Mike Silva's New York Baseball Digest » Blog Archive » Best All-Time Hitting Pitchers, Does Jim Thome Validate the DH, Putting Izzy’s 300th Save In Perspective, Solid Base Running, Beato as a Starter, Move Tampa to Montreal

Best All-Time Hitting Pitchers, Does Jim Thome Validate the DH, Putting Izzy’s 300th Save In Perspective, Solid Base Running, Beato as a Starter, Move Tampa to Montreal

By Mike Silva ~ August 16th, 2011. Filed under: Morning Digest.

Mark Simon of ESPN NY tells us how last night’s Mets starter R.A. Dickey is “21-for-91 since joining the Mets in 2010, good for a .231 batting average. He also has 14 sacrifices.” This article got me wondering who the best all-time hitting pitchers are.

We all know the best hitting pitcher of all-time was Babe Ruth. To be fair, Ruth turned out to be a pretty good positional player so he really doesn’t count. Using Baseball-Reference Wins Above Replacement here are the Top 20 Hitting Pitchers of All Time.

Rk Player WAR/pos AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OPS
1 Red Ruffing 13.7 1937 207 521 98 13 36 273 97 266 .269 .695
2 Walter Johnson 12.1 2324 241 547 94 41 24 255 110 304 .235 .616
3 Wes Ferrell 12.0 1176 175 329 57 12 38 208 129 185 .280 .797
4 George Mullin 11.7 1531 163 401 70 23 3 137 122 172 .262 .663
5 George Uhle 11.3 1360 172 393 60 21 9 187 98 112 .289 .722
6 Don Newcombe 9.0 878 94 238 33 3 15 108 87 147 .271 .705
7 Bob Lemon 8.6 1183 148 274 54 9 37 147 93 241 .232 .674
8 Schoolboy Rowe 8.2 909 116 239 36 9 18 153 86 157 .263 .710
9 Carl Mays 8.0 1085 113 291 32 21 5 110 66 116 .268 .663
10 Mike Hampton 7.3 725 97 178 22 5 16 79 47 195 .246 .650
11 Doc Crandall 6.6 887 109 253 35 19 9 126 118 111 .285 .770
12 Earl Wilson 6.4 740 95 144 12 6 35 111 67 271 .195 .634
13 Bucky Walters 6.3 1966 227 477 99 16 23 234 114 303 .243 .630
14 Early Wynn 6.3 1704 136 365 59 5 17 173 141 330 .214 .559
15 Bob Gibson 6.2 1328 132 274 44 5 24 144 63 415 .206 .545
16 Jim Tobin 5.7 796 81 183 35 3 17 102 80 162 .230 .648
17 Burleigh Grimes 5.6 1535 157 380 62 11 2 168 69 241 .248 .588
18 Gary Peters 5.3 807 86 179 31 7 19 102 29 172 .222 .601
19 Carlos Zambrano 5.3 659 72 159 26 3 23 69 10 232 .241 .646
20 Doc White 5.2 1283 147 278 22 13 2 75 147 159 .217 .556
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 8/15/2011.

A couple of notables just outside the top 20 are Tom Glavine, Dontrelle Willis, Rick Rhoden, Don Robinson, and Livan Hernandez.

Rhoden actually started a game as the Designated Hitter in 1988. It was the first time a pitcher had started at the DH spot since the inception of the rule in 1973.

According to the NY Times, Rhoden hit 7th in the lineup in the Yankees’ 8-6 victory. He grounded to third against Jeff Ballard in the third inning in his first turn at bat. In his second time up, he drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to right field that tied the game at 3-3. Jose Cruz pinch-hit for him in the fifth.

Want to know who the All-Time best hitting pitcher in Mets history is? Dwight Gooden had a .197 batting average with 7 homers and 65 RBI in 837 plate appearances.


Jim Thome hit his 600th home run last night. He is a shoo-in Hall of Famer despite playing nearly a third of his games as the DH. Will some voters penalize him for his defense and producing a large chunk of his results at the position?

