The most successful non-pitchers on the mound


Thanks to SamtheBrand for the great chart showing how non-pitchers faired statistically on the mound. Some would doubt the inclusion of Babe Ruth to the list because most of his incredible pitching statistics were done when he was principally a pitcher for the Red Sox. Many of the other "non-pitchers" with substantial stats as pitchers played 100 years ago. But of those from the "modern" era of baseball, one name stands out -- Jimmy Foxx. The Hall of Fame 3B and Catcher offered to pitch when needed for the Phillies in his last season, 1945, when his hitting had gone sour because of declining eye sight. Still, the war was still going on, and the player pool was thin.

One biographer captured that year:

Foxx hit the last seven home runs of his career for the Phillies, but what made his final season unique was his turn on the pitching mound. Volunteering to help the team out in any way he could, Foxx pitched 23 innings, with a 1-0 record and 1.59 ERA. His high point on...

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Mark R. asks: Why do pitchers stand on an elevated mound?

Today, the pitcher is probably the most important position on a baseball field. However, this wasn’t always the case. In the early days of the game (see: Who Really Invented Baseball?), the pitcher’s role was merely to toss the ball to players to initiate play, since the real action didn’t start until the bat hit the ball. Pitchers often lobbed the ball underhand; there were no fastballs or curveballs (at least other than the natural curve from the underhand pitch), and no balls or strikes were called. Since baseball revolved around batters hitting the ball, a pitcher would pitch as many pitches as needed until a hit was executed.

In the mid-19th century, the front of the pitching area was 45 feet from home base. As long as the pitcher didn’t cross over this line, he was fine. However, as more serious competition took root, pitchers began to look for ways to gain an advantage over hitters by inducing weaker...

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In baseball, the pitcher is the player who throws the baseball from the pitcher's mound toward the catcher to begin each play, with the goal of retiring a batter, who attempts to either make contact with the pitched ball or draw a walk. In the numbering system used to record defensive plays, the pitcher is assigned the number 1. The pitcher is often considered the most important defensive player, and as such is situated at the right end of the defensive spectrum. There are many different types of pitchers, such as the starting pitcher, relief pitcher, middle reliever, lefty specialist, setup man, and closer.

Traditionally, the pitcher also bats. Starting in 1973 with the American League and spreading to further leagues throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the hitting duties of the pitcher have generally been given over to the position of designated hitter, a cause of some controversy. The National League in Major League Baseball and the Japanese Central League are among the...

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Let’s face it…not all pitchers are going to throw 90 mph plus. Yet today, MLB scouts are hard at work looking for pitchers who pretty much must reach that number as high school pitchers and more like 95 as college pitchers.

Major league teams are clearly looking for pitchers who can light up the radar gun…for obvious reasons. The faster a pitch is thrown the less time the hitter has to react. There are far more swing and miss strikes with pitches above 95 than below. (see

Red Sox Closer Koji Uehara – a pitching sensation with below average velocity

What then should pitchers do who have mediocre pitching velocity if they still want to dominate as pitchers.
The first thing they should consider is to have a video analysis done in order to find which pitching faults are preventing them from producing more force or for transferring more forces from the body to the arm…since pitching velocity is not an arm strength issue.

There are many...

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Mmmm... not a very good idea. I can think of a couple reasons why this in an inherently bad idea.

1. A ten run deficit doesn't mean all that much.

In the overall scope of the game, you're going to lose 99% of these games. But these very same Seattle Mariners got their asses whooped by the Cleveland Indians after being up 14-2 in the sixth inning. The Indians have come back from deficits of 9 or more runs three times in the last two seasons. In two of those contests, they won the game by 8 or more runs.

Putting a position player on the mound assures you of two things: (1) you've given up hope of winning the game, and (2) you've lost the ability to use the player later in the game.

2. Non-pitchers are at greater risk of injury when pitching.

Non-pitchers don't pitch for a simple reason... they aren't good at it (or at least are good enough at hitting to warrant a positional spot). The day-to-day workouts that pitchers go through are vastly different...

