Monday, March 5, 2007

Besides Pitching

This past World Series illuminated the importance of pitchers being able to field their positions. The Cardinals saw a weakness in the Tigers- something no other team detected- and exploited it into a 2006 World Series crown.

Isn't that the way it is with baseball. When a player continually boots grounders or makes errant throws we know he needs to be replaced.

No news is good news unless you flash the leather.

If that player is a better than average hitter the manager will try to hide him, somewhere on the field, so he can have an opportunity do what he does best, which is hit. Unfortunately, in baseball, we all agree that nowhere between the lines is safe if you cannot catch the ball. Sooner or later the ball will find you and when it does you will be exposed for the E that you unfortunately are as a fielder.

Back to pitcher, I see where Carlos Zambrano just signed a big contract with the Chicago Cubs. I had no idea the big man hit 6 homers last year.

Pitchers who can hit is a bigtime bonus. I remember sitting in the upper deck at Candlestick right behind the foul pole in right field when Don Robinson, Caveman, was announced as a pinch-hitter and the Caveman hit one deep into left field bleachers, bye bye baby!

Of course, Babe Ruth was so proficient at hitting he became an outfielder so he could play every day instead of every fourth day.

In 2001, Mike Hampton, of the Colorado Rockies, spurred some curiosity as to the record for homers by a pitcher in a single season. That year Hampton hit 7. You think because he played in Colorado the skuttlebutt wasn't so much how many he hit but where he was hitting them?

The record for homers by a pitcher in a single season (pitcher being defined as a player who pitches in at least 3 games in the given year, and being in a game as their current pitcher
when hitting the home run.)

Wes Ferrell hit 9 in 1931 for the Cleveland Indians. He is also the all-time leader in homers by a pitcher (excluding Ruth, of course) with 38.

2) Bob Lemon - 37
3) Warren Spahn - 35
4) Red Ruffing - 34
5) Earl Wilson - 33
6) Don Drysdale - 29

Note: In the 1968 World Series between St.Louis and Detroit they had similar situations in their batting order. The Cardinals had the slick-fielding but anemic hitting Dal Maxvill ahead of all-world athlete Bob Gibson and the Tigers had perhaps the worst hitting infielder of all-time hitting eighth, ahead of Earl Wilson. That hitter was Ray Oyler..and yet somehow when one bats below .200 it became known as the Mendoza Line...