I have been an advocate of Edgar Martinez’s candidacy for the Hall of Fame. Martinez had eight seasons where he hit .300 or better, produced an OBP over .400, and SLG over .500. Despite that, he garnered only 32.9% of the vote last winter. Will Thome’s production make the DH position more viable for the BBWAA?

Unlike Martinez, Thome has played the field extensively. He started his career as a third basemen, moved over to first, and has been primarily a DH upon his return to the American League in 2006. His position didn’t matter as Thome was known for his bat throughout his career. It shouldn’t be a surprise since his idol growing up was Dave Kingman. Unlike Kingman, there was more to Thome than just home runs. He’s been an OBP and RBI machine throughout his career.

Thome played the DH position 756 times during his career, or 31% of his total games. He is eighth on the all-time home run list. His ten season stretch from 1995-2004 produced an OPS+ of 157, which was only behind Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds. Statistically you could argue that he is an all-around better hitter than two other shoo-in Hall of Famers from that era: Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr.

Even if there are some that penalize him for playing in the steroid era and his lack of a position, the fact that he was good with the media will probably give him a “get out of jail free card” with the BBWAA.


Jason Isringhausen finally achieved his milestone of 300 saves. John Franco and Billy Wagner also collected their 300th save in a Mets uniform.

Izzy tied Bruce Sutter for 22nd on the all-time list. How watered down is the save stat? Others with 300+ saves include Doug Jones, Todd Jones, Jose Mesa, and John Wetteland. All were very good pitchers at one point in their career, but nowhere near the Hall of Fame status of Sutter.

Although it’s not a milestone in the category of Thome, it’s still an accomplishment to Isringhausen’s ability to play at a high level for a long period of time. Sometimes the fans don’t realize how difficult it is to get one year in the big leagues. Izzy is in his 15th season.

From 2000 to 2007 only Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman (both will be in the Hall of Fame) had more saves than Isringhausen’s 272. There were other closers who may have been more dominant for a season or two, but Isringhausen was there every day for the A’s and Cardinals.

Seeing how far he’s come from his wild and immature Generation K days certainly makes this milestone a great personal accomplishment.


John Dewan of ACTA Sports gives us the Top 5 base running teams in his latest “Stat of the Week.”

The Mets are fourth in all of baseball in base running (+68), which measures both stolen bases as well as base running gain.

When the Mets have been at their best they play fundamental defense, are aggressive on the base paths, and have timely hitting. It’s allowed them to get away with an average staff. Most of those characteristics have been missing over the last two weeks, hence the 11 of 14 losing streak before last night’s win over San Diego.


Terry Collins said he would like Pedro Beato to pitch in winter ball as a starter. This is an interesting development, especially after I discussed the Mets lack of starting pitching options in 2012.

Obviously, stealing Beato from Baltimore as a Rule V pick is a coup. If Beato could become a serviceable starter it becomes an even more of a steal.

Beato was originally drafted as a starter pitcher, but struggled throughout his minor league career. It wasn’t until the Orioles sent him to the bullpen that he had his breakout 2010 at Double-A Bowie.

During his last MILB season as a starter Beato was 6-10 with a 4.52 ERA splitting time at High-A and Double-A.

He does have more value to the organization as a backend of the rotation type. His inability to miss bats makes it harder for him to be effective out of the bullpen.

One other note. I was told that Beato has been working very hard in-between appearances, and that he might be tired because of it. That could be one of the reasons he’s struggled in the second half (5.40 ERA).


We had some great dialogue on my piece about whether baseball in Montreal could succeed a second time around. Chuck Johnson pointed out how Seattle, Milwaukee, and even New York were cities given a second chance by Major League Baseball. Other readers shared stories about how the fans were unable to get the Expos on TV, or even an English speaking broadcast of the team. Of course, there was the Canadian vs. American currency factor.

Again, as I pointed out, the Expos outdrew 14 other current big league cities during the 1980s. The city was a long time minor league outpost for the Dodgers. One fan pointed out how moving Tampa to Montreal makes sense because it would set up a natural rivalry with Toronto in the AL East.

