Pitchers Who Help Themselves

The highest WPA-rated hitting performance by a pitcher in 2012 was this game by Anthony Bass, the only pitcher with a game WPA score above 0.3.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
1 Anthony Bass 24.185 2012-05-04 SDP MIA L  8-9 3 3 1 2 0 1 0 3 0 0 0.345 2.634 1.463

After allowing 5 runs on 4 hits (incl. 2 HR)  in the opening frame, Bass redeemed himself with a two-out bases-loaded triple in the 3rd inning to put the Padres ahead 6-5 and chase opposing starter Josh Johnson. Bass left after 6 innings with a lead that the bullpen promptly surrendered en route to San Diego’s loss in 12 innings.

The last pitcher with a WPA score above 0.4 was in this game.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
1 Mike Stanton 26.342 1994-05-10 ATL PHI W  9-8 2 2 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.433 1.326 3.635

Stanton was the Braves’ seventh pitcher of the game, entering in the 12th inning and pitching four scoreless frames. He singled leading off the 14th but was stranded. In the 15th, Stanton came up with two out and runners at 1st and 2nd. After Deion Sanders stole 3rd, Stanton delivered a walk-off bunt single on the next pitch.

Neither of these games, though, makes the top 10 of pitchers’ WPA games for the available data, which are mostly complete since 1950 with some games as early as 1948. After the jump, I’ll take a closer look at those top 10 games, and also at changes in how pitchers have batted in past 60 years or so.

David Letterman style, here are the 10 best WPA hitting performances by pitchers since 1950.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
10 Satchel Paige 45.332 1952-06-03 SLB WSH W  3-2 3 3 0 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0.476 1.396 2.337

10 – A month before his 46th birthday, Satchel Paige entered this game in the 12th inning and immediately induced a double-play grounder to end a Senators’ threat. Paige singled with the bases empty in the 13th and 15th, but was left stranded both times. The third time was the charm as Satchel delivered another knock in the 17th to score Joe DeMaestri from second  for the go-ahead run. After DeMaestri’s second error extended the home 17th, Paige induced a Jackie Jensen pop-up to finish his 5.2 inning win.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
9 Mickey McDermott 31.359 1961-04-23 (2) STL SFG W  7-4 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 3 0 0 0.479 2.109 7.650

9 – Frequent pinch-hitter Mickey McDermott entered this game in that role, delivering a 9th-inning bases-loaded double to score three runs and put the Cards up by two. McDermott stayed in the game to pitch the home 9th, retiring the side in order, including a strikeout of Jim Davenport to end the game.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
8 Dave Otto 28.180 1993-05-11 PIT PHI W  8-4 3 3 0 2 0 1 0 3 0 0 0.482 3.423 1.943

8Dave Otto‘s game is the most recent on this list. His two hits, a 2nd inning single and 6th inning triple, both came with two outs and both scored two runs. Despite his heroics, Otto was deprived of a potential win when Paul Wagner relieved him in the home 6th and threw a wild one on his first offering to score Ricky Jordan from third with the tying run.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
7 Gene Conley 29.239 1960-07-06 PHI MLN W  8-5 1 1 1 1 0 0 1 3 0 0 0.485 2.688 4.360

7 – Two-sport star Gene Conley preserved a tie with a clean 9th inning, delivered a two-out, three-run home run in the 10th, and then delivered another 1-2-3 inning in the home 10th for the win, striking out Eddie Mathews and Hank Aaron to end the game.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
6 Ken Brett 20.359 1969-09-12 (2) BOS NYY W  4-3 3 3 1 3 1 0 1 3 0 0 0.488 3.135 1.287

6 – Just days shy of his 21st birthday, Ken Brett delivered a solo home run in the 3rd to open the scoring, and a two-run double in the 7th to put the Red Sox ahead by two. Brett also surrendered all of the Yankee runs, on two home runs by Bobby Murcer.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
5 Lew Burdette 30.264 1957-08-13 MLN CIN W 12-4 5 4 3 3 0 0 2 4 1 0 0.511 4.715 1.054

5Lew Burdette homered in the 3rd to pull the Braves within one, singled and scored the go-ahead run in the 5th, and then belted a 3-run HR with the scored tied in the 6th to put the Braves ahead for good.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
4 Jack Harshman 31.073 1958-09-23 BAL WSH W  3-2 3 3 2 3 1 0 2 3 0 0 0.525 3.158 1.337