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Baseball has almost always centered on one thing, which sounds reductionist, but isn’t terribly uncommon for a sport. Hockey, for instance, is all about time and space. If you are an offensive player, you wish to create time and space; if you are a defensive player, your goal is to limit both. Baseball has long been about pitching. Even the most successful batsman records an out 70% of the time. Everything is slanted towards the pitcher. Pitching is what wins games in October, and even offensive postseason heroics are often more a matter of timing — the clutch hit, that is — rather than sustained excellence.

Pitching has failed to rule the roost exactly twice: during the steroid era, when hitters began putting up numbers you’d never even say you accrued in a summer of Wiffle ball against your younger sister, and when one of the sport’s prospective pitching legends showed everyone he was that much better at hitting, and thus proceeded to overhaul America’s then-pastime. After...

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One of the most common problems I see in pitchers while going about their bullpens, throwing program, etc. is the inability to find the true root of what they feel when throws feel “different” in a negative way. After a poor throw or pitch, I will see pitchers do a simple, dry, recap of what they “felt” was wrong. Nearly 100% of the time they will shadow this wrong-doing by simulating some movement with their upper half, usually something with their glove side or throwing arm.

The problem here is that the “bad” feeling they just felt with their upper half is, most of the time, spot on…But, it most likely was the byproduct of an improper movement stemming from their lower half, aka the “root” of the problem. Pitchers, especially at the college and professional level, have made quality pitches thousands and thousands of times… They know how their arms are supposed to work, it is second nature. So, for a player to shadow or do a dry rep of some kind of “reminder” with their arm...

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Pretty often here on the internet we talk about non-elite pitchers as being more or less crap shoots. It’s true, pitchers tend to be more volatile than hitters, mostly because they get hurt more often. Luck can swing an ERA pretty wildly and trying to make bets on run-of-the-mill pitchers is just hard to do in confidence. What will Chase Anderson be like next year? Hell, I have no real idea. I can see a pretty good pitcher and I can see a guy who just doesn’t even make the rotation aside to fill in for an injury in June. That’s not really the position you want to be in with your hurlers and I think we’ve all seen enough of that in Arizona over the last couple of years.

One way that pitchers are like hitters is that they have feelings. Another way that pitchers are like hitters is that they are served well when they have a particular carrying tool. And I’ll be very liberal with “tool” here. Generally when we throw that term out it’s in regard to something mechanical –...

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“Yeah, but can he hit?” – Billy Beane, Moneyball

It was May 31, 2003, and the Florida Marlins were struggling. They had fired manager Jeff Torborg after a faltering 16-22 start, but 18 games later, they were still six games under .500, and their season was quickly slipping away.

After losing a heartbreaker in 11 innings the night before, the Marlins were trying to right themselves against the Cincinnati Reds in the middle of a pivotal 13-game home stand. After four-and-a-half innings, the score was tied at one, with Dontrelle Willis up first in the bottom of the fifth. The first pitch from Danny Graves was right in his zone, and Willis drove it right-center field.

The Marlins would never relinquish the lead, winning 3-1, and they would go on to win 65 more games after that one, grabbing the National League Wild Card. A month later, they were World Series champions for the second time in less than a decade.

It would frankly be disingenuous to pretend that...

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New York, NY—July 1, 2000

It’s the sixth inning of a well-pitched 3-0 game. The workhorse on the mound has been pitching smoothly all night. Then, all of a sudden, he can’t find the plate. When he does, he is throwing grapefruits. The next day the papers report the star pitcher has torn his medial collateral ligament (MCL) and will spend the rest of the season watching from the dugout.

Not that long ago, an MCL tear put an athlete’s career in jeopardy. But thanks to the research of David Altchek, M.D. of the Sports Medicine Center at Hospital for Special Surgery, the procedure known as Tommy John Surgery has been modernized, allowing for a pitcher to return after a year of rehab. Kerry Wood of the Chicago Cubs, Kerry Lightenburg of the Atlanta Braves and Jason Isringhausen of the Oakland Athletics are all recent examples of pitchers who regained their old form after having surgery to repair their torn MCL.

Dr. Altchek, an orthopedic surgeon at HSS’...

