Top hitting pitchers of all-time
There's a new name in the discussion for best hitting pitchers ever, but the most famous name in the game's history still ranks above them all.
Career pitching: 94-46 / 1121.3 IP / 2.28 ERA / 448 K / 1.159 WHIP
Career hitting: 8398 AB / 714 HR / 2217 RBI / .342 BA / .474 OBP / .690 SLG
The most iconic hitter of all time famously began as a star pitcher, though you might be forgiven if his later exploits distracted you from realizing just how good Ruth was on the mound. With the Red Sox from 1915-1918, he won 78 games as the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. While he'd only tally 31 IP with the Yankees over the remainder of his career, in Boston he was twice among the top 10 in pitching and hitting categories for a single season: 1915 (wins; homers) and 1918 (ERA; everything).
Career pitching (through Wednesday, May 28): 14-10 / 215.1 IP / 4.14 ERA / 161 K / 1.26 WHIP
Career hitting (through Wednesday, May 28): 95 AB / 5 HR / 18 RBI / .316 BA / .347 OBP / .589 SLG
How good has Owings' bat been in his two seasons in the bigs? Small sample sizes be damned, he's been this good: before a recent slump that dropped his OPS from 1.056 to his current .936, Owings ranked fourth in career OPS behind only Babe Ruth (1.164), Ted Williams (1.116) and Lou Gehrig (1.079), and in front of Barry Bonds (1.051) and Albert Pujols (1.042). Of course, the Arizona right-hander had exactly 84 AB's at the time. Says Diamondbacks manager Doug Melvin, "He and [third baseman Mark] Reynolds probably have the most power on our team."
Career pitching: 193-128 / 2623 IP / 4.04 ERA / 985 K / 1.481 WHIP
Career hitting: 1176 AB / 38 HR / 208 RBI / .280 BA / .351 OBP / .446 SLG
How valuable was Wes Ferrell? In 1931, the righty stunningly hit as many home runs (nine) as he surrendered on the hill. His 38 career homers, in fact, still stands as the record among players who pitched their entire career. In 1931, he also threw a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns, while driving in four with a a double and, of course, a home run.
Career pitching: 157-135 / 2542 IP / 3.72 ERA / 602 K / 1.255 WHIP
Career hitting: 1439 AB / 3 HR / 190 RBI / .281 BA / .340 OBP / .347 SLG
Sending a pitcher up to pinch-hit seems novel today -- as evidenced by the fact that Owings' game-tying homer on April 30, 2008 made national news -- but Red Lucas earned his team's trust and rendered the substitute hit an art form. From 1923-38 "The Nashville Narcissus" had 437 at-bats and 114 hits as a stand-in, both top-10 marks all-time even today among pinch-hitters of any kind.
Career pitching: 105-112 / 1900 IP / 3.44 ERA / 498 K / 1.308 WHIP
Career hitting: 796 AB / 17 HR / 102 RBI / .230 BA / .303 OBP / .345 SLG
By the end of the eighth inning of May 13, 1942, Jim "Abba Dabba" Tobin had already made history: the Boston Braves starter became the only pitcher to ever hit three successive home runs in a game. But in the 6-5 win against the Cubs, he almost launched himself into even more rarefied air: his last shot actually forced outfielder Ducky Medwick to the left-field fence.
Career pitching: 251-174 / 3884.3 IP / 2.91 ERA / 3117 K / 1.188 WHIP
Career hitting: 1328 AB / 24 HR / 144 RBI / .206 BA / .243 OBP / .301 SLG
Bob Gibson's MVP season is most famously punctuated by the number 1.12 (his ERA), naturally. But .233--his OBP--might also merit consideration. Why? In that same magical year of 1968, Gibson allowed opposing hitters to reach base at precisely the same rate that the righthander got on base himself. (For the record, opponents also hit only .184--just .014 better than Gibson's own batting average.)
Career pitching: 188-181 / 3127 IP / 3.69 ERA / 1647 K / 1.289 WHIP
Career hitting: 668 AB / 15 HR / 66 RBI / .195 BA / .228 OBP / .308 SLG
For Rick Wise, June 23, 1971 was a good day -- likely better than any of ours ever were (yes, even counting Ice Cube and his triple-double). The 25-year-old righty shook off the after-effects of the flu to no-hit the storied Big Red Machine in Cincinnati, simultaneously driving in three of the four Philadelphia runs himself thanks to two home runs. When combined with the no-no, it is a feat that no one else has ever achieved.
Career pitching: 13-10 / 242 IP / 3.90 ERA / 269 K / 1.355 WHIP
Career hitting (through Wednesday, May 28): 428 AB / 21 HR / 73 RBI / .266 BA / .327 OBP / .470 SLG
The circumstances leading to his present-day success as a full-time slugger may not mirror the Babe's, but Rick Ankiel and the Sultan of Swat belong to an exclusive two-man club. No other players in baseball history have won 10 games in a season and also hit 10 home runs in a different season (the single-season record for a pitcher is 9, set by the aforementioned Ferrell). Ankiel got his 10 wins during his break-out '00 (11-7, 3.50 ERA, 194 K in 175 IP) and his 10 homers in '07 (11 HR in 172 AB's).
Career pitching: 209-166 / 3432 IP / 2.95 ERA / 2486 K / 1.148 WHIP
Career hitting: 1169 AB / 29 HR / 113 RBI / .186 BA / .228 OBP / .295 SLG
Admittedly, Don Drysdale is no Micah Owings. Sandy Koufax's partner-in-crime is, like the rest of his hurling brethren, an unquestionably better pitcher than hitter. (Drysdale rang up a career hitting line that just barely resembles a decent season, thanks in no small part to a .186 BA). But he deserves mention in relative terms, at least. Since 1901, the career Dodger is one of only four players in baseball history to at least twice notch a higher OPS than any of the position players on their squad: .852 in '58 and .839 in '65. Two of the other three names you've already heard of: Ruth ('15, '17, '18); Ferrell ('31, '35); and Doc Crandall ('10 and '14). Drysdale is also the most recent man to do it even once.
Career pitching: 417-279 / 5914.7 IP / 2.17 ERA / 3509 K / 1.061 WHIP
Career hitting: 2324 AB / 24 HR / 255 RBI / .235 BA / .274 OBP / .342 SLG
The Owings phenomenon raises a seldom-asked question of pitchers: When their hitting is factored into their team contribution, how does their value change? It's something of a complex statistical query, to be sure, but one thing is clear: on the all-time short list of most all-around "valuable" pitchers would have to be Walter Johnson. Even for the Dead-ball era, no other pitcher was as untouchable on the mound and comparable at the plate: the Big Train (Hall of Fame nickname, by the way) threw 38 1-0 shutouts (38!) and is the only man to win 20 games and hit .400 in the same season (1925, when he hit .433).
MLB Truth & Rumors