4Jack Harshman went the distance for the win and accounted for all the Oriole runs. His solo shots in the 3rd and 5th innings erased an early 2-0 deficit, and his one-out double in the 7th scored pinch-runner Chuck Oertel from first with the eventual winning run.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
3 Dave Hoskins 27.280 1953-05-10 CLE SLB W 12-3 3 3 2 2 1 0 1 4 0 0 0.582 2.955 1.317

3Dave Hoskins pinch-hit for starter Bob Feller in the 7th inning with the Indians trailing 3-0, delivering a one-out double that went for naught when Dale Mitchell lined into a bases-loaded double play to end the frame. Hoskins stayed in to pitch and cranked a 3-run HR in the 8th to tie the game and followed that with an RBI groundout in an 8-run 9th to complete Cleveland’s comeback win.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
2 Gerry Arrigo 25.035 1966-07-17 (1) NYM HOU W  4-2 3 2 0 2 2 0 0 3 1 0 0.629 3.139 1.582

2Gerry Arrigo delivered 2-out RBI doubles in the 5th and 7th innings, putting the Mets ahead to stay after an early 2-0 Houston lead.

Rk Player Age Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI
1 Claude Osteen 33.052 1972-09-30 LAD CIN W  4-2 4 4 0 2 1 0 0 3 0 0 0.660 2.482 2.328

1Claude Osteen went the distance for the Dodgers and provided their key hits with a 2-out RBI single in the 8th to tie the game, and a 2-out two run double in the 10th for the winning runs.

All of the above tables are

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/10/2012.

Only one of those top 10 games is from the past 40 seasons and, reading the descriptions, it’s not hard to figure out why. Sending up pitchers to pinch-hit for other pitchers? Having pitchers hit for themselves in game situations in late innings? Sure haven’t seen much of that sort of thing in the recent past.

Here are some graphical views of changes in how pitchers have been used as hitters. Note that the numbers shown below are not normalized. Thus:

  • The number of teams represented increased in 1961, 1962, 1969, 1977, 1993 and 1998
  • Schedule length increased in 1961 (AL) and 1962 (NL). Schedules were reduced in 1972, 1981, 1994 and 1995, owing to labor disruptions.
  • The drop-off seen in charts after 1972 is, of course, due to the introduction of the designated hitter rule in the AL

All that being said, the number of teams represented up to 1960 and since 1998 are the same, so, aside from a slight difference in schedule length, the left and right sides of each chart can be compared directly.













We all know about this one, but still remarkable to see graphically the extent of this change. Note that these are complete hitting games by a pitcher, meaning the pitcher was in the batting order, started and finished the game, and was not removed for a pinch-hitter.












Bearing in mind the preceding chart on complete games, the change represented here is that much more pronounced.












Okay, this has not happened much at any time in this period. But, clearly less common recently than in the 1950s and 1960s. Feel free to offer ideas on what happened in 1986 (were the rosters reduced that year?).

One more, this one showing the tendency for pitchers to hit in high-leverage game situations.













Not as pronounced as I would have expected but, looking at the left and right sides of the chart, certainly more common in the 1950 and 1960s than in the past decade. The recent upward trend in the past decade may be a result of ever larger pitching staffs (and ever shorter benches), forcing managers to let their pitchers hit late in games when a team has gone deep into its bullpen.


Pitchers Who Help Themselves — 31 Comments

  1. Fun stuff, as always, Doug!

    And just for fun, here are the pitching WPA values for those guys in those games, ranked from low to high:

    10) Otto, -0.194
    9) Burdette, -0.142
    8) Arrigo, -0.014
    7) McDermott, 0.04
    6) Brett, 0.01
    5) Hoskins, 0.156
    4) Conley, 0.158
    3) Osteen, 0.284
    2) Harshman, 0.409
    1) Paige, 0.891

    As always, my motto is: Any excuse to praise Satchel!

    P.S. I think your opening line caught a case of Steve Blass Disease. :)

    • Geez, only a 0.284 WPA for a 10-inning CG. I think Osteen should demand a recount.

      John, sorry for posting over top of your piece. When I finished my piece about midnight, I scheduled it to post this morning, not expecting you would be posting in the wee hours.