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Ron Darling has been beloved by Mets fans since he helped his team win the 1986 World Series. Today he is considered one of the most articulate and insightful broadcasters in baseball, bringing the game to life in ways that few can match. Now he gives us an engaging, sophisticated, practical, and philosophical exploration of the art, strategy, and psychology of pitching.

Darling takes us inside the pitcher’s mind, illuminating the subtler aspects of the game and providing a deeper appreciation of what happens on the field. He explains why the position of pitcher is uniquely strategic and complex and explores the various tactics a pitcher uses in different scenarios, including the countless factors in deciding what to throw and how he bounces back from a tough inning. Throughout, we get a glimpse of what it feels like to stand alone on the mound, the center of attention for tens of thousands of fans.

While there are technical books on pitching, there is no other book that...

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There's no doubt that the Latino presence has been felt more in the batter's box than on the pitcher's mound throughout MLB history, but just over 30 games into this season, multiple Latino pitchers have been thriving above the rest of the league.

In the American League, Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda represent the winningest pitchers. "King Felix" has a perfect 6-0 record this season for the Seattle Mariners and an outstanding 1.85 earned runs against average. The Venezuelan ace won the AL CY Young Award back in 2010, and it's safe to say he'll be in the running once again this season. Hernandez also leads the AL in most innings pitched.

Hernandez's partner in crime, Fernando Rodney, has nine saves this season, the most in the AL. Rodney led all of MLB in saves last season with 48 and will be remembered as one of the best closers of his generation.

(Photo : Getty) King Felix is 6-0 this season for the Seattle Mariners

Rivaling Hernandez for the top...

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Pitchers are constantly faced with strategic choices. With every pitch, the pitcher has to decide what pitch to throw and where in the strike zone to throw it. With the ability to throw multiple pitches and knowledge of the pitch percentages, a pitcher can maximize his effectiveness on the mound.

For any pitcher to have a complete set of choices he must have command of three pitches: a fastball, a breaking ball (curve/slider), and a change-up/splitter. And he must be able to ‘locate' each of these pitches in four different locations: low-inside, high-inside, low-outside, high-outside. Three pitches and four locations add up to 12 different possibilities from the mound.

The best hitters in baseball are successful only a third of the time. When the pitcher has command, that is, when the pitcher is able to 'get ahead' in the count and 'hit his spot' with his pitch, the pitcher will win more than 80% of the time.

So, what is the most important pitch? The most...

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This is a celebration. I realize that sounds strange—compiling a list of the worst of something doesn't seem like a joyous occasion. But by worst 100 baseball players I don't just mean the objective worst, the statistical worst, the most physically discomforting to watch. I mean the players whose failure was enduring, endearing, perplexing,and spectacular. It's easy to identify bad players—sabermetrics has made a truly effective science of it—and it's easy to name cup-of-coffee guys who never had the ability, physical or mental, to stick in the major leagues. But a list like that might mean leaving out guys like Jose Lima, Ray Oyler, or the Rev. Aloysius Stanislaus Travers. In other words, while Rafael Belliard does appear below, nobody wants to read about 100 versions of him.

The Legends

1. Mario Mendoza, 1974-1982 (Pirates/Mariners/Rangers)
Mario Mendoza is the bad player all other bad players are measured by. The Mendoza Line, a .200 average, has been the...

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Baseball’s all-time home run king (762) won seven NL MVP awards – the most league MVPs of any player in history. A 14-time All-Star, 12-time Silver Slugger Award-winner and eight-time Gold Glove Award-winner in left field, he also set the single-season home run mark with 73 in 2001. Led NL in walks 12 times (including a big league-record 232 in 2004), on-base percentage 10 times and slugging percentage seven times. Collected seasons of 100-or-more RBI and 100-or-more runs scored 12 times each. In addition to home runs, is also baseball’s all-time leader in walks (2,558) and intentional walks (688). Ranks among baseball’s 10 best in career runs (third), total bases (fourth), RBI (fifth), slugging percentage (fifth), on-base percentage (sixth) and games played (10th). Powered Giants to NL pennant in 2002.


5th year on ballot…Played 22 seasons with the Pirates and the Giants…14-time All-Star (1990, 1992-98, 2000-04, 2007), eight-time Gold Glove...

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