‘New York Mets’ category

The Oakland A’s Bargain Basement Sluggers, Part I

February 25, 2017

Earlier this off-season, ESPN’s David Schoenfeld wrote an article to the effect that older sluggers like Brandon Moss were having trouble finding contracts because teams were looking for the next Brandon Moss, i.e. minor league players past the age of 27 who could give a team a few productive seasons at a very low price.  At the time, I opined that the failure of these players to sign so far this off-season had more to the do with these players coming to terms with what teams were willing to pay them, rather than teams trying to find the next player of this type, because. as a practical matter, the next Brandon Moss isn’t so easy to find.

Ultimately, the St. Louis Cardinals gave Moss $12 million for two years, roughly ten times what the next Brandon Moss found now would cost his team in 2017 and 2018.

Schoenfeld’s article also drew attention from fangraphs, which wrote a piece on who would most likely be the next Brandon Moss in 2017.  Not surprisingly, about half of the players fangraphs identified will be playing in Japan or South Korea next year, because they are the kind of no-longer-prospects that NPB and KBO teams look for each off-season.

I still like 27 year old Jabari Blash, whose .914 OPS in 646 AAA at-bats suggests he’s a major league player, even if he hits .220 at the MLB level.  However, the Padres successfully passed him through waivers in January, so my opinion is apparently not shared by any of the other 29 major league teams.

Anyway, it’s all got me thinking about these kinds of players and the team, the Oakland A’s, that has made them famous.  What follows is a list of the players at least 28 years old the year they broke out in MLB, whom the A’s obtained for essentially peanuts in the last 25 years.

1.   Geronimo Berroa (28 years old in 1994; signed as free agent).  Berroa is the first of these players I remember the A’s finding.  He had three and a half terrific seasons for the A’s in which he hit 87 HRs with an on-base percentage well over .350, before the A’s traded him to the Baltimore Orioles.

2.  Matt Stairs (28 in 1996; free agent).  Stairs had one of the great major league careers for a player who didn’t have even 200 plate appearances in a season until his age 29 season.  In four and half seasons with the A’s, Stairs hit 122 HRs and posted the high on-base percentages the A’s were hoping for.

3.  Olmedo Saenz (28 in 1999; free agent).  Saenz was never an every day player in his four seasons with the A’s, but he was a valuable bench player who posted an OPS over .800 in three of his four seasons with the team and who could play 3B when needed.

4.  Marco Scutaro (28 in 2004; claimed off waivers from Mets).  Scutaro wasn’t a power hitter by any stretch of the imagination, but he was an older, undervalued minor league player whom the A’s acquired for peanuts.  He gave the A’s four strong seasons in what turned out to be a long and successful major league career.

5.  Jack Cust (28 in 2007; cash purchase from Padres).  Cust was perhaps my favorite player of the bunch, mostly because he was such an extreme example (at the time) of what the A’s recognized as an undervalued player.  Cust didn’t hit for average, and he struck out a hell of a lot; but in his four seasons with Oakland, he slugged 97 HRs and walked 377 times.  Only a decade later, this type of player is common in MLB, to the extent that teams can find them. There were so many one dimensional sluggers who had a hard time finding contracts mainly because none of them drew walks like Cust, Stairs or Berroa.

[I don’t know what the A’s paid the Padres to get Jack Cust, except that it was peanuts by MLB standards.]

6.  Brandon Moss (28 in 2012; free agent).  Moss is actually the least representative player on this list, as he played regularly, if unproductively, at the major league level in 2008 and 2009.  When he finally put it together for the A’s, he hit 76 HRs in three seasons, before the A’s traded Moss to the Indians.

7.  Stephen Vogt (28 in 2013; cash purchase from the Rays).  It’s somewhat difficult to know whether catchers count, since this is the non-pitching position at which players tend to develop at the latest age.  Even so, he was past the age 27 when the A’s acquired him, he’s hit 45 HRs in his four seasons with the A’s, and he likely cost the A’s peanuts to acquire.

