2016 Position Player Pitching Leaderboard

First we have to set some ground rules, after a quick Play Index here is what I found.

There were 26 instances found, I decided that players needed either a K or give up no runs to be eligible.

4 categories of position players pitching would be assessed on.

  • Innings Pitched
  • Leverage
  • Type of Outs
  • Hilarity Of The Moment

It was a long road, but we’re finally ready to talk about the best (in my opinion) three.

A’s @ Orioles – Sunday, May 8th 2016.

Bottom of the 8th, the A’s are 7-3 down, J.B. Wendelken loads the bases and Manny Machado steps up to the plate. He works a full count and as the 3-2 pitch heads down the middle of the plate, Machado drills the ball beyond the wall in left centre field. Grand slam, Machado rounds the bases and shows no emotion (Side note – I would usually destroy a player for this but they were 7-3 up). The Oakland footage shows us a replay of the grand slam from a few different angles, it briefly cuts to Machado on the bench taking his batting gloves off.

Then suddenly, there it is, a sight we all get giddy at, a position player running to the bullpen. It’s the fairly average hitter, Josh Phegley (Catcher, in case you didn’t know).

Wendelken proceeds to strike out Chris Davis, but at 42 pitches the A’s pull him. It’s Phegley time.

So, thinking about our categories what is the leverage here? Low. The A’s are 11-3 down and essentially out of the game.

We get a quick fun fact, Phegley is the 10th A’s position player to ever pitch. 86mph, in for a strike. 81mph slider, the announcers like this, this could be good. He works a 3-2 count against Adam Jones with a few pitches off the plate and all of a sudden he puts one high and inside. Jones goes for it and it’s strike three, a lone “K” is displayed on the screen and that’s his first out. Next it’s the big hitter Mark Trumbo…pitch, infield fly and that’s it. Two outs in quick time. Well, the hilarity of that moment was pretty damn low.

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Fun Fact

What did we have? 0.2 innings pitched, low leverage, a swinging strike-out and an infield fly and no hilarity whatsoever (Except maybe his run to the bullpen). At one point the Oakland announcers compared his style to Bartolo, instant hilarity points increase. This was a good performance, but I need the complete package. RANK: C (For Colon)

Padres @ Mariners – Tuesday, May 31st 2016.

Once again, bottom of the 8th, the Padres are 16-4 down (Story of their season?), this time we start the inning with the position player pitching. Or should I say, position PLAYERS. That’s right, we get a double whammy on this one. Christian Bethancourt (Side note – on this day he played C, LF, P, 2B. Busy day) AND Alexi Amarista.

Mustn’t forget the TV graphics fun fact, here it is – the last position player to pitch for the Padres was….Amarista, last year. Hmm, I prefer my position players pitching to come into this cold so we won’t focus on Amarista.

Anyway, Bethancourt starts by pitching at 95mph (!), he also shakes off some signals whilst bending slightly towards his catcher, this could be interesting…wait. Did he pitch in the minors? Is he one of these converts and cheating? No, his Baseball Ref page says this is the only time he’s pitched. He’s certainly talking a good talk when it comes to pitching.

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95mph – control, schmontrol

(I did have a great GIF for this but my 2009 MacBook is so slow I can’t capture it without it stuttering to a halt)

Bethancourt doesn’t really have anything in terms of a changeup or a splitter, his fastball sits around the low to mid 90s, he gets a fly-out, then a walk, then the control starts to go. It’s still not registering on the hilarity scale I’m afraid, we’re not seeing anything amusing. In fact, he’s looking like a AAA reliever that is struggling with control in the big leagues. A second fly out for Bethancourt, this is going to take something special to get me smiling. Aoki up next.

Then it happens, the changeup? Breaking ball? Knuckleball? Whatever it was (the scoreboard says knuckleball), at 63mph it certainly made me, his teammates and himself chuckle. This is what we want! Aoki walks…

Bethancourt now switches from knuckleball to fastball and back to knuckleball in an attempt to bamboozle his opponent. Working like a hyperactive flip-flopping Boris Johnson, then suddenly a knuckleball (that isn’t a typo) gets away from him, HBP, bases loaded. It’s not looking good for Bethancourt as the manager strolls onto the grass, Bethancourt’s head drops he knows his time is over. Up steps the “veteran” position player pitching, Alexi Amarista to take over and end this inning with an infield fly.

Yes Bethancourt didn’t get a K, but he actually played the part of a pitcher shaking off signs and mixing up his pitch selection, which I loved and it certainly helped bump his grade up.

RANK: B (for “Buh, what was THAT breaking ball?”)

Indians @ Blue Jays – Friday, July 1st 2016.

This date will be cemented in Indians and Blue Jays fans minds, this was the day that baseball was never going to end. The Indians had been in Canada so long they all became Canadian citizens by default, they all pledged allegiance to the Queen (Do Canadians still do that?) and all had a maple leaf tattooed on their biceps. After 18 innings of baseball (and once the Indians players had all finished their Poutine) the game remained tied at 1-1. The Indians players all looked bored, fed up and desperate to return to their hotel before returning for ANOTHER game the next day. The Blue Jays players also looked bored and during the 18th inning asked Aaron Sanchez to head into the clubhouse. Presumably to put another 50p in the meter to keep the floodlights running and not to get ready to pitch, why would they do that?

So, the 18th inning ended with Darwin Barney grounding out to first (quick toss to Bauer who had trotted over) however, during the Barney at-bat Sanchez returned to our screens wearing his spikes. He was due to start on Monday, this was the Blue Jays making a change to try and win.

After the break, something strange happened, something we all want to see. Devin Travis becomes 2B, Barney pitches. He shows no minor league pitchng experience and I can’t be bother to check high school and college. Not sure why the Blue Jays did it, but they did. He is the second Blue Jays position player to pitch that day. So, leverage is pretty high and after his 8 warmup pitches, we begin.

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“Strikeout King”

Barney works a 3-2 count on Santana, some nice pitches, nothing special but the control seems to be there. Santana then fouls two off, then comes the hilarity of the moment. BANG, HR into centre field. Well, the Blue Jays fans didn’t find it as funny as I did, as it suddenly goes silent. 2 fly outs follow for Darwin and then he strikes out Mike Napoli, this is not a surprise for Red Sox fans.

Although it didn’t have the hilarity expected, the fact that Barney came in and threw strikes makes this performance very worthy. His control was good, his speed sat around 85mph (Except the “Breaking Ball” 78mph to strikeout Napoli), the strikeout certainly helps him avoid being given an F. Yes he gave up a run, but I thought this needed to be included because of the leverage.

RANK: D (for Dinger)

Conclusion

If I’m honest I expected to watch dreadful pitching and feel nauseous through the whole process, but it was actually enjoyable. Some of these performances were solid, some were funny and few were downright terrible. Only one really stood out as a potential dual threat and that was Bethancourt. Who later in the season pitched another inning, gave up 1 hit, 1 BB and had a K, so he has shown again that with control he could be a decent backup reliever. Since starting this post and reviewing all the position players pitching footage, he has pitched in the Panama Winter League.

Maybe that cricket style “All-Rounder” I would love to see in Baseball again may be coming back?

Imagine Freddie Flintoff hitting dingers and throwing strikes…

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