  2. Doug: Here’s a game you could check out if you have access to a WPA calculator. The Red Sox defeated the White Sox on 8-22-34 by a score of 3-2 with Wes Ferrell going all the way. Ferrell had a single, 2 HRs, 1 BB and 2 RBIs in 5 PA. His second HR was a game-winning HR in the bottom of the 10th inning.

    I have a list of all pitchers with walk-off HRs. If you want I could post them later today and you could do further research. I would say that almost all of those HRS came with the scored tied, otherwise the pitcher would have been pinch-hit for (except maybe Wes Ferrell). A walk-off HR with the score tied generates a WPA of something like 0.35 to .40, so a pitcher would need something more than just the HR to make your list.

    • It looks like a walk-off HR with the score tied generates a WPA of .35 to .45, depending on the number of outs,so treat the last sentence of my post #2 accordingly.

    • Thanks, Richard.

      Yes, please do post or e-mail the walk-off HR list.

      But, I’m curious how you would come up with a WPA score without play-by-play data. Can you elaborate?

      • Here’s the list:

        John Malarkey..Braves..9/11/1902
        Chick Fraser..Phils..6/16/1903
        Ferdie Schupp..Cards..9/11/19
        Pete Alexander..Cubs..5/31/20
        Leon Cadore..Dodgers..8/5/22
        Jack Bentley..Giants..8/29/25
        Red Ruffing..Yankees..4/14/33
        Wes Ferrell..Red Sox..8/22/34
        Wes Ferrell..Red Sox..7/22/35
        Dizzy Dean..Cards..8/6/35
        Jack Wilson..Red Sox..9/2/35
        Dizzy Trout..Tigers..5/30/44
        Jim Tobin..Tigers..8/12/45
        Claude Passeau..Cubs..6/7/46
        Kirby Higbe..Pirates..9/11/47
        Harry Gumbert..Reds..8/23/48
        Kirby Higbe..Pirates..8/27/48
        The remainder can be obtained from BR.

        As far as WPA is concerned the best you can do is to go to those games for which box scores are available and calculate their WPAs for their game-winning HRs. I went to post 18 of the Four Homers in a Game blog and found a link to a WPA calculator.

        For the Wes Ferrell game on 8-22-34 referenced in my post #2 he hit a HR in the bottom of the 10th with the score tied , 2 out and no one on. The WPA increased from .545 to 1.000 giving him a WPA of .455. In his other 4 PA he had a HR, 1B and a walk so it can be concluded that his game WPA was in excess of .455. If he hit his first HR in the 5th inning with no one out that alone would add .130 to his WPA. If he hit it in the bottom of the 8th with no one out he would add .332 to his WPA.

    • If I’m reading the chart correctly, Schatzeder is responsible for 14 of the 17 times it happened. I think Mike Hampton is probably responsible for about half of the occurrences between 1993 and 2009.

      I was a little surprised at first that the numbers weren’t higher in the late 50’s thru the 60’s because a) you didn’t have the DH in either league and b) you had guys like Don Drysdale & Gary Peters who were used fairly regularly as pinch hitters plus guys like Don Newcombe, Warren Spahn & Bob Gibson who were pretty good hitting pitchers. But when I thought about it for a bit I realized that a) most of the good hitting pitchers that I was aware of were starters and b) there were also a lot more complete games.

      And the first graph just drives home the point as to why the DH is an abomination.

    • Right on, David.

      Schatzeder pinch-hit before pitching in a game 11 times in 1986, and 3 more times at the beginning of 1987. But, no other time in his career.

      Rk Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO GDP WPA aLI Pos. Summary
      1 1987-05-13 PHI ATL L 5-10 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 -0.003 1.135 PH P
      2 1987-04-16 PHI NYM L 3-9 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 -0.007 .135 PH P
      3 1987-04-11 PHI CHC L 1-9 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.015 .295 PH P
      4 1986-10-04 PHI MON W 5-4 2 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.068 3.025 PH P
      5 1986-08-11 PHI NYM L 4-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.005 .210 PH P
      6 1986-07-07 MON HOU L 1-12 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.001 .050 PH P
      7 1986-07-01 MON CHC L 0-1 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.049 1.390 PH P
      8 1986-06-27 MON PIT L 1-7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -0.003 .120 PH P
      9 1986-06-21 MON PIT L 1-14 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.000 .000 PH P
      10 1986-06-14 MON PHI L 6-7 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 0.017 .803 PH P
      11 1986-06-06 MON PHI W 10-9 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0.017 1.500 PH P
      12 1986-05-12 MON CIN L 3-4 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 -0.060 2.160 PH P
      13 1986-04-19 MON STL L 6-9 2 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0.038 1.320 PH P
      14 1986-04-17 MON CHC L 6-7 2 2 2 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.074 .600 PH P
      Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
      Generated 11/11/2012.