Honorable Mention.  Frank Menechino (29 in 2000; selected from White Sox in minor league portion of Rule 5 Draft 12/97).  Menechino had only one season as an every day player for the A’s (2001), and he hit only .242.  However, he was a 2Bman with a little pop and a .369 OBP that year.  The A’s won 102 games in 2001, so one has to assume that Menechino had to have done something right.

 

The Yankees Have No Class

February 18, 2017

Instead of simply savoring their arbitration win over Dellin Betances (he gets the $3 million the Yankees proffered instead of the $5 million he asked for) quietly, Yankees President Randy Levine publicly blasted Betances and his agents today for asking for too much in arbitration.  No class.

A player asking for too much in arbitration is a win for the team, since it means it’s that much more likely the arbitrator will pick the team’s number.  Meanwhile, Betances responded by saying it will be that much easier for him to leave as a free agent in 2020.

Doesn’t management realize the value of a Dominican American star who was born and raised in New York City?  I’m reminded of Joe Dimaggio‘s hold-out in 1938.  Dimaggio had an incredible first two major league seasons, was an enormous star in NYC, a city with a huge Italian American population, and Dimag thought he deserved to be paid what he was worth.

The Yankees didn’t give it to him, because in those days they didn’t have to.  The reserve clause was in its heyday, and a player had no choice but to hold out until eventually accepting very close to the number the team originally wanted to pay him.

Those times have changed, and treating a box office attraction like Betances like an ingrate jerk just makes no sense.  Betances isn’t quite a superstar yet, and he didn’t pitch well in the closer role late last season.  However, I think that probably had more to do with a short-sample size slump/fluke or the  fact that Betances had been worked hard during the immediately preceding two and two-thirds seasons.

In fact, the Yankees may be betting on the fact that they will succeed in burning out Betances in his set-up role before he can become a free agent.  I wouldn’t necessarily count on it.  A player of Betances’ size and strikeout rates tends to blow out his knees and back before his pitching arms.

Mark my words — if Betances eventually develops into the closer one has to expect him to become and he’s healthy three years from now, don’t be surprised if Betances signs with the Mets for less than absolute top dollar in order to stick a nail in Yankees management.

Meanwhile, the Yankees are pretty much guaranteed to have one of their stars far less happy than he should be going into the 2017 season.  It’s just more evidence that the Bombers are far more willing to be mediocre than they were under King George.

Rooting for Dellin Betances in Arbitration

January 20, 2017

The New York Yankees and Dellin Betances are going to arbitration.  Betances is asking for $5 million; the Yankees are offering $3 million.  I’m rooting for Betances.

This is nothing new in that my allegances are usually with the players: the players, not ownership, put the cans in the seats.   However, in this case, reading that the Bombers renewed Betances’ 2016 contract at the major league minimum strikes me as just wrong.

There is obviously something more to the story.  Even the cheapest, small market teams usually give tiny raises to young players before they become arbitration eligible.

However, many teams, if the player will not accept the raise the team unilaterally elects to give, whatever that might be, choose to punish the player by renewing him at the minimum for not accepting the unilaterally imposed small raise.  I have to think that is why Betances got a $5,000 raise in 2015 which was probably the amount of the rise in the major league minimum and got no raise at all in 2016, when presumably the national cost of living index did not rise and the major league minimum did not go up.

In my mind, it is just so short-sighted.  The Yankees are the wealthiest team in baseball, and even if Betances wasn’t willing to accept the raise the Yankees wanted to give him when the Yankees could set whatever raise they wanted, it is just dumb not to give him that raise.  Instead, the Yankees elected to punish him to save, what, $50,000 or $100,000?  Chump-change in terms of the team’s $225 million plus player payroll, thereby guaranteeing that Betances will never ever give the Yankees one plug nickel when the time comes that Betances is the one with the leverage.

Another element of this story is that Betances is old relative to his major league service time and performance, which will have some impact on his future earning ability.  Betances is one in a long line of storied major league pitchers who always had great stuff, but who took a long time to develop command (some of these guys obviously never do).

Betances finally found his command in his age 26 season, and his performance has been other-worldly since then.  Still, he sees younger guys making more money because they reached the Show sooner, even if they now aren’t as good.  Add to that the fact that the Yankees are so good that despite his tremendous performance over the last three years, he’s notched only 22 saves, because the Yankees always had somebody at least as good with more experience who got the saves opportunities.

