There isn't anything in other sports that's comparable to position players pitching. Maybe Manute Bol jacking up threes in basketball, or goalies fighting in hockey. Possibly when quarterbacks line up at receiver, but only if they do it for an entire drive and get the ball thrown their way multiple times. But the isolation of the hitter/pitcher matchup makes it pretty special to have a highly skilled hitter facing someone who, at best, last pitched in college.
Over the weekend, three position players pitched. Utility infielder Skip Schumaker made his third career pitching appearance (second for the Dodgers this year), while White Sox outfielder Casper Wells and Mets backup catcher Anthony Recker each made their first. Schumaker's first pitch was a 90-m.p.h. strike on the black, and Wells did this to strike out Asdrubal Cabrera:
Poor Recker will always be near the top of the Mets' all-time leader board in ERA, walks per nine innings, and home runs allowed per nine innings, but at least he's behind Derek Bell, Matt Franco, and Todd Zeile in ERA.
It's a fascination of mine, these position players pitching. But Dodger, White Sox, and Mets fans don't know how spoiled they are. Some teams turn triple plays more often than their position players pitch. This is a search for the longest position-player-pitching drought in baseball. A horrible crime going unpunished.
Methodology: I searched every team for relievers with zero career starts and fewer than 10 career appearances. Then I searched within that group for players with more than 10 at-bats. It's possible (but unlikely) that I've missed some people. Babe Ruth wouldn't come up in that search, for example, but he's not the kind of position player pitching that we're looking for.
Another way to describe this search? Let's find The Least Fun Franchises in Major League Baseball, although we would also allow the word "joyless" in the description. A chronological list of when the last position player pitched for each team:
1. Mets - Anthony Recker, 2013 (box score)
2. White Sox - Casper Wells, 2013 (box score)
2. Dodgers - Skip Schumaker, 2013 (box score)
4. Rangers - David Murphy, 2013 (box score)
5. Yankees - Alberto Gonzalez, 2013 (box score)
6. Cubs - Joe Mather, 2012 (box score)
7. Blue Jays - Jeff Mathis, 2012 (box score)
8. Astros - Brian Bogusevic, 2012 (box score)
9. Twins - Drew Butera, 2012 (box score)
10. Orioles - Chris Davis, 2012 (box score)
10. Red Sox - Darnell McDonald, 2012 (box score)
12. Royals - Mitch Maier, 2012 (box score)
13. Cardinals - Skip Schumaker, 2011 (box score)
14. Marlins - Bryan Petersen, 2011 (box score)
15. Tigers - Don Kelly, 2011 (box score)
16. Phillies - Wilson Valdez, 2011 (box score)
17. Indians - Andy Marte, 2010 (box score)
18. Brewers - Joe Inglett, 2010 (box score)
19. Reds - Paul Janish, 2009 (box score)
20. Padres - Josh Wilson, 2009 (box score)
21. Diamondbacks - Josh Wilson, 2009 (box score)
22. Mariners - Jamie Burke, 2008 (box score)
23. Rays - Josh Wilson, 2007 (box score)
24. Pirates - Abraham Nunez, 2004 (box score)
25. Rockies - Todd Zeile, 2002 (box score)
26. Athletics - Frank Menechino, 2000 (box score)
27. Angels - Chili Davis, 1993 (box score)
28. Giants - Greg Litton, 1991 (box score)
29. Nationals/Expos - Tom Foley, 1989 (box score)
30. Braves - Terry Blocker, 1989 (box score)
The Braves. It's the Braves who are the most joyless. They do not respect the idea of fun, and they do not respect you. Although I don't really consider the Nationals to be the same things as the Expos, so maybe they take it. If you want to adjust for years in the league, the Giants are the least fun team in history.
Other, assorted thoughts:
- Paul Janish has allowed 11 runs in two career innings. Paul Janish probably shouldn't pitch.
- Josh Wilson gets around. He's pitched for three different teams, including two NL West teams in 2009 alone.
- A lot of long-forgotten names came up in this search, but they weren't all larks. Tony Peña pitched an inning with the Royals ... and then 355 in the minors and counting. Don't look now, but he has a pretty good K/BB ratio with Triple-A Charlotte.
- When it comes to quality players pitching, the Yankees have a pretty formidable list with Hal Chase, Rocky Colavito, and Wade Boggs. And Mike Aldrete, who was one of my childhood heroes, so that counts for something.
- By law, I have to link to this feature about when Chris Davis and Darnell McDonald pitched in the same game. Don't sleep on armpit guy in the background
- If you remember the Wilson Valdez game, allow me to direct your attention to the Brent Mayne game, in which the catcher took the mound in the 12th inning and defeated John Rocker for great justice.
There you have it. Braves fans, Nats fans, Giants fans, Angels fans ... get mad. Write a congressperson. This is kind of a travesty. Baseball is great because position players can pitch. Kind of. In part. Those teams should let baseball be great again.