      Schatzeder was successful in his first two PH appearances and, overall, was 5 for 13 with a walk. Not bad! The strangest thing was that he was traded from the Expos to the Phillies in the middle of the 1986 season, and his new team continued the experiment.

  3. Doug, I don’t understand what the first chart is meant to depict. The introductory text talks about pitchers hitting, but the title on the chart says “Pitcher Complete Games”, which to me means just that — *pitching* a complete game. But the numbers depicted are not the true numbers of pitcher complete games. CG went *up* in 1973, and specifically in the AL because of the DH.

    • I get ya, Doug. Thanks.

      I’m still not sure of your exact search criteria, though. I’m doing a Batting Game Finder, Defensive Position=P, Started and Finished, and sorting by Seasons with Player Games.

      I’m getting some numbers that don’t quite match that chart, e.g.:
      1971 — 1,004 (chart is shy of 1,000)
      1975 — 400 (chart is shy of 400)
      1986 — 210 (chart seems right at 200)

      • John, Doug: I did what you did and got the same 1004 CG games that you did for 1971. Then I ran the Pitching Game Finder for CG for 1971 and came up with 1082 CG. Then I went to the BR Leaderboard and came up with 1083 CG.

        Also I created a chart similar to the first one that Doug posted, for the years 1950-1972 and the chart values matched the PI values (e.g. the chart value for 1971 was 1004).

        • Here is what I think is happening. If the home team pitcher pitches a CG but is pinch-hit for in the bottom of the 9th he gets credit for a CG but does not get credit for playing the game from start to finish.

          • Continued from post 19. Check the box score for Billy O’Dell for 6/2/60. That game will show up on the Game Finder for Pitchers with CG but not for Game Finder for Batters from Start to Finish.

          • Thanks very much for figuring that out, Richard. I think the difference will be pretty small most years.

          • The same thing is true if the visiting pitcher is pinch-hit for in the top of the 9th and his team loses.

  4. Actually, the rosters WERE smaller in 1986. Teams went with a 24 man roster that year, rather than the usual 25. The reasons were the usual owners vs. players union nonsense that are too long and stupid to go into, but regardless, it did put all teams a man short.

    I am surprised there hasn’t been a slight uptick in relief pitchers batting in the last few years, since there has been such an overuse of relievers and 11 and 12 man pitching staffs have left benches short. It would figure than eventually, in some extra inning games, the relievers would have to bat more.

  5. JA,

    The purpose of showing the CG chart was to provide context for the next chart, about relief pitchers batting. The CGs shown was from a hitting perspective – position was P and started and finished the game – I’m guessing that would exclude the AL complete games, which is what I was intending.

  6. This is interesting to me in somewhat of a different fashion. A pitcher who is dominating the other team and helping his cause with the bat gets LESS credit via WPA, because his hits aren’t rallying his team from a deficit. So which is better, to give up runs and then get them all back (with interest), or never to give them up?

    Which is a long-winded way of saying, wow, Rick Wise’s ho-hit, two-dinger game isn’t in the top ten?

    • You’re quite right, nightfly. This analysis is looking only at a pitcher’s contribution as a hitter, NOT the complete package of hitting and pitching.

      Wise managed only a .171 hitting WPA for the game you mentioned, getting most of that for his first solo HR which extended the Phillies 5th inning lead to 2-0. However, that .171 was 138% of the team WPA, meaning the rest of the Phillies combined for a -0.047 WPA. That might be a more interesting way to look at contribution to a win, but unfortunately not within the abilities of the P-I.

  7. Interesting the smattering of pinch hit-then-pitch appearances the past few years. I figured the days of the pinch hitting reliever died after Brooks Kieschnick retired (who I’m sure is responsible for the 2003-04 spike)…

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