Legends On Deck

Bumgarner One of Many Pitchers Skilled With The Bat

There has been a lot made out of the fact that the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner hit two home runs in his Opening Day start. Sounds pretty newsworthy, if you ask me.

Bumgarner homered in the 5th off of none other than Zack Greinke, then again in the 7th off of Andrew Chafin, in addition to drawing a walk (who walks a pitcher?), in his seven inning start. He gave up three runs on six hits, striking out eleven and walking none, so that was pretty neat.

Listen, I don’t need to tell you how good MadBum is, because you already know it. But here’s an interesting side note: he didn’t start hitting until his fifth full season, back in 2014. That’s when he put up a .258 average to go with his 4 homers and 15 RBI in 66 at-bats. Last year was sort of an aberration for him in that he batted only .186, but he also managed six doubles and another three homers in 86 at-bats, so still none too shabby.

There are those fans who would like to see Bumgarner compete in the Home Run Derby during the All-Star Game, and frankly I’m becoming one of them. Still, he’s not the only pitcher who can handle a bat.

Historically, there have been quite a few pitchers who also knew how to handle the lumber. In more recent years, guys like Carlos Zambrano (.238 career average, 24 HR, 71 RBI in 693 AB) and Mike Hampton (.246, 16 HR, 79 RBI in 725 AB) were among the best slugging pitchers in the game. Go even farther back, and you have true two-way threats like

former Pirate stalwart Don Robinson (.231 career BA, 13 HR, 69 RBI in 631 AB) and Rick Rhoden (.238 BA, 9 HR, 75 RBI in 761 AB). That’s not to mention quite a few others from decades past; Bob Gibson readily comes to mind (.206 BA, 24 HR, 144 RBI, 44 doubles in 1,328 AB).

For the purposes of this article, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the better batsmen on the bump. Here are only a few of the most recent success stories concerning pitchers and their skill at the dish.

Again, keep in mind that we’re speaking in relative terms, here. Also, this is NL-only pitchers since the AL has that fabulous DH rule.

Adam Wainwright

St Louis Cardinals

2016: .210 BA, 2 HR, 18 RBI, 7 doubles, 1 triple in 62 AB

Wainwright has had a reputation in the last few seasons as being a good hitting pitcher, but in his first season as a starter he was comparatively lights-out at the plate. In 2007, he posted a .290 average, with three doubles, one homer and six RBI, a stat line which he nearly repeated in ’08 (.267, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 doubles). After a lull from 2009-2012, with 2011 being lost to injury, he drove in 30 runs on the strength of 14 doubles in 215 AB from 2013-2016.

Zack Greinke

Arizona Diamondbacks

2016: .212 BA, 1 double, 3 RBI in 52 AB

Greinke didn’t exactly distinguish himself with the bat in 2016, but as recently as 2013 he batted .328 with three doubles and four RBI in 58 AB, drawing seven walks against only ten strikeouts in the process. He managed six doubles the following season, though with only a .200 average. He does have 17 two-baggers over 344 career at-bats, reflective of an athletic build and a cerebral approach both on the mound and at the plate.

Noah Syndergaard

New York Mets

2016: .190 BA, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3 doubles

Thor swings quite the hammer, among his fellow pitchers. He made a point of adding muscle during the off-season, which likely will add pop to his swing, though what it will do for him on the bump is debatable. Syndergaard has a swagger about him in all that he does on the diamond, and it appears thus far that he’s earned the right.

Max Scherzer

Washington Nationals

2016: .186 BA, 1 double, 12 RBI in 70 AB

Ol’ Blue Eye does it all. Again, like Syndergaard, it’s a combination of high athleticism and harnessed aggression that benefits Scherzer both as a batter and a pitcher. His skill with the bat is legitimate; he batted .226 with two doubles and three RBI in 2009 with Arizona, then after a five-year lull in his offensive responsibilities he batted .217 with Washington in 2015. Curiously, he had no RBI and no extra-base hits in 69 at-bats.

Jeff Samardzija

San Francisco Giants

2016: .156 BA, 5 doubles, 9 RBI in 64 AB

2016 was the best season at the plate for The Shark, but at 6’5”, 225, with a wiry strong build, Samardzija always has a chance to run into one and drive it a long way. Though he has only two homers in 226 career at-bats, he does have ten doubles in that span. Besides that, he can be fun to watch when he’s got a bat in his hand.

Joe Ross

Washington Nationals

2016: .244 BA, 2 doubles in 41 AB

Again, no power to speak of (even for a pitcher), but Ross has only 74 plate appearances at the ML level. He’s got a great pitcher’s build (6’4”, 225) and has shown the ability to make contact on a consistent basis, so there may be a tiny bit of pop yet to manifest itself. I can see him becoming one of the best hitters among NL pitchers, very soon.

Carlos Martinez

St Louis Cardinals

2016: .237 BA, 1 double, 6 RBI in 59 AB

Tsunami”, as he is sometimes called, might just become well-known for his bat. This is in addition to being established as one of the best starters in the NL, which he likely will soon become. A few years back, his nickname was “Little Pedro” (as in Pedro Martinez), and it appears that it was an appropriate assessment.

Martinez has a lot of run producers ahead of him in that Cardinals lineup, and he makes enough contact to push his RBI total into double digits in 2017.

Patrick Corbin

Arizona Diamondbacks

2016: .306 BA, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 4 RBI in 49 AB

It seems the 2016 season was an outlier for Corbin, since he had never done anything even remotely close to last year’s batting line. While that sort of production was interesting to see coming from a pitcher, he’ll need to return to the rotation in order to duplicate it.

Jake Arrieta

Chicago Cubs

2016: .262 BA, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR, 7 RBI in 65 AB

Come on, people. It’s Arrieta we’re talking about, here. Right? Well, that’s not the whole story. His 2016 production was way outside the norm; his previous high was .179 with two doubles, a triple and three RBI in 2014. He did have two homers in 2015, but that came with a .152 average. Then again, we are talking about a real gym rat, so he may end up topping last year’s numbers quite easily.

Featured Photo Source: Sporting News

Clinton Riddle

Contributing Writer at Legends On Deck®
Clinton Riddle has been writing for sites such as SB Nation, Fansided, Baseball Magazine and Sports Central (as well as the occasional newspaper) for more than 8 years, in addition to feeding an obsession with photography for nearly 30 years. He has an abiding interest in telling the stories not often told, hoping to give fans of the game a greater understanding of the sacrifices made by many pro athletes as they strive to succeed. A medical background has given him a firm grasp on the significance of sports-related injuries, as well as how they might impact a team's record.

Latest posts by Clinton Riddle (see all)