Of course, Tampa is stuck in the Tropicana Dome until 2027, so it could be nearly two decades before such a move could happen. Part of that lease agreement includes a provision that Rays ownership can’t negotiate with other cities.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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4 Responses to Best All-Time Hitting Pitchers, Does Jim Thome Validate the DH, Putting Izzy’s 300th Save In Perspective, Solid Base Running, Beato as a Starter, Move Tampa to Montreal

  1. Chuck Johnson

    Frank Thomas played 58.2% of his games as a DH, Paul Molitor 44.3 %, so if you’re looking to have the DH validated, these two guys are better examples than Thome.

    And not as good as Martinez, or even Harold Baines.

    Take Dave Winfield as an example. He’s in the HOF because he reached 3000 hits.

    Winfield made just 419 appearances at DH out of his almost 3000 career games, but in taking away his 399 hits, his total goes from 3110 to 2711, and his HR total from 465 to 406.

    Without the DH, even for a fraction of his career, Winfield goes from a Hall of Famer to Dale Murphy or Dave Parker.

    Would Craig Biggio be a HOFer with 2711 hits? He, too, is only getting in because he reached 3000, but at least he reached the mark by playing defense.

    I think what Thome and the others doesn’t validate the DH, it actually has the opposite effect.

    When the BBWAA sits down to fill out their ballots, they are well aware of the impact the DH has had on these guys numbers. The are also well aware the DH is an experiment gone woefully wrong and has loooooooonnnnnnnnnnng out-lived its usefulness, not mention only being used by less than 50% of all ML teams.

    Is Thome a HOFer without the DH?

    Not even close, and I think the BBWAA will give serious consideration to that. I think Thome will get in, but he won’t be first ballot.

    And don’t even get me started on closers.

  2. Mike Silva

    Better question Chuck is whether 3,000 hits should lead to automatic induction

    With nutrition, the DH, expansion pitching, and smaller ballparks you get guys like Johnny Damon hanging around to get 3,000 hits.

    Bobby Abreu has begun to decline, but he was looking like a compiler like Damon. Some though Julio Franco was going to play till he was 50 and get 3,000 hits

    Why the arbitrary measures? Why not just evaluate the player on merit?

    Btw – respect your opinion on DH, wouldn’t care if it went away, but Thome has a damn good career w/ out the DH.

  3. Chuck Johnson

    ” but Thome has a damn good career w/ out the DH.”

    Yes, he did, but “damn good career” and “HOF career” are miles apart.

    Thome has 194 HR as a DH, without which he barely has 400 homers, much less 500 or 600.

    There should be an asterisk next to his 600 just like with Bonds and Sosa.

    “With nutrition, the DH, expansion pitching, and smaller ballparks you get guys like Johnny Damon hanging around to get 3,000 hits.”

    I completely agree, and I wouldn’t have voted for Molitor or Winfield and I wouldn’t vote for Biggio, either.

    I think Thome needed the 600 to get in, I think Frank Thomas is going to have a tough time, and Gary Sheffield has no chance, so 500 isn’t the automatic it once was.

    The BBWAA views hits as a more legitimate accomplishment, especially considering how steriods have turned the homer into an irrelevant accomplishment.

    Lou Brock is one of the more undeserving HOFers, and is only in because of the 3000 hits, the stolen base record, I don’t think, would have carried much weight with the voters by itself.

  4. Ralph C

    Chuck-you say the DH is a colossal failure that has long outlived its usefulness. I can see your point but if this is the case, why do only the NL in America and the Central League in Japan still have the pitcher hit on a regular basis?
    Personally, I prefer to see the pitchers hit but I do understand
    the points I have heard by those in favor of the DH, most notably that while the NL game might be more strategical, the AL game is more exciting (i.e. it is more exciting to see a DH hit a three run homer with runners on first and third and one out than the pitcher sacraficing the runner to second and having second and third with two out). I don’t suscribe to that believe but do understand it because baseball is in the entertainment industry and does have to try to appeal to the casual fan.

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