Phillies Pitchers Are Good at Hitting

Relatively, of course.

Kyle Kendrick smoked a single during an exhibition game against the New York Yankees yesterday afternoon. His swing looked better than a lot of bench players that have donned the red pinstripes in recent years.

How good is Kendrick at hitting? He is one of 28 pitchers with a minimum of 200 plate appearances since 2007 to post a .350 or better OPS.

Player OPS PA From To
Micah Owings .813 219 2007 2012
Carlos Zambrano .689 384 2007 2012
Dan Haren .643 244 2007 2012
Yovani Gallardo .599 342 2007 2012
Adam Wainwright .526 403 2007 2012
Braden Looper .518 216 2007 2009
Tim Hudson .478 379 2007 2012
Jason Marquis .456 327 2007 2012
Aaron Cook .447 276 2007 2012
Randy Wolf .433 380 2007 2012
Zach Duke .426 261 2007 2012
Livan Hernandez .425 305 2007 2012
Derek Lowe .422 354 2007 2012
Jonathon Niese .419 209 2008 2012
Ian Kennedy .416 215 2007 2012
Cole Hamels .412 455 2007 2012
Cliff Lee .412 207 2007 2012
Johan Santana .412 255 2007 2012
R.A. Dickey .387 217 2008 2012
Chad Billingsley .380 365 2007 2012
Homer Bailey .370 227 2007 2012
Bronson Arroyo .367 443 2007 2012
Chris Carpenter .366 247 2007 2012
Matt Cain .359 450 2007 2012
Josh Johnson .355 263 2007 2012
Jeff Suppan .353 236 2007 2012
Kyle Kendrick .351 253 2007 2012
Ricky Nolasco .351 340 2007 2012
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/20/2013.

Note the two other Phillies on that list: Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Last year, only three other National League teams’ pitchers posted a better weighted on-base average than the Phillies (.170): the Nationals (.194), Rockies (.181), and Reds (.174).

Unfortunately, Vance Worley, who looked promising with the bat in 2011, has been replaced by John Lannan, who is not much of a hitter. Roy Halladay doesn’t help on offense either. Even so, it will be fun to watch Phillies pitchers hit in three out of every five days, which isn’t so bad.

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  1. Mitch Goldich

    March 20, 2013 09:27 AM

    Aaron Cook too. They could almost build a full rotation from that list.

  2. AGH

    March 20, 2013 09:38 AM

    If you’ll allow a Saber-newbie to posit a semi-related question:

    Since Pythagorean winning percentage involves squaring both runs scored and runs allowed, would winning a game 8-5 be worth more “expected wins” than winning a game 3-0?

    In other words, if you’re currently a .500 team, does it make sense to pursue additional hitting and ignore pitching and defense regardless of any perceived strengths or weaknesses?

  3. Bill Zeiders

    March 20, 2013 09:48 AM

    Something I’ve always liked about the Phillies, their pitchers usually seem know how to handle a bat. It is fun to watch. This is why the DH is an abomination.

  4. TomG

    March 20, 2013 10:14 AM

    Yeah, and the thing about Kendrick’s at-bat yesterday is he ran a deep count on it, too: He made the pitcher work. If I recall correctly, it was a 3-2 count when KK lashed that pitch to left and he got to 3-2 by fouling off a couple-three pitches. I remember thinking to myself*, “Regardless of the outcome, this is a really good plate appearance by KK.”

    I always enjoy watching Doc try to hit, too. Even though he rarely makes contact.

    Lannan, in his first at-bat as a Phillie, will foul a ball off into the Phillies dugout and break Chase Utley’s wrist. I’d link to the page on fangraphs that provides the statistical evidence that proves this is a dead certainty, but I don’t wanna.
    * To others, I was thinking, “Dum-dee-dum-dee-dum. O, man, I sure could go for a beer right now.” Or, to put it another way, why do people say “I thought to myself …”?

  5. Fatalotti

    March 20, 2013 10:20 AM

    AGH, since Runs Scored is in both the numerator and denominator of the Pythagorean Expectation formula, but Runs Allowed is only in the denominator, a decrease of 1 run allowed is more valuable to your win/loss expectation than an increase of one run scored.

    This is easily shown using your two examples. Using a score of 3-0 in the formula, your expected W/L% is 1.000. Using a score of 8-5, your expected W/L is 0.719.

  6. Bill Baer

    March 20, 2013 10:21 AM

    @ AGH

    You don’t want to use Pythagorean winning percentage for single games. It’s used best over an entire season. The implications that are drawn from that single game are too severe (e.g. Team B never gives up runs).

    I do think there are diminishing returns in terms of run scoring and run prevention, though I am not aware of any research on that subject nor am I capable of doing any myself.

    Also, the best exponent has been found to be around 1.85 rather than 2.

  7. SJHaack

    March 20, 2013 11:39 AM


    They cover a topic similar to your question in a chapter of Baseball Between The Numbers.

    It’s ostensibly about does offense win championships, or does defense? They looked at teams that led the league (or were known for) scoring or preventing runs but failed to win the World Series, saw how those teams attempted to adjust, and examined if they were successful in improving the team (winning the WS or no).

    Cliff notes version: If you are a .500 team, a net improvement to EITHER offense or defense (net being – even if you make a trade that makes one facet worse the other will be improved enough to counteract) will make your team better, full stop. So you should do whatever’s in your capacity to make your team the most amount better, from either side.

    From what I recall reading, the teams that were willing to sacrifice a little bit of their elite hitting/pitching and improving the opposite side that was merely average to good or better ended up having more overall success. So if you are the best hitting team and worst pitching team and you’re a .500 club, being willing to become a top third hitting team in order to improve to average as a pitching staff will pay more dividends (on average) than trying to continue to add bats and increase the spread between you and the rest of the league.

  8. Scott G

    March 20, 2013 11:40 AM

    Is Dan Haren the only AL pitcher on that list? What, do the AL pitchers not bat in games or something??? That would be odd…

    Also, Haren is now in the NL East meaning the Phillies wOBA deficit to the Nationals could get larger.

  9. Jonny5

    March 20, 2013 12:23 PM

    Ha HA! Irrefutable evidence that the DH is an abomination and a slap in the face to the game of baseball. They have my kid thinking he doesn’t need to learn to hit. He plays baseball. Part of that is trying to hit the ball.

  10. AGH

    March 20, 2013 12:33 PM

    Thanks everyone, especially LTG–that Cameron article was really informative.

  11. Scott G

    March 20, 2013 01:11 PM

    The American League rules break literally the first rule of the rule book:

    1.01 Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each, under direction of a
    manager, played on an enclosed field in accordance with these rules, under jurisdiction of one or more umpires.

  12. SJHaack

    March 20, 2013 02:05 PM

    I’m glad you found an article of his informative, but I can’t emphasize enough how much better a resource BBTN is than Dave Cameron about pretty much all baseball-related things that aren’t wOBA.

  13. Cheesecrop

    March 20, 2013 05:08 PM

    Always fun watching Phils pitchers swing the bat. You can really tell how Lee fell totally in love w/swinging the bat when he came here from Cleveland the first time.

  14. LTG

    March 20, 2013 06:06 PM

    I agree with Haack. But not everyone has the book ready-to-hand and that article is the serious Dave Cameron, not the loosey-goosey one.

  15. GB

    March 23, 2013 08:14 AM

    How do they perform in bunting? My memory is our pitchers have failed in some key situations to get a bunt down, advance a runner into scoring position etc., but it would be good to check the facts to verify…how could that be checked?

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