Thursday, May 1, 2008

Baseball's Best Hitting Pitchers

The legend of Micah Owings is growing.   The 6-foot-6 second year right-handed pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks is not only off to a 4-0 start on the mound, but his hitting prowess is becoming legendary.
As a rookie Owings hit .333 in 60 at-bats with four homeruns and 15 runs batted in.  This year he's hitting .421 in 19 at bats, after entering yesterday's game against Milwaukee as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth, with a runner on, trailing 7-5.  Brewers manager Cecil Cooper, knowing at least a little about Owings' ability with the bat, went to his bullpen and brought in a right-handed reliever.  First pitch:  Gone.  In the right field bleachers.  The fans went nuts.  Owings' teammates in the dugout went nuts.  Cooper was beside himself with exasperation, after an 8-7 loss, saying his team got beat by a "damn pitcher."  
Well, not just any pitcher.  Owings has a career .354 average in 79 at bats, with five homers and 18 RBIs.  That, after hitting .377 in the minors, and .448 as a high school senior, during which he wacked a Georgia state record 25 homers.  Owings has a chance to become one of the best hitting pitchers in baseball history.  The best of them all, many say, was Wes Ferrell, who pitched for Cleveland and Boston in the 1930s, hitting .280 with 38 homers.
Other notables include Warren Spahn and Earl Wilson, both of whom hit 35 homers, albeit with a .195 average; Don Drysdale hit 29 homers, but batted .186; Bob Gibson had 24 homers and a .206.  Don Newcombe and Mike Hampton both hit 15 homers, with .266 and .242 averages, respectively.  Former Giant Don Robinson hit 13 homers with a .231.  And Cubs' ace Carlos Zambrano hit his 13th career homer today, with an average of .220.  
In short, if Owings stays anywhere near his current pace, he'll pass them all, and become the game's best hitting pitcher ever.  If the Diamondbacks weren't so loaded offensively, manager Bob Melvin might consider playing Owings in right field on days he's not pitching.  Put another way, if Owings were on the Giants, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him in the outfield, and batting cleanup, while pitching every fifth day.  

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