In short, Betances feels he deserves to get paid, and the Yankees probably assume that, since they are the rich, rich Yankees, players will always demand top money regardless.   Even so, it’s doubtful that taking Betances to arbitration serves the Yankees in the long run.

Maybe the situation with Betances is soured already.  However, the Yankees are also sending a message to every other player in the organization that each player ought to stick it to the Yankees or the team will stick it to them.

One thing that has to be remembered is that even as rich as the Yankees are, there are some players who might sign for a little less than absolute top dollar because they want to remain with the franchise that developed them or gave them their first big league opportunity or because they want to play in New York.  Some players, like most recently Yoenis Cespedes, really seem to thrive under the brightest lights, or the cultural or life-style options the Big Apple provides.  If you’re a player from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Japan, South Korea or a lot of other places, NYC has a lot to offer.

Whether Betances wins or loses the upcoming arbitration hearing, the best revenge will be staying healthy and continuing to strike out more than 11 batters per nine innings pitched.  That way, Betances will eventually get the big money from the Yanks or someone else.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.  Every pitcher would remain healthy and effective forever if it was solely a matter of hard work and will power.  In the meantime, Aroldis Chapman will continue to get the save opportunities, and the Yankees will continue to work Betances hard as a set-up man, since they know they won’t get any team-friendly contract extensions from Betances and his agents any time soon.

Unless, of course, team and player agree to a multi-year extension before the arbitration hearing.

New York Mets Sign Tim Tebow in Obvious PR Move

September 8, 2016

The New York Mets signed the now 29 year old Tim Tebow to a minor league contract today.  I don’t care what kind of an athlete Tebow is, the chances that he will become a major league player or even a legitimate AAA player starting his professional career at his current age are effectively nil.  There is a reason why MLB teams never, ever sign unknown amateur baseball players older than 23 or 24.

The Independent A leagues have created an avenue for a select few players who haven’t been signed by a major league organization by their age 23 seasons to eventually make the majors.  However, the Independent-A leagues are professional baseball, typically playing between 96 and 140 games per season.

There is also a hierarchy of Indy-A Leagues, allowing players to move up to better leagues with better competition as their skills develop.  A player who has played in the Atlantic League, the American Association or the CanAm League and succeeded there at least has a reasonable chance to succeed at the AA or A+ level when signed into the MLB system.

The one thing I have never understood about Tim Tebow’s football career is why, when it turned out he was too scatter-armed to be a successful NFL quarterback, he didn’t move to another back field position like fullback or halfback.  His talents as a running back were always obvious and he was certainly big enough to take the pounding running backs take.

Professional football players with some regularity are moved to other positions than the ones they played in college when they reach the pro ranks, based on where the professional team thinks the player has the best chance of becoming a successful professional player or where the pro team has an unmet need.  For example, Bruce Miller, recently released by the San Francisco 49ers for a drunken off-field assault, was a former 7th round draft pick who had played linebacker and defensive line in college, but played his first four years as a pro exclusively at fullback and was slated to play at tight end this upcoming season.

The fact that Tebow, given his obvious athletic and football abilities, did not move to another position to continue his pro career has long made me wonder whether Tebow wasn’t more interested in building his brand and his celebrity than in playing pro football.  His turn as a professional baseball player at age 29 doesn’t do anything to erase my suspicion.

Three Home Runs in One Game – 2016 Update

April 10, 2016

Since 2010 I’ve written a couple of posts containing fun facts about three home run games.  The most recent was almost three years ago, so it seems like a good time for another update.  Here is baseballreference.com’s list of the players to hit three in one game between 1951 through early in the 2011 season.

You will note that three home run games have been particularly common in the last 20 years, the period in which the PED-fueled offensive barrage reached its peak.

The original “Big Cat” Johnny Mize and Sammy Sosa are the all-time leaders with six different three home run games each. Joe Carter, Dave Kingman, Mark McGwire and Carlos Delgado and Alex Rodriguez each hit three or more in five different games.  ARod’s fifth such game occurred July 25, 2015.

