Could You Hit Better Than An Average MLB Pitcher?

Could You Hit Better Than An Average MLB Pitcher?


Could You Hit Better Than An Average MLB Pitcher?

Mike Leake, everybody!

How good has he been? Good enough to see these top headlines when you Google ‘Mike Leake’:

Dominates? Strong? New Look?

Michael Leake is in the driver’s seat to start the All-Star Game!

Imagine if you’d read that in February?

Now you’re like… yeah, he SHOULD be starting the All-Star Game. And because the Dodgers are using like 24 different starters, if Leake ends up going head to head with Clayton Kershaw next Monday and beating the king? He probably WILL start the All-Star Game.

I feel you talking to your screen. Fine. I will pump the brakes.

But have you noticed (and by all means this could just be me) that Leake’s mound success has translated to bigger swings at the plate? Sure, he’s 4/22 with 1 extra base hit, so not more success per se… but it just looks like he’s taking cuts.

Rich Hill’s AB last night on the other hand? Yo.

Turns out he hasn’t had a hit since 2009 (with the Orioles) and only has managed 14 hits over (parts of) 12 MLB seasons. (In fairness he played a bunch in the AL.)

It got me thinking… you’ve got a 5’10” 170lb dude and a journeyman both taking up ABs in a professional baseball game. What’s the rest of MLB look like?

  • Only 22 pitchers have more than 2 hits in 2017
  • Only 6 pitchers have hit a HR in 2017
  • Only 6 pitchers have more than 2 RBIs in 2017

A special shout out to Ivan Nova for an impressive line of 14 strikeouts in 19 at bats with a .000 average.

Why can’t pitchers hit? It’s been a question that minds way smarter than the ones found around here have been trying to answer for a long, long, long time. I’ve got no useful insight here other than hitting is really hard and pitchers don’t practice it enough?

I’m more interested to see if you think you could do it. If you could become an replacement level hitting substitute for a pitcher. Not the next Mike Trout. Not an excellent hitting pitcher. Completely and totally replacement level.

Here are the assumptions/parameters:

  1. A non-injured pitcher will start about 31 games in a given year. Assuming 2 at bats per game, that’s 62 at bats you’ll take over 1 season.
  2. In 2017, MLB pitchers (with 50+ at bats) had an average of 9.1 hits. The lowest number of hits with 50+ at bats was Dan Straily (1/52) and the highest was Jake Arrieta (17/65). I’m too lazy to do averages for multiple years, so let’s assume that 2016 was a bit high and require you to get 7 hits in 62 at bats.
  3. You start training now and you’ll start the opening day 2018.
  4. You will be paid the MLB minimum salary (535,000) this year and next, so you can put your job on hold and support your family.
  5. All MLB rules apply – walks do not count as at bats (you’ll be guaranteed 62), a fielder’s choice doesn’t count, a bunt hit is a hit, et al.
  6. You’re in no danger of losing your ABs. The media and your team are all on board with this experiment and you are lauded, not derided by everyone watching. You will not be benched if you start out slow.


Photo: WLS

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