Babe Ruth is still the only player to have two three home run games in the World Series, but as of October 22, 2011, Albert Pujols has joined the Babe with two three HR post-season games. On October 24, 2012, Pablo “Kung-fu Pando” Sandoval joined the Sultan of Swat, Reggie Jackson in 1977 and Prince Albert as the only other players to hit three in a World Series game.

In the Dead Ball Era between 1900 and 1920, not one player hit three home runs in a major league game.

Interestingly, Babe Ruth did not have a three home run game in any of the four years (1919, 1920, 1921 and 1927) in which he set the single season HR record.  Nor did Roger Maris (or for that matter Mickey Mantle) in 1961.

Mark McGwire did it twice and Sammy Sosa once in 1998, the year they decimated the old HR record.  Barry Bonds did it twice in 2001, and Sosa three more times that same year.  The feat was accomplished a ridiculous 22 times in 2001, the year with the most three home run games.

George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) had their big days on Opening Day.

On May 6, 2015, Bryce Harper became the youngest player to hit three HRs in a game since the now largely forgotten Joe Lahoud did it on July 11, 1969.  Both were age 22.

The youngest player to hit three home runs in a major league game was Al Kaline at the tender age of 20 years and 119 days when he did it on April 17, 1955.  Eddie Matthews was the only other player to do it before age 21, when he hit his three on July 20, 1952.

The oldest player to hit three in one game is Stan Musial at age 41 and 229 days on July 8, 1962.  Reggie Jackson, Babe Ruth and Jason Giambi are the only other players to accomplish this feat after reaching age 40.

Now’s a good time for some trivia questions, the first from my original 2010 post, the second from my 2013 update, and the third a new one.

(1)  who are the only two major league players to hit five home runs in a double-header?  This is a record that will probably never be matched again, since MLB teams no longer schedule double-headers.

(2) who hit the fewest career home runs for any player to hit three HRs in one game?

(3) who hit the fewest career home runs for any player to hit three HRs in one game twice?

Answer (1): Stan “The Man” Musial for the Cardinals against the New York Giants on May 2, 1954; and Nate Colbert for the Padres against the Atlanta Braves on August 1, 1972.  Colbert was from St. Louis and claims to have personally attended the game in which Musial first accomplished the feat.   Whether or not he actually did, it’s a great story.

Answer (2): Since 1951, Bill Glynn, who hit three dingers on July 5, 1954, but finished his major league career with only ten.  Here’s a list of the players with the fewest career home runs to hit three in one game since 1951.  However, the actual correct answer is probably Merv Connors, who hit three on September 17, 1938, but hit a total of only eight in his major league career.

There’s a lot more to the story than this, however.  Merv Connors was one of the all-time great minor league sluggers.  He hit 400 HRs in his minor league career, placing him in the top five all-time.

In the year he hit three home runs in one game for the Chicago White Sox, Connors hit three other HRs and in only 24 games, he batted .355 with a 1.146 OPS.  He was only 24 years old that season, but he never played in the major leagues again.

No matter how bad his defense may have been, there’s no way a team doesn’t keep a player who hit like Connors did in his 1938 trial.  By way of comparison, no other player on that White Sox team had an OPS higher than .854.

My guess is that an injury was involved.  At any rate, he was sent back to Shreveport in the Texas League in 1939 and had a bad year, batting only .229.  He was even worse in 1940, another season in which he was almost certainly battling injuries.

That poor year got Connors sent down to the low minors in 1941.  He bounced back that year and also had a great 1942 campaign back in the Texas League, but he was now going on age 29.  1943 appears to be another season in which he battled injuries, and he was then drafted for the last two years of the War.

When Connors returned to professional baseball, he was 32 years old.  He spent most of the remaining eight years of his career playing in B and C leagues in Texas.  For what it’s worth, Merv Connors was born and died in Berkeley, California, the location in which I’m writing this post.  Needless to say, he attended Berkeley High School.

Answer (3): The New York Giants’ immortal pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes, who hit only 54 HRs in his career.  Darnell Coles (75), Pat Seerey (86), and Erubiel Durazo (94) are the only other players I am aware of have multiple three home run games but finish their MLB careers with fewer than 100.

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.